From the Kenya Forum archive…
Released from prison by the British Colonial authorities in August 1961 Jomo Kenyatta entered the legislature following a by-election.
In October 1963 he headed a KANU delegation to the Lancaster House negotiations in London to finalise agreement for Kenya’s independence.
Kenyan Delegation Surveillance
Kenyatta almost certainly knew that the Kenyan delegation was under surveillance and being bugged during the conference by the British Security Service. What is rarely repeated is that Kenyatta was also a beneficiary of that intelligence and ‘attached great importance to the service of intelligence’ that the internal British secret service (MI5) were giving him via Colonial Office officials, about the ‘activities and views of the delegates to the Kenya conference’.
In particular, the intelligence information supplied to Jomo Kenyatta concerned the position taken by Oginga Odinga who both Kenyatta and the British regarded with suspicion.
Kenyatta And Njonjo MI5 Discussions
During his stay in London for the Lancaster House negotiations Kenyatta and his Attorney General Charles Njonjo met, at their request, with the head of MI5 Sir Roger Hollis.
Jomo Kenyatta told Hollis that he knew the British Security Liaison Officer in Nairobi, Walter Bell and was pleased to know that two Kenyan policemen were at that time being trained by MI5. Kenyatta also suggested that MI5 should also send officers to Nairobi to conduct training courses with Kenya’s nascent internal security service. Kenyatta further suggested that more Kenyan police officers should be trained by the British Security Service.
Sir Roger Hollis described the meeting as being ‘friendly’.
Keeping An Eye On Oginga Odinga
In 1964, exactly a year after Kenya’s independence, the British were asked if they ‘could produce any documentary proof’ that Oginga Odinga was receiving money from the Chinese. It transpired that they could not find ‘usable evidence’ but Special Branch was able to identify the main route for Odinga’s for funds from China.
In April 1965, Kenya’s Attorney General Charles Njonjo told the British High Commissioner, Malcolm MacDonald, that Odinga was planning a coup and suggested the intervention of British troops if required.
The coup did not take place but Odinga’s house and office were searched and quantities of machine guns, grenades and other weapons were seized.
Odinga was replaced as Kenya’s Deputy President in 1966. Soon after, Kenya’s Head of Training and Security Service recommended that a British intelligence officers should be appointed to head research, produce an intelligence assessment and provide reports for President Jomo Kenyatta and members of his administration, and ultimately help establish the National Security Executive to ‘oversee the intelligence community’ in Kenya.
An MI5 officer was duly appointed in January 1967 and his salary paid for by the British Ministry of Overseas Development. He later claimed that President Kenyatta asked him ‘to keep an eye on Oginga Odinga’.
The links between Kenya’s Special Branch (now the National Intelligence Service) and the British Security Service goes back to pre-independence times and continue to this day.