Harry Thuku

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After the First World War (1914-1919), in which more than 20,000 Kenyans perished fighting for the Queen of England, a wave of political unrest swept across the country.

The demobilised African soldiers were given just a month’s pay to go start life anew, but their white counterparts were gifted with huge chunks of land. This would build to a groundswell of rebellion.

Thuku joined a group of young men who met in 1921 and formed the Young Kikuyu Association, which they hoped to use as a vehicle to agitate for freedom for the Africans. Thuku was elected the YKA chairman.

Late that year, the association changed its name to the East African Association so as to capture the aspirations of the whole country, by joining forces with other like-minded organisations such as Young Kavirondo Association.

When Thuku’s departmental head in the colonial service learnt of his political activities he told him to choose his job or politics, to which Thuku replied: “I choose my politics. My country is more important than my job. You can fire me if you wish.”

Following this declaration, Thuku was given five minutes to clear from his office and was summarily dismissed from the civil service.

Jobless but energised, Thuku started going round the country, stoking patriotic fire wherever he addressed his numerous political rallies.

It is against this background that Thuku’s party, the EAA was proscribed, its leaders arrested on March 14, 1922, leading to a mass protest in which over 250 Africans were killed.