A peep inside Kapenguria museum, Kenyatta’s former prison cells

by Getrude Mirobi

Now preserved as a national monument, the Kapenguria prison cells offer a glimpse of what the leading freedom fighters went through during the struggle in 1950s.

The facility, now under the National Museums of Kenya, is  where the Kapenguria Six –  Bildad Kaggia, Kung’u Karumba, Jomo Kenyatta, Fred Kubai, Paul Ngei and Achieng’ Oneko – were detained after their arrest in 1952 for their role in managing Mau Mau movement.

The decision to imprison the six at Kapenguria was far from happenstance.

Kapenguria Prison, located in north western Kenya, was the most secure to hold the six Mau Mau leaders.

Kapenguria, in the current West Pokot County, 412 km northwest of Nairobi, was also considered remote- far removed from the other populated regions of the country. It also lacked amenities such as telephone and postal service, railway, hotels, and the only road leading there was almost nonexistent. This was believed to have lower risk of Mau Mau attacks and escape. It was torturous, too.

To access Kapenguria, one had to get a government permit – and thus, the colonial government knew that the leaders could never communicate with their supporters.

To preserve the history of the struggle for independence, the National Museums of Kenya, with financial support from the Dutch project, preserved and rehabilitated the former prison houses; now known as the Kapenguria Museum.

The Museum, which was opened in 1993, has books and documents in the Uhuru Memorial Library. The library is a good resource center where collections of historical pieces and literature are kept in honor of all the heroes who participated in the struggle for Kenya’s independence.

Other sections of the museum are the political development exhibits, a section containing exhibits revealing pre-colonial Kenya, slavery, the arrival of Europeans, African resistance to colonial rule and activities of pioneer nationalists. Both local and international visitors who want to learn all colonial and post-colonial history of Kenya frequent the museum.

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