pan african congress

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April 8th 1953: Kenyatta sentenced

On this day in 1953, future Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta was sentenced to imprisonment for his alleged role in the Mau Mau rebellion. Kenyatta was born in around 1889 to a Kikuyu family, leaving home at a young age to study and work at a Church of Scotland mission, and from there later moved to Nairobi. The young Kenyatta became involved in the burgeoning independence movement that sought to throw off British colonial rule in Kenya. He entered politics full-time, and became general secretary of the Kikuyu Central Association, which fought against policies it felt harmful to Kenyan interests. Kenyatta notably helped to organise the fifth Pan-African Congress in 1945, which discussed mass nationalist and independence movements across African countries. In 1947, he was elected president of the Kenya African Union and took a leading role in the nationalist movement. The early 1950s saw Kenya rocked by the Mau Mau rebellion, which was a bloody campaign led by Kikuyu against British settlers, in retaliation to the violence committed by the British against the Kenyan people. While there was little evidence linking Kenyatta to the movement, he was considered a subversive presence and was thus arrested for supposed involvement in the violence. In April 1953, he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment, and his condition remained a key issue of the Kenyan independence movement, with frequent calls for his release. He was finally released in August 1963, and immediately joined negotiations for Kenyan independence. The new republic elected Kenyatta as first their prime minister and later as president, making him Kenya’s first president and founding father. Under his leadership, Kenya had favourable relations with the West and the economy boomed, though most of this wealth was concentrated in the elites. Jomo Kenyatta died at Mombasa in 1978, and was succeeded by Daniel arap Moi.

Today in history: March 21, 1960 - The Sharpeville massacre, a major turning point in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Thousands of people protested outside a police station against the ‘pass laws’ that forced Black people to always carry their ‘pass books’,a key method of maintaining white control and The protesters defied the law by not carrying their pass books and The police opened fire on the crowd, killing 69 people and injuring 180 and Many were shot in the back while trying to flee. In response to the Sharpeville massacre, there were demonstrations, protest marches, strikes and riots around the country. Sharpeville became an international incident with protests around the world and even the UN condemning the massacre a first step in apartheid South Africa’s increasing international isolation. The apartheid government declared a state of emergency, detaining more than 18,000 people and banning of the Pan African Congress (PAC) and African National Congress (ANC). The massacre was a catalyst in the shift to armed resistance by these organizations. Today in South Africa, March 21 is celebrated as a public holiday. (image: a Sharpeville massacre memorial)