Star Witness Who Pocketed KSh. 317K to Fix the ‘‘Kapenguria Six,’’ Later Charged with Perjury

The Kapenguria Six in a group photo with Daniel Arap Moi (third right). They are, L-R: Bildad Kaggia, Kungu Karumba, Achieng’ Oneko, Jomo Kenyatta, Paul Ngei, and Fred Kubai. PHOTO: African Heritage House.

Rawson Mbugua Macharia, the star witness during the Kapenguria Six trial was allegedly paid  £2,070 (about KSh. 317,952 at current exchange rates) as ‘‘protection benefits.’’

Details from the proceedings of the UK House of Commons of 30th June 1959 show that Mr.Macharia, for accepting to be a prosecution witness, first asked whether the Government would give him protection on 6th November 1952.

And for his testimony, it is now understood that the colonial Kenya government rewarded him with a return trip to England, and a scholarship to undertake a 2-year public administration course.

‘‘The Kenya Government paid to Macharia and his dependants a total sum of £426 (KSh.64, 433) in Kenya and £1,644 (KSh.252, 518) in the United Kingdom,’’ said Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd, the Secretary of State for Colonies during a question-and-answer session in the House of Commons.

Mr. Lennox Boyd was responding to a question by a British legislator Mr.Charles Hale, who had sought an explanation from the Secretary of State for the Colonies the total cost to the Government of payments in money and grants of educational benefit, travelling and other allowances made to one Rawson Mbogwa Macharia since July 1952.

Mr. Hale had also sought to establish whether the payments were promised before or after the trial at which Macharia gave evidence. Mr. Lennox-Boyd was categorical that that Mr.Macharia gave the evidence without any manipulation.

‘‘In an interview on that day—6th November—with the then public prosecutor, Mr. Somerhough, after going over the statement of 6th October, Macharia asked whether the Kenya Government could give him protection should he give evidence against Kenyatta, and the deputy prosecutor said he would raise the question with the authorities concerned,’’ noted Mr. Lennox-Boyd.

The Kapenguria six: Jomo Kenyatta, Achieng’ Oneko, Bildad Kagia, Kungu Karumba, Paul Ngei and Fred Kubai were arrested in 1952 after the declaration of the state of emergency by the then Governor Sir. Evelyn Barring.

After standing on trial for six months, the six were found guilty and sentenced to seven years imprisonment with hard labour. They were detained at Kapenguria, with some of them doing stints in Lokitaung, Lodwar, Maralal, Manyani and the Tarkwa Special Detention Camp.

Rawson Macharia was later charged for perjury.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies however categorically denied that even though Macharia was found to have given false testimony, it wasn’t as a result of any undue influence, as noted by the magistrate in the findings.

Lennox Boyd, the British Colonial Secretary. PHOTO: National Potrait Gallery, UK.

‘‘The magistrate found that although Rawson Macharia gave false evidence at the Kapenguria trial he was not suborned to do so. He also found that the six other prosecution witnesses whom Macharia alleged had been suborned had not been suborned and had in fact given truthful evidence at Kenyatta’s trial. These included the three men whose evidence was considered by the Kenyatta trial judge as ” the most important piece of evidence ” against Kenyatta,’’ said Mr. Lennox-Boyd.

The other witnesses were identified Ephram, Johanna, and Stephen.

Following the case, British legislator Mr. John Stonehouse called for a judicial inquiry into the Kapenguria Six mistrial saying the turn of events had put the credibility of the whole trial in question.

‘‘As the magistrate in the recent case called him a perjurer, and as that case has thrown a very grave doubt on the conduct of the original trial at Kapenguria, is it not in the interests of justice in Kenya that there should be a judicial inquiry?’’ posed Mr.Stonehouse.

However, Mr. Lennox-Boyd dispelled any aspersions as to the integrity of the judgment.

‘‘It is quite untrue that anything has emerged to cast any doubt whatever on the validity of the sentence passed on Kenyatta,’’ said Mr. Lenox-Boyd.

The trial of the Kapenguria Six was a high stakes case.

It was submitted by the Kenya National Archives and Documentation Service (KNADS) for inclusion in the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, which is a list of documentary heritage of world significance and outstanding universal value.

The entry is titled, The Arrest and Mistrial of Jomo Kenyatta and Five Other Nationalists.

Jomo Kenyatta and his co-accused were framed from their prominent role in the affairs of the Kenya African Union (KAU), the pre-eminent colonial era party championing the rights of Africans. In the period leading to the arrest of the six, KAU had waged a sustained agitation for various issues affecting Africans during the colonial period, particularly the desire for self-government and the return of land “allegedly” taken away from Africans.

The prosecution argued that even though the top honchos of KAU were appeared to be appealing to the outside world of their resolve to pursue self-government through constitutional methods, they were, on the contrary, secretly planning, organizing and developing the Mau Mau society, which was later designated a terrorist organization.

So On 17th November 1952, Supt. K.R.T. Goodale who was at the time an acting Superintendent of the Kenya CID, Special Branch, applied before a District Commissioner, who was also a Magistrate, for warrants to arrest Jomo Kenyatta and five others on charges of membership and management of Mau.

‘‘The place chosen was Kapenguria, a station so little known even to the officials in Nairobi that when they came to appoint a Resident Magistrate to hear the case they appointed him to the wrong province by mistake. Outside the houses of the District Commissioner and District Officer there was not much to see in Kapenguria,’’ reads the entry by KNADS.

The house where the Kapenguria Six were imprisoned.It is now a museum.PHOTO: National Museums of Kenya

The judge ruled that they used their positions and legal status in KAU as a cover-up for the underlying illegal purpose, which in reality was to drive the Europeans from the colony through armed violence and armed struggle.

At the centre of the trial was a key witness, whose evidence was greatly relied upon by the prosecution to nail the six accused persons; Rawson Mbugua Macharia.

He was the only witness who had claimed to have actually seen Kenyatta administering a “Mau Mau oath.”

Rawson Mbugua Macharia, who testified against the Kapenguria Six and whose testimony was relied upon to jail the leaders of Kenya’s push for independence. PHOTO:David Blumenkrantz

In their defence, the accused categorically denied the charges. Jomo Kenyatta, the most prominent of the six, put forth a spirited defence, arguing that his personal character and values, abhorred violence in all its forms.

“I have no room in my heart for violence or the use of force; even in my school I reprimanded any teacher who used it on children. I don’t believe in violence. We look forward to the day when peace shall come to this land and that the truth shall be known that we, as African leaders, have stood for peace,” he argued.

According to Prof. David Blumenkrantz, of the California State University Northridge and who interviewed Mr. Mbugua in the later years, he characterizes the star witness’s demenour as a ‘‘diminutive, bookish former government clerk and local KAU branch secretary.’’

He has published his interaction with Macharia in a book, Edges of Africa that also features recollections on various issues from across Africa.A synopsis of the same is available here.

Mr.Macharia in his testimony before the trial magistrate asserted that he was personally present at the home of one Joram Waweru on March 16, 1950, where he had been administered the oath at the hand of Kenyatta himself, in a ceremony that allegedly included drinking of human blood, and nudity.

That was it.

It was the only evidence presented that sought to demonstrate to the court a direct link between Kenyatta and Mau Mau.

The primary charges leveled against the six were; managing an unlawful society and being members of an unlawful society, namely, Mau Mau.

Kenyatta and the co-accused were imprisoned for seven years with hard labour in 1952.

But there was a new twist to this high profile case.

Six years later, on 22nd November 1958 Mr. Macharia swore an affidavit recanting his earlier evidence, claiming he was arm-twisted by operatives of the Colonial government to give false testimony to fix the six accused persons.

Two months later, the state swiftly instituted criminal proceedings against Macharia for perjury.

The trial of Rawson Mbugua Macharia started in March 1959 in Kitale, western Kenya. The trial magistrate I. Rosen found him guilty, and sentenced him to two imprisonment, the maximum sentence provided for by the law at the time..

‘‘The whole subject of justice was thus raised anew. Suspicion of miscarriage of justice had hung over the of Jomo Kenyatta for six years and therefore the unexpected confession of the chief witness of the prosecution further fueled the suspicious circumstances surrounding the Kapenguria Trial,’’ notes Prof. Blumenkrantz.

Rawson Macharia leaving the courtroom in Kitale upon sentencing for perjury in 1959. PHOTO:David Blumenkrantz

In sentencing Macharia, the trial magistrate said of the accused: “his love of the limelight would lead him, and has led him, to be prepared to pay whatever price, except money, to be considered important.”

The accused, noted the magistrate, was reckless and carefree, especially in his wanton indictment of senior Government officials of complicity in the alleged bribery of the witnesses.

“I can’t really conceive a more serious offense. The accused indicted the Government and Senior Officers and didn’t care about it, didn’t care who he hurt. He didn’t mind what happened to the country, which he claims to belong to. Is that not a case for giving him as much as the court can award?” Quipped the magistrate.

In his engagement with Macharia, Prof. Blumenkrantz asked him whether he was the only one approached to testify in the high profile case or if the were others too who got the alleged overtures.

‘‘I don’t know, I knew they were particularly interested in me, because the DC knew I was in the political party. In fact, I was not a stranger to the government, because I had been in politics since 1937. And then, there were very few educated people in this part of the country. So I don’t know if he was asking many people. But one thing I’m sure of, they were looking for any information that would connect Kenyatta and KAU with Mau Mau, the link…. you follow me?’’ said Macharia.

The Kapenguria Museum in West Pokot County is a national heritage that documents the experiences of the Kapenguria Six. PHOTO: Chiimbiru Gimode

Prof. Blumenkrantz believed that Macharia’s penchance for fame may have driven him more than his sense of patriotic loyalty or remorse, as ‘‘disgrace and disaster are compartmentalized in his rationale.’’

‘‘Despite the judgment Rawson Macharia steadfastly insisted that while he had admitted perjuring himself at Kapenguria, he and other witnesses at Kapenguria had indeed been coached, and compensation had been offered and delivered. The British government itself later conceded that this was in fact true,’’ noted Prof. Blumenkrantz.

At a personal level, Mr.Macharia however felt a sense of great relief for having gone public with what he thought was the truth and not even the sentence that waited him could dim his resolve.

 ‘‘I did not expect to be acquitted—it would have been unthinkable. That the truth was now revealed, I felt much reliefed (sic) and looked forward to my imprisonment not as a punishment but as a reward that I deserved for my great sins,” he told Prof. Blumenkrantz.

Mr. Rawson Mbugua Macharia, the star witness at the Kapenguria Six trial and at the time considered the greatest traitor to the African cause in pre-independence Kenya, published his long awaited book “The Truth About the Trial of Jomo Kenyatta’’ in 1991.

He died in 2008 after being hit by a motorcycle along Thika Road.

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