An Evening with Tom Mboya

sponsored by Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) 
24th September 2004
Venue: KICC
BACKGROUND: Who was Tom Mboya?
Tom Mboya was one of the most prominent personalities in Kenyan history. He was born Thomas Joseph Mboya on 15th August 1930 and was assassinated at the tender age of 39 on 5th July 1969. It is widely believed that his profile and illustrious career as a brilliant and charismatic leader, which was seen as a challenge to the then political establishment, led to his assassination.
As a renowned trade unionist, politician and statesman, Tom Mboya joined active politics in 1957 when he successfully contested and won a seat in the Legislative Council, and later in 1958 when he founded the Nairobi People’s Congress Party. He was later instrumental in forming the Kenya African National Union (KANU) that formed the government upon independence, and became its first Secretary General. At the time of his assassination, he held the Cabinet portfolio of Minister of Economic Planning and Development.
His brilliance and charisma earned him world wide recognition and respect and his performance at both the national and international level was nothing short of remarkable. In 1958, during the All-Africa Peoples Conference, convened by Kwame Nkurumah of Ghana, Mboya was elected the Conference Chairman at the tender age of 28. This demonstrated his leadership ability from quite an early age.
It is because of these remarkable qualities of the late Tom Mboya that we celebrated ‘an evening with Tom Mboya’; to remind Kenyan’s of whom he was and why he was assassinated. The event tied in the concept of truth justice and reconciliation commission to the assassination of Tom Mboya. Its expected outcome is increased demand for the truth about the assassination of Tom Mboya to be told, and the perpetrators named. This will best be done via a mechanism of a truth commission as proposed by Task Force on the establishment of a truth, justice and reconciliation commission.
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has been working with various civil society stakeholders to pressure the government to establish a truth, justice and reconciliation commission that will, inter alia, conduct investigations into past gross human rights violations including political assassinations such as that of Tom Mboya, and make recommendations to the government for appropriate action. The TJRC will be a mechanism for dealing with the past so that similarly grave human rights violations and atrocities are never again committed in the present or future governments.
‘An evening with Tom Mboya” formed part of the advocacy and lobbying strategies on the TJRC and will be followed by similar functions relating to the political assassinations of such prominent personalities as J.M Kariuki, Pio Gama Pinto, Robert Ouko, Father Kaiser and others. Other advocacy activities will target the Shifta war, Kisumu massacres, the1982 attempted coup, Wagalla massacres, Mwakenya movement and the Nyayo house, IDPs and the clashes, Fera movement, Political harassments and cases of extra judicial killings which all constitute grave human rights violations and have been perpetrated by or with the knowledge of the state.
1. To enliven Tom Mboya and remind Kenyans of whom he was and why he was assassinated (and relate this to other similar political assassinations). This will also act as part of sensitization activities on what the TJRC will be established to do – its mandate. The overall aim is to have as much an educative event as possible.
2. To act as advocacy on the government on the reasons why it needs to establish a TJRC to prevent the commission of similar violations in the future. This is especially significant at this time of political bickering and the public losing confidence in the government.
3. To keep the momentum on the demand for a truth justice and reconciliation commission to address past human rights injustices including political assassinations.