After graduating from several mission schools, in 1950 Thomas Joseph Odhiambo Mboya began work as a sanitary inspector in Nairobi and very quickly got involved with the budding trade union movement in Kenya when he developed what was initially just an African Staff Association into The Kenya Local Government Workers Union. From there he became a key nationalist figure during the Mau Mau rebellion against the British authorities and their land ownership. In 1953 he was elected to be the Secretary General of the Kenya Federation of Labour (KFL), the umbrella organisation for trade unions in Kenya. He became an active politician in 1957 when he successfully contested and won a seat in the legislative council becoming one of the only 8 African members. During this time Mboya had already started giving speeches in London and Washington against British colonialism, the authorities tried to subdue his activities by almost shutting down the labour movement, however Tom Mboya reached out to international labor leaders for help and was able to build KFL its very own headquarters. In 1958 he founded the Nairobi People’s congress Party, all the while he had been elected secretary of the African Caucus (African Elected Members Organisation – AEMO) and continued the campaign for independence as well as seeking freedom for political prisoners.
All this and the man wasn’t even 30 years old yet, it is no surprise therefore that in pretty much every piece of literature you come across, Tom Mboya is hailed as one of the most prominent personalities in Kenyan history. Moreso, even Post-Independent Africa owes a lot to the renowned Tom Mboya as his work did not just end there. Tom was one of the few African men of his time who earned enough global recognition and respect to be able to articulate to Western skeptics the distinctiveness of the unfolding colonial Kenya, the struggle against apartheid, and the Algerian war of independence. He made it known how colonial oppression had pushed Africans to a corner, “When African voices were silenced and racial oppression increased, any violent resistance, which arose, should be attributed to the oppressor not the oppressed.” he said. Eventually the rest of the world began to rely on his enlightened view when it came to translating the emerging Africa.
“Tom Mboya distinguished himself as a leading thinker of development planning both in Africa and the rest of the developing world.“
-Prof Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o
In 1960, Mboya along with then-former political prisoner Jomo Kenyatta founded Kenya African National Union (KENU), he was appointed as the Minister of Labor and actively participated in the constitutional talks that led to independence in 1963. Post Independence, Mboya was appointed the first Cabinet Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, he created the National Social security fund, and when Kenya became a Republic, he was appointed the Economic Planning and Development Minister. Thomas Mboya took great strides in his life time, he made bold moves for the sake of change, he used intelligence and charm to earn himself worldwide recognition and respect. The man was so influential that he worked with John F Kennedy, Dr Martin Luther King Jr himself was starstruck upon meeting Mboya. He mentored former President Barack Obama’s father! Talk about impressive.
His humble beginnings never stopped him from marching forward for his people, he managed to fight through adversities that came along throughout his career while retaining his dignity and honor. Tom Mboya was a force to be reckoned, he did all that he could for his people and for Africa at large. It is widely believed that his high profile, leadership skills and his beliefs posed as a challenege to the political establishement at the time and therefore led to his untimely assassination in 1969.
So why did I tell you all these things about this man only to tell you that he dies at the end of the movie? The answer is simple really, he said it himself “There is no superman.” Thomas Mboya was a renowned trade unionist, politician and statesman – he was exceptional in all that he did, he spoke passionately about everything he believed in, he travelled far and wide fighting for his people, educating others about the emerging Africa that he envisioned. There was no Superman, there was a man, who with the support of education, passion, drive and support from his fellow man shook the world. Why not you? E-Mfundi believes in one man’s ability to change the world, with united values pertaining drive, education, support and unity we have the power to cause a huge ripple in the revolution. It’s upto us, said Mboya. It’s up to us to learn and strive for economic freedom, it’s up to us to carry each other forward as a Nation. It’s up to us to save our people from poverty, crime, starvation, indignity and otherness – it’s time to be an us instead of a them. Digital technology is the platform that brings us together today, on NEST we offer you entrepreneurial digital skills that we believe will help you help yourselves so that we may all help Africa.
“Africa is a continent surging with impatient nationalist movements striving to win freedom and independence. Apart from this struggle, there is the struggle against disease, poverty and ignorance. Unless these three evils are defeated, political freedom would become hollow and meaningless…the motive behind various nationalist movements should always be geared towards the security of all our people, higher standards of living and social advancement.”
Tom Mboya on July 1st 1958 at Makerere University