Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On My 49th...

Onyango Oloo Muses on the Day He Turned 49 Years Old

1.0. A Tale of Two Women

She was glad that school was out and the kids were enjoying their second term holidays. The municipal kindergarten where she taught kept her busy all year round punctuated with the breaks in April, August and December. Nakuru was still the organized, smartly dressed, clean and beautiful, younger sibling envied by her older sister towns of Nairobi and Mombasa. In the heart of Kenya’s Rift Valley, Nakuru was an urban agricultural, multi-cultural hub where Luos spoke the Gikuyu language fluently and Kalenjins could converse at ease in Kiswahili; a place where Somalis rubbed shoulders with Wahindi and Europeans could claim it as their home town; it was a place where Kenyans of all nationalities, races and creeds were comfortable.

Mbala-most of her friends found that to be an odd, even weird name for a Luo-had made Nakuru her home when she moved here to take up her job as nursery school teacher. She hailed from the Kanyamuot clan in Ugenya even though she had followed her famous older brother B.A. Ohang’a when he relocated to Got Regea in North Gem in the late 1940s, when she was still in her early teens. Her brother had married Margaret Okinyo, the second born of Jaduong’ Isaya Oloo, the son of Agina of Luanda Doho village, which was about two kilometers from Got Regea, half-way from the Dudi shopping centre on the Kisumu-Yala-Busia-Kampala road. B.A. Ohang’a was to later become the first African cabinet minister in the dying years of the British colonial administration in Kenya. He also represented Central Nyanza in the Legislative Council before he was turfed out by the even more legendary Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in 1957. Despite that, the Odinga and Ohang’a families remained life long friends. Three of Mbala’s nieces from the Ohang’a branch were to earn recognition in their own right: one started a successful law firm; another became the first woman to become a bank manager in Kenya and a future Commissioner with the Kivuitu led Electoral Commission of Kenya; her twin sister was to later briefly head the Electrical Regulatory Commission of Kenya…

But all that was decades into the future.

On this Friday morning in August, she looked at the moon faced light copper complexioned young woman sweating and writhing with pain beside her in her tiny bed sitter in Paul Machanga estate, a modest working class area in Nakuru. The contractions were getting closer and closer and she was relieved she had sent the eldest of her three young daughters to summon the mid wife who lived a few streets away.

She assured Jennifer Siare, who had just turned twenty a mere eight months ago, that everything would be alright, she had been through the experience.

They had become quite close, the two of them. Jennifer was the young bride of Richard, the younger brother of her sister-in-law, Margaret and Jennifer had ended up in Mbala’s house because Richard was away in Nairobi attending an Officer Cadet course at the Prisons Training College. So Mbala had assumed the role of guardian and protector of Richard’s brand new wife, despite the fact that Mbala herself was a widow in her mid twenties with four young kids (her first born was a son) of her own. Her late husband was a first cousin of Richard. So she was a double sister in law to Richard-she was a sister to the man who had married Richard’s older sister and the wife of Richard’s first cousin.

But it was even more complicated than that.

Richard was also the father of her two youngest daughters.

Ok. This is how it had happened.

Her late husband had been very close to Richard who was his age mate. So when Mbala’s husband died suddenly, Richard spent a lot of time comforting the young widow. Maybe too much time.

Richard’s mother Doris Awiti was a feisty woman adamant about her Christian probity in the community. When the wagging tongues-and bundles of joyful, bouncing, living testimony- of the romantic liaisons between her fifth born child and her widowed daughter in law could no longer be ignored, she put a lot of pressure on her son to get a “proper wife” married in the “proper Christian way”.

The successful candidate showed up in the form a beautiful teenager , striking to behold with her blazing eyes, her shining sheen of light copper covering her from toe to her jet black close cropped crown; a rambunctious girl who could outbox any boy who dared to cross her boundaries of personal space; an intelligent and courageous being who used to trek fifteen kilometers from the hills of Rawalo village in the outskirts of Yala and Jina to visit her older brother Walter Ombiro Wandolo who was staying at the Isaya Oloo homestead in Luanda Doho village because it was next to the biggest primary school that many parents in that part of North Gem wanted to take their children. At first it was her older sister Hilda who was supposed to be married to Richard’s elder brother, but that is another story. How Richard met Jennifer and the two fell in love, is also the subject of an upcoming movie currently in development in Riverwood-Nairobi’s answer to Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood.

Yes, so here she is, Mbala supervising the delivery of the first born of her best friend and her de facto co-wife.

What thoughts were going through her mind as she witnessed the arrival of this brand new baby boy at around 9:30 am on this sunny Friday, August 19th 1960?

Mbala has been resting in peace for almost twenty years now so that is a question that is slightly difficult to answer.


By the way, that infant who was born that day was soon given a name:

David Fredrick Onyango Oloo.

2.0. Upstaged by 2 Dogs, 2 Rats and Several Mice

I am not really surprised that news of my birth failed to hog the headlines of the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Toronto Star or the South China Morning Post.

From what I found out years later, I was the unfortunate recipient of the ancient curse:

“May you be born in interesting times!”

The night before I was born something captivating had taken place at the gallows at a small prison in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

This is from Wikipedia:

Peter Poole (born c. 1932 - died August 18, 1960 in Nairobi, Kenya) was a British-born Kenyan engineer and shop owner. He is the only white in Kenya executed for killing an indigenous African person .

On October 12, 1959 he was charged for killing Kamawe Musunge in Gordon Road, Nairobi. Musunge had been riding a bicycle when Poole's two dogs stopped him. Musunge threw stones at the dog, for which Poole shot Musunge dead with a Luger pistol . Musunge was Poole's houseboy. Poole was executed on August 18, 1960. At the time Kenya was still under British rule, and the verdict was received dismally by white settlers in Kenya, who could not accept that a white man could be sentenced for killing an indigenous African .

Poole had emigrated to Kenya from Essex and was an engineer by profession . He owned an electrical shop on Nairobi's Government road (now Moi Avenue) . Poole served in the British army during the Mau Mau Uprising . Peter Poole was married with two children. His father was Norman Poole .

Time magazine covered the story in its August 29, 1960 edition:

Precisely at 8 o'clock one night last week, the slight, heavily shackled form of 28-year-old English Engineer Peter Poole dropped through the hangman's trap door in Nairobi Prison. For the first time in Kenya's history, a white man was executed for killing an African.

Condemned to die eight months ago for shooting his African houseboy (who had stoned Poole's dogs), Poole became a near martyr in the eyes of many white Kenyans who recalled his services against the Mau Mau, and worried over what would happen to his aging parents and his two young children. In Nairobi, Poole's parents circulated petitions for clemency, addressed to British Governor Sir Patrick Renison, and collected more than 25,000 signatures, including many from Africans and Asians. Even African Nationalist Tom Mboya, though he would not sign himself, agreed not to influence his fellow Africans against signing. In London, Laborite M.P. Fenner Brockway appealed to Colonial Secretary Iain Macleod to reprieve Poole on the grounds that his execution would damage already tense relations between whites and blacks in Kenya.

But neither Macleod nor Renison could find any legal grounds for intervening. Last week, as a warder solemnly posted announcement of the execution on the gate of Nairobi Prison, an African in the keyed-up crowd gathered outside cried: "Justice has been done; Macleod is with us!" Turning away in cold anger, a white settler muttered: "Now you've had your pound of flesh." Commented the London Spector: "It is a savage irony that future generations in Kenya will be able to point to 1960 as the year when the equality of the races was finally demonstrated, not by the granting of rights to Africans to farm on the White Highlands, or to become members of white clubs, but by the proposition that all men, regardless of color, are equal on the end of a rope."

As you can see, I had competition from the get go, because Poole dominated the Kenyan headlines on my very first birthday.

But more was to come- and this time it was two dogs, two rats and forty mice that made the world delirious with excitement.

Why, you may be wondering with befuddlement.

Those hounds and those rodents were first class passengers on a space flight that left planet earth on Friday, August 19, 1960 aboard Sputnik 5 from the Soviet Union.

The first dog was called Belka aka "Squirrel" and second one answered to Strelka aka "Little Arrow" or "Pointer". Apart from the rats and the forty mice, several plants were on board.

Twenty four hours later they all safely returned back to earth.

This particular Friday happened to be the very day that Pan African nationalist hero Patrice Lumumba called a press conference condemning Dag Hammarskjöld, UN Secretary General for undue foreign interference in Congo.

Lumumba said on August 19, 1960:

...In view of this insolent attitude of the United Nations white troops sent into the Congo, the Government was compelled to demand their immediate withdrawal and allow only African troops to enter the Congo under U.N. control. This will enable us to avoid a cold war, because some states are now using units sent to the Congo from certain European countries to further their own interests. This has already been proved, and for the benefit of the Security Council I stress once again that the Government of the Republic has passed a decision on the withdrawal of all military units belonging to European nations.

We have stated, on the other hand, that the United Nations special representative in the Congo has distributed U.N. armbands among Belgian nationals and that they have used this badge to attack the Congolese population.

The U.N. Secretary-General declares in his note that he will be obliged to ask the Security Council to reconsider the entire United Nations action in the Congo. This blackmail by the Secretary-General does not surprise us.

To this my reply is that for its part the Government of the Republic is prepared to renounce the services of the United Nations, because the Congo, a sovereign and independent country, is nobody's property. We can easily and quickly restore order by ourselves and with the direct assistance that we can get from a number of countries, which have already given us their selfless support.

The Government of the Republic:

1. condemns the personal actions of the U.N. Secretary-General;

2. demands the immediate withdrawal of white troops, who were behind the latest incidents and who have shown bad intent with regard to the Republic;

3. demands and repeats its request that a group of observers from neutral countries, a list of which has already been submitted to the Security Council, be sent to the Congo;

4. confirms its desire loyally to co-operate with the United Nations in establishing peace on earth.

Unknown to Patrice Lumumba, the CIA were at a very advanced stage with their dastardly plans to eliminate the Congolese nationalist.

From recently declassified information an author I met on the internet has been able to put together the following account based on the CIA telegram correspondence:

On August 18, 1960 the CIA Station in Leopoldville cabled the DCI: "Embassy and Station believe Congo experiencing classic communist effort takeover government. Many forces at work here: Soviets...Communist Party. Although difficult to determine major influencing factors to predict outcome struggle for power. Decisive period not far off. Whether or not Lumumba actual commie or just playing commie game to assist his solidifying power, anti-West forces rapidly increasing power in Congo and there may be little time left in which to take action to avoid another Cuba." This cable also stated the Station's operational "objective of replacing Lumumba with pro-Western group." Bronson Tweedy, then Chief of the Africa Division of the CIA's Clandestine Services, replied the same day that he was seeking State Department approval for the proposed operation based upon: "Our belief that Lumumba must be removed if possible."

On August 19, 1960, Richard Bissell signed a follow up cable to Leopoldville: "You are authorized to proceed with operation." Several days later the Stanleyville Station reported that a plan to assassinate Patrice Lumumba had been proposed to President Kasavubu by Congolese leaders: "Kasavubu refused to agree saying he was reluctant to resort to violence and no other leader sufficient stature to replace Lumumba."

On August 25, 1960, Allen Dulles attended a meeting of the Special Group - a subcommittee of the National Security Council responsible for planning covert operations. The Special Group "finally agreed that planning for the Congo would not necessarily rule out 'consideration' of any particular kind of activity which might contribute to getting rid of Lumumba." The next day Allen Dulles signed a cable to the Leopoldville CIA Station which stressed the urgency of 'removing' Patrice Lumumba: "In high quarters here it is the clear-cut conclusion that if Lumumba continues to hold high office the inevitable result will at best be chaos and at worst pave the way to Communist takeover of Congo with disastrous consequences for the prestige of the United Nations and for the interests of the free world generally. Consequently we conclude that his removal must be an urgent and prime objective that under existing conditions this should be a high priority of our covert action." Allen Dulles cabled that the Station was to be given wider authority "including even more aggressive action if it can remain covert...We realize that targets of opportunity may present themselves to you." Allen Dulles authorized $100,000 "to carry out any crash programs on which you do not have the opportunity to consult Headquarters." Dulles assured the Leopoldville Station that the message had been seen and approved at a competent level in the State Department. But the Director of Central Intelligence made a special point of assuring the Leopoldville Station that he was authorized to act unilaterally in a case where the United States Ambassador to the Congo would prefer to remain uninformed: "To the extent that Ambassador may desire to be consulted, you should seek his concurrence. If in any particular case, he does not wish to be consulted, you can act on your own authority where time does not permit referral here." "This mandate raises a question as to whether the Director Central Intelligence was contemplating a particular form of action against Lumumba which the Ambassador would want to be in a position to plausibly deny United States involvement. Richard Bissell would later tell the SSCIA that he was "almost certain" that the cable was a circumlocutious means of indicating that the President wanted Lumumba killed."

QJWIN was met in Luxembourg on October 19, 1960, and October 20, 1960, by two Agency officers and was asked if he would undertake a trip to Africa, presumably Dakar. He was not given the true objective of his mission because of its extreme sensitivity and pending a final decision to use him. Instead he was told that the Soviets were operating in Africa among nationality groups, specifically the Corsicans, and he was being asked to spot, assess and recommend some dependable, quick-witted persons for our use. On October 30, 1960, QJWIN was paid 3,500 Belgian Francs. On November 2, 1960 he accepted an offer to proceed to Leopoldville, Belgian Congo. He was informed the mission might involve a large element of personal risk. On June 26, 1963 William K. Harvey noted that some of the funds given to QJWIN during September and October 1960 could not be accounted for. On November 3, 1960, QJWIN was in Paris. On November 6, 1960, he received 15,000 Bfrs. November 11, 1960, 25,000 Bfrs; November 15, 1960, 30,000 Bfrs. In November 1960, Sidney Gottlieb prepared an assassination kit which included a lethal biological agent, hypodermic needles etc., then personally delivered it to the CIA Station in Leopoldville, where QJWIN had been placed.

Even if Patrice Lumumba had canceled that press conference in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) the Argentinean born Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara (a medical doctor by training) would still have grabbed the limelight with this speech he gave on the same day to the Cuban Militia:

This simple celebration, another among the hundreds of public functions with which the Cuban people daily celebrate their liberty, the progress of all their revolutionary laws, and their advances along the road to complete independence, is of special interest to me.

Almost everyone knows that years ago I began my career as a doctor. And when I began as a doctor, when I began to study medicine, the majority of the concepts I have today, as a revolutionary, were absent from my store of ideals.

Like everyone, I wanted to succeed. I dreamed of becoming a famous medical research scientist; I dreamed of working indefatigably to discover something which would be used to help humanity, but which signified a personal triumph for me. I was, as we all are, a child of my environment.

After graduation, due to special circumstances and perhaps also to my character, I began to travel throughout America, and I became acquainted with all of it. Except for Haiti and Santo Domingo, I have visited, to some extent, all the other Latin American countries. Because of the circumstances in which I traveled, first as a student and later as a doctor, I came into close contact with poverty, hunger and disease; with the inability to treat a child because of lack of money; with the stupefaction provoked by the continual hunger and punishment, to the point that a father can accept the loss of a son as an unimportant accident, as occurs often in the downtrodden classes of our American homeland. And I began to realize at that time that there were things that were almost as important to me as becoming a famous or making a significant contribution to medical science: I wanted to help those people.

But I continued to be, as we all continue to be always, a child of my environment, and I wanted to help those people with my own personal efforts. I had already traveled a great deal - I was in Guatemala at the time, the Guatemala of Arbenz- and I had begun to make some notes to guide the conduct of the revolutionary doctor. I began to investigate what was needed to be a revolutionary doctor...

I am pretty sure by now you know all about that Kenyan student who went to the United States of America and somehow contributed to the election of the 44th President of the most powerful country in the world.

Well, guess what?

All those plans for air lifting Kenyan students to the USA were being finalized right around the time I was being born-in a literal sense that is.

For proof, browse this excerpt from a document prepared by Senator John F. Kennedy’s office in August 1960:


In response to letters from Mrs. Ralph Bunche, a director of the African-American Students Foundation (AASF), some 230 scholarships valued at over $1 million were offered for African students by Class I accredited colleges in the United States.
This 1960 program included not only Kenya as in 1959, but also Uganda, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland. About 230 students were selected, and money was raised in Africa from Africans to provide about $1,000 per student for living expenses in the United States.

A. State Department's decision not to finance project
Repeatedly, beginning in November 1959, the State Department was asked to finance the air transportation of this, the largest student travel scholarship program ever to be undertaken in Africa. The chronology of these requests and the State Department's negative responses follows, with full documentation available:
(1) On November 18, 1959, Mr. Scheinman, the vice president of the African-American Students Foundation (AASF), wrote to the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Mr. J. C. Satterthwaite, outlining the program for the 1960 airlift of some 250 students from central and east Africa, and asking for transportation assistance.
(2) On December 10, Assistant Secretary of State Satterthwaite replied saying that he regretted "to have to respond * * * in the negative," and adding that "Perhaps you will wish to send a copy of this letter to Mr. Mboya so that he will not have any unfounded expectations regarding this matter."
(3) On January 15, 1960, Mr. Scheinman wrote to Mr. Satterthwaite asking for reconsideration. No reply was received by AASF.
(4) On June 9, 1960, Mr. Jackie Robinson, on AASF letterhead, wrote to Vice President Nixon asking for his assistance in the matter.
(5) On June 23, Mr. Nixon replied that he was urging the State Department to give the project serious consideration.
(6) On July 7, Assistant Secretary of State Satterthwaite, wrote AASF taking note of Mr. Nixon's interest but advising that it would not be possible for the U.S. Government to finance the air transportation.
(7) On July 13, in an effort to persuade the Department to change its negative decision, Mr. Frank Montero, the president of AASF and Mr. Scheinman, met in Washington with several State Department officials, including Mr. C. Kenneth Snyder, Program Officer for Africa, Policy and Plans Staff, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. After about a 3-hour conference, the Department officers had not changed their position and in fact had given additional reasons why the Department could not be involved in the project. They said the project had gone up to the "top" and been finally rejected.
(8) On July 21, Mr. Mboya telephoned from Africa to express his alarm about the failures to secure transportation for the students. It was decided he would fly to the United States to make a direct appeal.
(9) On July 23, telegrams were sent to all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee bv AASF telling of Mr. Mboya's trip and asking for appointments for him.
(10) On July 25, Mr. Mboya attended a conference called by the Phelps-Stokes Fund in New York of some 50 representatives of organizations concerned with higher education in east and central Africa. The African airlift program was discussed. Mr. Snyder represented the State Department. Also present were representatives of the Institute of International Education, the Carnegie Foundation, the Foreign Policy Association, the African-American Institute, the American Society of African Culture, the American Council on Education, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Mr. Snyder explained why the State Department was not in a position to support the project: It could not operate on a crash basis, and was limited in its work in colonial territories such as east Africa.
(11) On July 27, Senator Wiley, in response to the telegram requesting an appointment for Mr. Mboya, wrote to Mr. Montero as follows:

I have your telegram requesting an appointment for the purpose of discussing the airlift of 250 African students to the United States this coming September.
After consulting with our State Department, which is not unaware of your problem, I have been advised it does not look with favor on an airlift of foreign students at Government expense. You can readily understand that if an exception were made in one instance, a precedent would be established which would not only be difficult of control but would subject the United States to criticism at home, and abroad by those not so favored. Therefore, much as I approve of encouraging exchange of foreign students, I cannot be of assistance to the Foundation in this instance.

B. The Kennedy Foundation's support of the project
(1) In response to the telegram about Mr. Mboya's visit, Senator Kennedy invited him to come to Hyannis Port. They met on July 26 for a long discussion of the African situation. Mr. Mboya described the great opportunity of filling over 200 scholarships for Africans which was about to be lost because of lack of transportation. He asked Senator Kennedy, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, to intercede with the State Department. Senator Kennedy said that if Mr. Nixon had already tried and failed, he could do little there. He suggested, however, that the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Foundation might be able to help.
After consulting with the executive director of the Kennedy Foundation, Sargent Shriver, Jr., on the telephone, Senator Kennedy informed Mr. Mboya that the Kennedy Foundation would contribute at least $5,000 and would take the initiative in securing the rest of the funds needed from other foundations, perhaps on a matching basis with the Kennedy Foundation.
(2) On July 27 and 28, and later, Mr. Shriver called a number of other private foundations, including Carnegie, Ford, Phelps-Stokes, Rockefeller, the Institute of International Education, and the Foundation for All-Africa (of which Mr. Robert Kennedy is president). While some of the foundations were interested, none was prepared to move immediately.
(3) On July 29, upon learning that no progress had been made in securing other financing, Senator Kennedy asked that Mr. Shriver be advised that in his opinion, as a trustee of the Kennedy Foundation, the whole project should be financed by the Kennedy Foundation, so that the planes could be chartered and the students could arrive here in time to take up their scholarships in September. Senator Kennedy said that a condition of the grant should be that there be no announcement of it, in order to keep the project out of politics.
(4) On August 5, 1960, Mr. Shriver wrote to Mr. Joseph P. Kennedy as follows:

Last week, Jack met with Tom Mboya * * * up at the cape. Mboya told Jack that there was a million dollars worth of scholarships awaiting students of Kenya in the United States, but that Mboya did not have the money to transport these students to the United States. Jack offered to help in a modest way and asked me to find out if other foundations would be willing to join our foundation in providing money for the transportation of these Kenya students to this country.
While I was in the process of contacting the foundations (none of which were flexible enough to move quickly on this urgent matter), Jack decided he would like us to go ahead with the project on our own.
Approximately $90,000 is required for the transportation since 250 to 350 students are involved, and I am recommending to Jack that another $10,000 be appropriated so that we may have the expert services of the Institute for International Education or the Phelps-Stokes Fund to select the students and make sure they are assigned to institutions in the United States where they are capable of doing a good job.
Over this weekend I will be talking to Jack and presumably getting his final OK. Jack's theory is that we would have no publicity about this matter.

(5) On August 10, in Washington, D.C., the AASF officers, Montero and Scheinman, were informed that the Kennedy Foundation would assure the transportation costs of the student airlift. They were also informed that a condition of the grant was that there be no public announcement about it. They agreed to this. While details remained to be worked out, Messrs. Montero and Scheinman left with the assurance that the commitment was made.
(6) On the same day, August 10, Mr. Shriver invited Congressman Diggs to serve on an advisory committee, which the Kennedy Foundation intended to establish to see that the best possible arrangements were made for the students both in their travel and in their studies here.
(7) On August 12, Mr. Shriver called a meeting for Monday, August 15, at 2:30 p.m. at which final details would be worked out and the advisory committee established, and to which the AASF president, Mr. Montero, would be invited, along with representatives of the Institute of International Education, the African-American Institute, the Phelps-Stokes Fund, the Foundation for All-Africa, and the Ford Foundation. At the time Mr. Montero received this invitation on Saturday morning, and agreed to be in Washington Monday to complete the plans, he says that he had received no indication that the State Department was considering reversing itself.

C. Mr. Shepley's role
(1) On Saturday, August 13, after the Monday plans had been agreed upon, Mr. Jackie Robinson called Montero to say that Mr. James Shepley of Mr. Nixon's office wanted to talk to him. When Montero then called Shepley, Shepley expressed his interest in getting the State Department to support the project. Either in this call or in a call the following day, or in both calls, and Montero believes it was in both, Shepley stated that he knew that the Kennedy Foundation had offered up to $100,000 to finance the airlift. Montero says he neither confirmed nor denied this because of his agreement that there be no publicity, but he did tell Shepley that a private foundation was prepared to finance the airlift. Shepley urged him to let him try to get an offer from the Government and said he would call back the next day. According to Montero, Jackie Robinson, as a member of the board of the AASF, was informed of the Kennedy Foundation decision; Robinson denies he knew any more than that the Kennedy Foundation would give $5,000 and seek to raise the rest from other foundations. Senator Scott's account is that in this Saturday telephone talk Montero related to Shepley "that during the period immediately after the Democratic National Convention the Kennedy people had offered to make $100,000 available for Airlift African, 1960." (Cong. Rec. Aug.17, p.15442.) This is in accord with the Washington Star's article (Aug.14) in which Mr. Nixon's press secretary, Herbert Klein, is quoted as saying that Shepley found out that the Kennedy Foundation was involved on Sunday "when Mr. Montero called him to say the financing had been guaranteed." However he found out, it appears evident that at least by Saturday Mr. Shepley knew of the Kennedy Foundation grant.
(2) On Saturday, August 14, despite his knowledge that the airlift financing had already been arranged privately, Shepley called Montero to say that although he still had nothing firm to offer he hoped the Department would reverse itself before Montero's meeting with the Kennedy Foundation representative on Monday. He said he was taking the issue up with Undersecretary of State Dillon. He made arrangements to reach Montero on Monday before the meeting. Later the same day, Montero and Jackie Robinson talked about the situation and, according to Montero, agreed that it didn't matter who financed the airlift if the students got here in time for school.
(3) On Monday, August 15, Montero and Shepley talked on the phone several times, with Shepley each time saying that he hoped within a matter of minutes to get an affirmative answer from the State Department. During the noon period Shepley called to say that he would speak with Dillon as soon as Dillon finished testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A few minutes later, Shepley called to say that he had been authorized to make a definite offer that the Government would provide transportation costs up to $100,000 for the airlift. He asked that Montero contact Mr. Robert Thayer, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs, for further details. Montero said he would talk with Thayer but that there was already, as Shepley knew, a prior commitment agreed upon with the Kennedy Foundation.
Mr. Shriver, as executive director of the Kennedy Foundation, told Montero and Scheinman that they were entirely free to accept the Government's offer. The latter decided that in view of the Government's reluctance about the whole project, the preference of many Africans for nongovernmental support, and the Kennedy Foundation's concern for the interest of the students while in this country, the AASF should not reject the Kennedy Foundation grant. Rather, it should urge the Government to apply the proffered $100,000 to an expansion of its own scholarship program for east and central Africa. (Last year the Government's academic scholarship programs for all Africa amounted to 142 students.)
At the 2:30 p.m. meeting the following persons were present in addition to Shriver, Montero, and Scheinman: Dr. Fred Patterson, of the Phelps-Stokes Fund; Mr. Gordon Hagberg of the African-American Institute; the Reverend Gordon H. Fournier, executive vice president of the Foundation for All-Africa; and Mr. Albert Sims of the Institute of International Education. Mr. Shriver explained that the Kennedy Foundation had decided to finance the airlift and hoped they and Congressman Diggs would serve as an advisory committee to the project. It was agreed that several members of the advisory committee would shortly go to Africa to study the procedures used in selecting students and to accompany the students to this country in early September.
Later Montero called Shepley and Thayer to inform them of the decision. Montero says that Shepley protested their action in "turning down the U.S. Government" and that he implied that efforts might be made by his side to suggest in the press that this was a politically motivated act by Senator Kennedy.

D. Senator Scott's role
(1) The next day, Tuesday, August 16, Senator Scott announced that the State Department had granted $100,000 to finance the African student's airlift. Senator Scott is a member of Mr. Nixon's campaign board of strategy. He has stated that although Mr. Shepley knew of the Kennedy Foundation grant on Saturday, the 13th, and the Department of State knew at least by Monday, the 15th, he (Senator Scott) did not know of it when he made this announcement on Tuesday. Who gave him the information about the State Department's offer or authorized him to announce it, or why such person did not tell him of the Kennedy Foundation's prior grant, is not known. One possible source is suggested by the Senator's references in the text of his release to Jackie Robinson, a strong supporter of Mr. Nixon.
(2) Early on the same day, August 16, Montero informed Jackie Robinson of what had happened Monday and of the decision to go ahead with the Kennedy grant. Robinson read Montero the draft of a column he had written for publication in the New York Post on Wednesday, August 17. The column essentially followed the line of Senator Scott's announcement, mentioning only the State Department's offer and not the Kennedy Foundation grant. It read in part:

Good news is all too rare these days, but on Monday I received a call from Washington which added up to just that. Jim Shepley, an aid to Vice President Nixon, called to tell me the State Department has decided to pick up the tab for the three planeloads of African students which the African-American Students Foundation is bringing over this year to study at American universities.
* * * * *
Incidentally, it is no accident that an aid of the Vice President was the one to call me about this. When I conferred with Mr. Nixon in Washington several weeks ago, one of the points we discussed was this project.
***Shepley was assigned to follow up on the matter, and Monday's phone call was the happy result.
* * * And I congratulate, President Nixon, Under Secretary Dillon and Jim Shepley for the vital roles they played in bringing it about.

After hearing this read, Montero told Robinson that this was unfair and inaccurate reporting. He says Robinson told him he was going to print it anyway.
(3) After Senator Scott's announcement Montero and Scheinman sent a telegram to Congressman Diggs stating that the State Department's "belated offer" was "only made after the foundation, which had repeatedly requested help during the past 12 months and was finally turned down late last month, was successful in obtaining a grant of $100,000 from a private foundation. * * * The fact is the State Department has repeatedly turned a cold shoulder to the airlift-Africa program." They suggested that the funds allocated by the Government should "be made immediately available to other African students on a continuing basis." As agreed upon with Senator Kennedy and Mr. Shriver, they did not identify the Kennedy Foundation.
Congressman Diggs released this telegram to the press with an accusation that the State Department was playing politics by announcing a grant which it knew had been made too late. The Department "showed interest in the matter," said Congressman Diggs, who had tried diligently since 1959 to persuade the State Department to act, "only when their inaction was about to prove embarrassing to the Republican Party."
(4) On Wednesday, August 17, Senator Scott on the Senate floor stated that "since" the time (the previous day) when he had been "privileged" to announce the State Department grant (the day after it had already been turned down), he had "been informed that the long arm of the family of the junior Senator from Massachusetts has reached out and attempted to pluck this project away from the U.S. Government." He said he was "surprised" at the decision of the African-American Students Foundation but he could "understand the pressures brought by the Kennedy people and their anxiety to take over the functions of the Government in advance of an election." He said he was concerned "at the apparent misuse of tax-exempt foundation money for blatant political purposes." He asked why "the Kennedy people" were so anxious to commit themselves to this expenditure "just 1 day after learning of the action of the Department of State."
(5) In reply to Senator Scott on the Senate floor, August 17, Senator Kennedy outlined the facts in this memorandum, calling Senator Scott's statement "the most unfair, distorted, and malignant attack I have heard in 14 years in politics." He said in conclusion:

* * * the Kennedy Foundation went into this quite reluctantly. I am chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa. I think this is a most important program. * * * Mr. Mboya came to see us and asked for help, when none of the other foundations could give it, when the Federal Government had turned it down quite precisely. We felt something ought to be done. To waste 250 scholarships in this country, to waste $200,000 these people had raised, to disappoint 250 students who hoped to come to this country, it certainly seemed to me, would be most unfortunate and so we went ahead.

He urged the State Department at this late date to use the funds "to bring other students to the United States."
(6) On August 18, Senator Fulbright addressed 13 questions to Secretary of State Herter on the role of Mr. Shepley and the Department in this whole matter, asking for answers by Monday, August 22. To the press Senator Fulbright stated that:

If the facts are like they appear to be, I think it is an outrageous distortion of the facts on the part of Senator Scott. If it is true that the State Department was pressured into allocating funds, it was an unacceptable interference with the orderly conduct of our foreign policy by the State Department for partisan, political purposes.

(7) Later on August 18, Lincoln White, Director of the State Department's Office of News, stated that the Department had turned down the African airlift when it was originally proposed early in July because it was confined only to Kenya, because the specific request was for free transportation through MATS, because it felt the project should be conducted through the Institute of International Education, and because there was inadequate provision for the students' expenses in the United States. Mr. White stated that the project had been finally approved after assurances were given meeting all these Department objections. He stated that the Department was informed on Monday that its offer was not accepted, because the airlift had already received private financing.
(8) On August 19, Vice President Scheinman of AASF wired Senator Fulbright that the Department's explanation that the decision was reversed "because we finally met requirements laid down by the Department is patently incorrect because the Department never laid down any requirements at all." Specifically, Scheinman said that the 1960 airlift was never designed just for Kenya alone and that the other countries involved were listed in his letter to Assistant Secretary Satterthwaite on January 15, 1960. Nor was the request ever confined to Air Force transport. Nor had the other alleged objections been met, he said, unless the Department was counting on the support of the Kennedy Foundation for expenses of the students in the United States. Mr. Lincoln White conceded that he had been in error as to the original proposal for 1960 being limited to Kenya. But he insisted that the other conditions had been met, although he would not disclose the source of any such assurances.
(9) On August 19, Jackie Robinson published a second column on the matter, stating: "I don't mind admitting it: I was wrong." He said he would not dispute the account by the African-American Students Foundation that the Kennedy Foundation had already committed itself to support of the full project by the time the State Department offer was made. He stated that "as late as the time my column was written on Tuesday I was not told the State Department offer had been rejected." He did not add that after writing the column but before it went to press Montero had told him this and the other relevant facts refuting the main theme of that column.

You get the idea.

To make sure that there was a complete world wide blackout of the news of the fresh arrival on this planet of the baby Onyango Oloo, the US U-2 spy pilot Gary Powers was also sentenced to ten years imprisonment by a court in the USSR.

On that very day.

Just to pile it on.

This was the day that the Dallas Cowboys decided to have their very first home game ever, thus depriving me of the attention I deserved on that day.

And to add insult to injury, the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 at Crosley Field on this exact day.

I believe I can rest my case now.

I have been able to demonstrate using extensive documentation the reasons why I was kept out of the Kenyan and international headlines on August 19, 1960.

3.0. Celebration of Birthdays

To tell you the candid truth, the first time I threw a birthday party was in the late eighties when I was living in Canada as a permanent resident.

In my immediate nuclear family we didn’t do birthday parties.

Even though by Kenyan standards we qualified to be called a middle class family in Mombasa, there were just too many of us-four brothers and four sisters- that in practical terms we lived a working class existence while maintaining a middle class social identity.

My dad could take you to the most expensive private school in town (like he did when I did my “A” Levels at H.H. The Aga Khan Kenya Secondary School- called Kensec to distinguish it from the more plebeian Aga Khan High) buy you the most expensive text books and even get you a personal tutor (never needed one).

Try to suggest to him tactfully that perhaps the purchase of a few balloons with a smallish cake thrown in together with one or two candles would be in order a few days before your latest birth date and he would simply shrug it off, explaining how that money would be better used by my grandmother in Gem or to pay for yet another cousin who had just finished school and needed to travel to Mombasa to come and kick me out of my bed.

When I was doing research for this essay (I research everything. If I had to write a piece on why I woke up on the wrong side of the bed on a particular day, I would do loads of research to find out the origins of the curious notion that a bed has a “wrong” and a “right” side to it) I found out the whole idea of birthdays has definite pagan origins- now careful, my Christian pals out there, I did not say “Satanic”.

Anyways, here is one nugget I picked up:

The tradition of observing birthdays started in Europe a long time ago. It was feared that evil spirits were particularly attracted to people on their birthdays. To protect them from harm, friends and family would to come be with the birthday person and bring good thoughts and wishes. Parties and gifts brought even more good cheer to ward off the evil spirits.

At first it was only kings who were recognized as important enough to have a birthday celebration. The working class observed the birthday of a male, but there were no parties. As time went by, women and children became included in birthday celebrations. The first children's birthday parties occurred in Germany and were called Kinderfeste.

Here is another factoid:

As bizarre as that may sound, before anyone started singing "happy birthday to you," it was actually more common to celebrate a person's death than his or her birth. This is just one of many peculiar and fascinating origins of how western culture came to celebrate birthdays.

In biblical times birthdays were a sacred event, but were only celebrated for royalty. The first birthday celebrations took place in 3000 B.C. In ancient Egypt, for example, only the birth dates of male members of the royal court, such as the pharaohs, were even recorded let alone celebrated. Women and children? Forget about it - they weren't considered worthy of notice.

The occasional queen was deemed worthy of having her birthday recorded and celebrated, but sometimes not quite the way they'd hoped. Cleopatra II (yes, there was more than one), a rascal if ever there was one, decided to marry her brother Ptolemy despite the fact, among other things, that she was already married at the time. Worse, she and her new husband had a son. It doesn't take a rocket scientist - or should we say a pyramid scientist - to know that Cleo's little side action would upset her husband. Well, being the nice guy that he is, he decided to throw Cleo a birthday party and gave her a birthday present to boot. Unfortunately, the present turned out to be the dismembered body of her son.

It was the Greeks who started the ritual of a birthday cake and candles. The candles were a tribute to the goddess of the moon, Artemis. The Greeks were actually birthday manic. They celebrated the birthday's of the gods every month. Still, there were no celebrations for women or children. The male dominated society even continued celebrating male's birthdays for years after they died. Some guys will do anything to keep getting presents! The Romans went them one better by starting the custom of celebrating the birthdays of important men and making them national holidays as well.

I think I will leave the matter, having made my point.

You know I was going to include a Section 4.0. in this essay when I suddenly realized that at the rate I am going, I am likely to miss the actual birthday party that some friends of mine have put together for me.

Imagine spending my birthday glued to my lap top writing a digital essay.

Now who would be crazy enough to do that?

Only Onyango Oloo!

To which I say:

Happy Birthday to Me and to all, like Bill Clinton, Tipper Gore, Chris Murungaru, Matthew Perry, Malcom-Jamal Warner, John Stamos, Njeri Mugo, Winny Atieno Obama, Wambui wa Sandra Wanjiku and others who were also born on August 19th.


Anonymous said...

Dear Kenya Democracy Project

I hope you don’t mind me contacting you. I am writing from the Royal Commonwealth Society, based in London, about a recent project we have launched called The Commonwealth Conversation.

The Conversation is a series of consultations and online discussions about the future of the Commonwealth – and what the Commonwealth is doing both right and wrong.

We will be presenting our findings at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad in November.

At the moment I am trying to develop a network of bloggers from around the Commonwealth who might be interested in engaging with our website discussions and influencing the report we present.

As you can well imagine – we are very keen for the situation in Fiji to be a part of these discussions and I was wondering if you would be interested in getting involved.

I have only just begun the process of networking bloggers and I would be very grateful if you passed on this information to those who might also like to get involved.

Very best,

Alex Try


Jesse said...

I like this post, but I feel it could have been broken up into several posts, as it is quite lengthy (such is the Kenyan way of getting one's thoughts out I suppose).

A good post all around..

Anonymous said...


Happy oldies.. join the club of stone age soon we will be wazee tukumbuke..

I enjoyed your down and under memory lane.. saga.. hey Dactari keep up the good work...

lets keep on on Jukwaa - we sure need those coalition guys to listen to as...

Joseph Wegesa said...

Oloo, long time no see. Only because I don't come here often though I should. Happy B-Day. I've been 49 for almost six months now. Looking forward to the big 5-0!

your pal, Chez.

P.S. Great post. Lots of history from the year we were born. As usual, you have a way with words.

Kenya Democracy Project said...

Thank you for all those comments- I really appreciate the sentiments expressed.

Thinking Man's Uhuru:

I hear what you are saying. But get this. I sat down on the day of my birthday and churned it all out in one sitting- a stream of consciousness thing- not exactly given all the googling around I had to do...

My whole point was to contexualize my birthday in the contemporary historical events at the time, taking the opportunity at the same time to draw political and other parallels in a global setting.

As you can tell, it was all very much tongue in cheek.

Once again, thank you all for the positive feedback.

Onyango Oloo

Anonymous said...

You write so very well! Alot of intereseting stuff always. Happy belated!

Anonymous said...

Belated birthday greetings Bwana Oloo! Have I told you lately how very happy you've made us by returning to your creative writing? Peace and love.

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