Alibhai Mulla Jeevanjee

Featured Issue

Born in India in 1856, Jeevanjee arrived in Kenya in 1890. He made a fortune in the building of the Uganda Railway by selling supplies to the colonial authorities, and helping them to set up major buildings Nairobi and other towns.

He was also contracted to import technicians and labourers from India. But this amity was soon ended by the influx of the white settlers and the Boers from South Africa.

In 1902, Jeevanjee set up the African Standard (present day Standard). In 1910, he took his seat in the Legislative Council as a nominated member, served two terms and quit.

In 1914 he and others founded the East African Indian National Congress as an umbrella body for the Indian Associations, the first nation-wide political organisation in Kenya. He appointed Manilal Desai as its secretary and the Congress launched a vigorous campaign to protest against colonial injustices and to demand equal rights for Indians, Africans and Arabs.

When Desai passed away in 1926, Jeevanjee, then aged 70, recruited Isher Dass from the UK to replace him. It was Isher Dass who accompanied Jomo Kenyatta on his first trip to Europe and who took up the African cause most vehemently in the Legislative Council.

The colonial administration then turned against him, reneging on agreements that sabotaged his shipping business.

Jeevanjee passed away in Nairobi in 1936, having lost his entire fortune in a heroic struggle to secure equal rights for the colonised people of Kenya. One of his philanthropies is the Jeevanjee Gardens which he donated to the people of Nairobi in 1906.