Death in the Afternoon

It was a quiet Saturday afternoon in Nairobi, and Tom Mboya, Kenya’s Minister of Economic Planning and Development, was doing a little shopping downtown. He stepped into Chhani’s Pharmacy to buy a bottle of lotion. As he emerged, an assassin opened fire, escaping in the ensuing confusion. Mboya was struck in the chest, blood soaking his suede jacket, and died in an ambulance on the way to Nairobi Hospital. Grieving Kenyans soon gathered in such numbers at the hospital that baton-wielding police were called out to keep the crowd at bay. 

Only 38, the handsome, articulate Mboya embodied many of the qualities so urgently needed by the fledgling nations of black Africa. He was a member of Kenya’s second largest tribe, the Luo. But he saw his real loyalties to Kenya’s detribalizing urban classes and made them his constituency. He was an early and fervent apostle for his country’s freedom, inspired by Jomo Kenyatta. But he deplored the violence and bloodshed of the Mau Mau uprisings against the British and refused to participate in them. He became the architect of independent Kenya’s major documents, including its constitution. He also pleaded eloquently for a Marshall Plan for all Africa, for the creation of an African economy, and “the brotherhood of the ‘extended family’ in a United States of Africa.” 

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