Monday, June 17, 2019

Kenya Independence Day 12 December 1963 – The Bear and the Duck

Kenya Independence Day 12 December 1963 – The Bear and the Duck  article by William Ang’awa

The Republic of Kenya celebrated 50 years of independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain on 12 December 2013.

In Clyde Sanger’s biography of British politician and diplomat Malcolm MacDonald  entitled ‘Malcolm MacDonald: Bringing an End to Empire’ you will find one of the best accounts of the night of 11 December 1963 as the minutes ticked on towards the birth of Kenya as a new independent nation. In the first chapter entitled ‘Out of Africa, Amiably December 1963’; enter on centre  stage two key characters who are given the nicknames, “the bear” and “the duck”  … the two men caught in the beam of light were like a bear and a duck walking along side each other.”  Jomo Kenyatta (who was to become Kenya’s first prime minister and eventually president) was the bear a description given by Lord Tom Delamere and,  Malcolm MacDonald (Governor General) who had a strong affinity with ducks (and birdlife), resembled a tufted duck with his Governor’s uniform and plumes – which according to Sanger he disliked wearing (page 4)

It had rained incessantly on the days before 11 December 1963, and the ground at the then ‘makeshift’ Uhuru Garden stadium next to the Langata Barracks and the Nairobi Game Park was muddy. Sanger writes that the car carrying Jomo Kenyatta and the Duke of Edinburgh got stuck and was half an hour late. Uganda’s then Prime Minister Milton Obote had to abandon his car in the stadium (and walked to the ceremonial dais).  

“… so the two men, the bear and the duck walked out together into the muddy arena. But what did some of mud matter on this day of days? ” Sanger describes how Malcolm MacDonald had been “… through much stickier times, much more difficult terrain than this”.   

“The Wisest Old Bird in Africa”

In Chapter 37 ‘Kenya: Preparing for Uhuru 1963- 64’ Sanger describes Malcolm and Audrey MacDonald’s arrival in Kenya on 4 January 1963 to replace Sir Patrick Renison who had described Jomo Kenyatta as “ … the leader of darkness and death.”  The chapter ends with the departure of Malcom and Audrey McDonald in December 1964 when Kenya became a republic and the post of governor general became defunct. Jomo Kenyatta poured praise about Malcolm MacDonald’s hard work ushering Kenya towards independence and hoped on his (MacDonald’s) return as Britain’s High Commissioner to Kenya that he will have plenty of time to “…indulge his hobby of bird –watching.”  MacDonald replied that he looked forward to watching, at fairly close range, “the wisest old bird in Africa.”

 Reference and Recommended Reading:

Sanger, C  (1995) “ Malcolm MacDonald: Bringing an End to Empire,” McGill –Queen’s University Press.

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