The story of the man who taught Jomo Kenyatta how to smoke pot

Padmore [Photo: Courtesy]

He has a road named after him along Ngong Road in Nairobi.  

George Padmore, a Pan-Africanist intellectual with a communist flair from Trinidad, and whose entry into founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s reshaped his view of political world order.  

Born Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse, Padmore’s vision was that of a world unburdened from the   tribulation of empires and dedicated to equality.

This solidified his communist ideals. Padmore, then a medical student at Fisk University, a black college in Tennessee, USA, moved to Russia where he joined the Communist Party in 1924.

 He became George Padmore: the first from his father in-law, the surname from his Best Man after marrying Julia Semper in 1924!

Padmore was tasked by Russia’s Communist Party to recruit African liberation leaders and Kenyatta, who was in London to agitate for ithaka na wiyathi (land and freedom) was ideal prey including teaching him how to smoke pot as Kenyatta’s biographer, Jeremy Murray-Brown informs us.

Kenyatta joined the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers which sponsored his studies at the Communist University of Toilers of the East in Russia.

 Students were indoctrinated with radical socialist dogmas via studying Marxist theory, party organization and propaganda and proletarian revolution tactics.

Besides Kenyatta, other notable alumni include;  the Chechen insurrectionist Hasan Israilov,  Chinese presidents Liu Shaoqi and Chiang Ching-kuo, Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh and China’s Deng Xiaoping-who spearheaded its economic resurgence over 40 years ago.

Jomo Kenyatta and Padmore [Photo: Courtesy]

 But after three years in 1933, Jomo was disillusioned. He returned to London and rejoined his academic mentor, Prof Bronislav Malinowski, his anthropology supervisor at the London School of Economics.

When Russia’s foreign policy against colonial powers in Africa softened, Padmore got disillusioned too and left for London where he became he founding Chair of  the International African Services Bureau at 94 Gray’s Inn Road, with Jomo as vice Chair.

 It morphed into a Pan-African think tank spearheading anti-colonial activities including organizing the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester in 1945. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s future President, was a key note speaker. He later appointed Padmore presidential advisor.  

But Kenyatta’s dalliance with communists got British spies on his trail as London feared he would succeed Padmore and become Russia’s point man in the colonies.

But that was not to be. Kenyatta embraced capitalism as Kenya’s president while his Vice President, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, became a communist sympathizer, creating a never ending political kerfuffle.

Padmore, 56, died in 1959. Nkrumah wept at his funeral. He requested for his ashes which were buried in Christianborg Castle where Ghanaian parliament sits.


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