Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela & Archbishop Makarios

Archbishop Makarios /en.wikipedia.org

Archbishop Makarios / en.wikipedia.org

These three names (and the persons themselves) are connected by the historical fact that each was imprisoned as penalty for their nationalism, and each became President of their country. In the case of Kenyatta, he alone of the three did something not tried by the other two: he acted in a Hollywood film made in Africa – Sanders of the river (1935) as a young black tribal chief and troublemaker. Nelson Mandela as a character has appeared in another Hollywood film, played by a black actor, a movie about South African rugby starring a white American, Matt Damon. As far as I know Makarios only appears in newsreels of his period.

Kenyatta was born in 1891 in Kenya, then a British colony. He was well educated by Scottish missionaries who could not, however, persuade him against politics. He joined the Young Kikuyu Association in 1922, and edited a news-sheet with the difficult name of Mwigwithania, representing progressive black opinion in the 30s. He visited London a few times, trying to make lobbies, but went to the USSR more often.

He spent the 2nd World War in the United Kingdom where he was friendly with the growing anti-colonial pressure groups. In 1946 he returned to Kenya where he became the chief spokesman on behalf of the anti-colonial movement. Then the Mau-Mau terrorists started their murderous attacks on white farmers, and Kenyatta was seen as one of them by colonial administrators. He was arrested, and (on what later was found to be perjured evidence) jailed until 1961.

After his release it only needed a couple of years before he became Prime Minister of the newly independent Kenya (1963) and then President (1964). Kenya was now a republic. He surprised critics and most observers by leading Kenya into a period of comparative peace between the tribes, and good economic growth. He died over eighty years old in 1978.

Mandela the South African nationalist leader was born in 1918. He became a lawyer, practicing in Johannesburg before joining the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944 and founding the Congress Youth League. He led black opposition to apartheid, being ‘banned’ from 1956 to 1961 and then sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 for the crime of leading the ANC.

Mandela spent almost twenty-five years in prison on Robben Island before being released on the order of President de Klerk in 1990. His political party was still exiled but he was elected its Deputy President. In 1991 the party held its first legal congress for over a quarter of a century, and Mandela was elected as president. More good news was to come, for in in 1993 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with de Klerk himself – for their combined work in the process of reform. In May 1994 he became South Africa’s first black President, and stayed in this post until 1999. He died in December, 2013.

Makarios (originally Mihail Khristodoulou Mouskos) was born in 1913, ordained in the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church in 1946, and elected Bishop of Kition only two years later. He was thirty-three years old. He became Archbishop and Primate in 1950, after which he was the prime mover and organiser of the Enosis union movement, which did not believe in Ghandi’s non-violence. He wanted a Cyprus free of British military rule (the island had become a British Crown Colony in 1925, after being occupied by the British since 1878), and shared with the Turks, whom, to put it as lightly as possible, he disliked. Cyprus was then divided between the Greeks, with their capital at Nicosia, and Turkey, capital Famagusta. Terrorist attacks on Turks and the British soldiery and their families were frequent, and most British servicemen believed that terrorism was chiefly orchestrated by Orthodox priests led by their Primate.

For his deep association with Enosis, and possible collusion with Greek Cypriot terrorism, he was arrested and detained in 1956. In 1959 however he came back to a terrific welcome (by the Greeks) to become the chief Greek-Cypriot Minister in the newly established Graeco/Turkish provisional government. It was but a short step for Makarios to become President from 1960 to 1974, and then from 1974 until his death in 1977.

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