Bildad Mwaganu Kaggia was a Kenyan nationalist, activist and a freedom fighter. He was the leading Kenyan leftist of the colonial period; probably the strategic planner on Mau Mau’s central committee and uncompromisingly committed to the poor.
Kaggia was among the famous Kapenguria Six consisting of Jomo Kenyatta, Achieng’ Oneko, Paul Ngei, Kung’u Karumba and Fred Kubai. These were the six leading Kenyan nationalists who were arrested in 1952, tried at Kapenguria in 1952–53, found guilty and sentenced to seven years imprisonment with hard labour.
Their crime was that, between October 12, 1950 and October 20, 1952, they assisted the management of unlawful society (Mau Mau) and conspired together and with persons not before the court to commit felony by physical force or by threat or intimidation to compel persons in the Kenya colony to take an oath to bind the persons to act in a certain way.
In the 1963 elections, Kaggia won Kandara Constituency seat on a KANU ticket, and so had the distinction of a seat in independent Kenya’s first parliament. Kaggia also served as a minister in the Kenyatta cabinet; his denunciations of corruption marked him out as a member of KANU’s radical tendency.After independence he became a Member of Parliament. He established himself as a militant, fiery nationalist who wanted to serve the poor and landless people. Because of this he fell out irreconcilably with Jomo Kenyatta. Kaggia remained steadfast on his political principles till his death on 7 March 2005.
Kaggia joined the Kenyan army when the Second World War broke out and was deployed in London as a company quarter-sergeant at a war office meant to rehabilitate African soldiers. During his time there, Kaggia studied political science, journalism and trade unionism through correspondence. On his return to Kenya, among his other roles, Kaggia started vernacular newspapers like Inoora ria Gikuyu and later Afrika Mpya to report KAU activities. These and other vernacular newspapers were instrumental in spreading the message of the militant leaders who advocated for independence
Convinced that western religions were a stepping stone to colonialism, Kaggia returned to Kenya with a mission to Africanise religions. He started his own church, which included African customs and traditions. His objective was to create a purely African movement, divorced from European denominations and entirely independent of the European Church’s doctrine.
He was among some of the fore-most leaders among Kenyan African ex-world war 11 returnees from foreign countries who began the agitation for independence. They focussed their attention on the removal of colonialism physically, politically, economically and psychologically. For these ex-world war 11 soldiers, territorial rather than ethnic nationalism shaped their viewpoints.
- “Remembering Kenya” Mbũgua wa Mũngai, G. M. Gona
African Books Collective