Sunday, May 12, 2019

FITZ DE SOUZA: The greatest Goan I have ever known

Fitz de Souza: Kenyatta’s right
hand man reveals all in memoir

Fitz photographed by Benegal Pereira

From left Benegal Pereira (ex-Kenya), Fitz (battling Parkinson's), his wife Romola and Shiraz Durrani writer of the opus on Pio Gama Pinto

Joe Murumbi, Fitz, Robert Ouko at a UN conference

Fitz and I when I visited his Goa home a few years ago
Oginga Odinga, Joe Murumbi, Jomo Kenyatta and others at Lancaster House
Daniel arap Moi with Michael Blundell who represented the settlers at the conference

Fitz de Souza (glasses) seated with Jomo Kenyatta addressing the Lancaster House Conference

Forward to Independence
Fitz de Souza
My Memoirs
Available on Amazon

By Cyprian Fernandes

Copyright © 2019 Fitzval R.S. de Souza

The views and opinions expressed in this book are the author’s own and the facts as remembered by him.

All rights reserved.
THE FIRST time I read the name Fitz de Souza was in a newspaper when I was nine years old (1952). A visiting priest at St Teresa’s Boys School, Eastleigh, was encouraging me to read newspapers, magazines and books. Two names caught my young eye: de Souza (because he was a Goan) and Jomo Kenyatta (because he was the most frightening leader of the human blood drinking Mau Mau).  The newspaper report was about the court case in which (Kapenguria) six alleged leaders of the Mau Mau were being charged.  To this day, I can remember the shivers that ran down my spine as my young, immature mind tried to make sense of it.
Anyway, the horrors would soon disappear as I would take courage from “my friends” the children of the Mau Mau who had taken over the valley adjacent to my school. It there that I learnt the other side of the story … or at least the little that my little mind could understand. I got to know things better as time went by.
Over the next few years, I would occasionally see de Souza’s name in newspaper stories. They did not make a very big impression on me but I was curious how a Goan (the Goans I knew were not known for their interest in African nationalism or the fight for Kenya’s freedom).  A few years after Uhuru in 1963, I found myself in the press gallery of the Kenya Parliament while on a Nation training exercise. I would come to Parliament full-time a few years later. Down below was Fitz de Souza, the Deputy Speaker, Sir. Over the next five or six years, my admiration grew and grew for this articulate, quietly studios, legally precise, the Solomon of all things Parliamentary, and a brilliant lawyer at that. It is little wonder then, I have been enthralled by his memoir. I have always thought of him as the greatest Goan I have known. Some Goans laughed at me. But I am not alone. My all-time favourite journalist,  Hilary Ng’weno, in the preface to the book writes: “The story you read in this book is not just about Fitz. It is a story about the foundations of the Kenya nation. And it is for that reason that I feel very strongly that Fitz Remedios Santana de Souza will forever remain a legend for many Kenyans.”  Ng’weno ​​is a journalist and former editor of The Daily Nation and  The Weekly Review, founder of  The Nairobi Times and video producer.
The history of his ancestors, especially his mother and father and their safari to a new world and their new life, Fitz’s own path taken in schooling, finding his calling to law at a very early age and achieving it make the new worlds of Europe an education and an adventure … are all filled with charm, laughter, naivety, and, of course, very special resolve. However, it is Fitz’s fly on the wall, eyewitness revelations that serve history best.
The colonial propaganda machine had been frighteningly successful in demonising Kenyatta and the Mau Mau. In his memoir, Fitz once-and-for-all smashes the colonially created demonization: “Kenyatta would tell me many times, ‘Fitz, I am not the leader of Mau Mau, I do not believe in violence. I believe you can achieve your goals without violence. But in any political party there are always some who believe you have to go further, you have to fight, and I know who they are – they are my friends, they are in this party, they are with us all the time. But I am not going to do the job for the British Government and expose them and fight against them.’ When asked by the British to condemn those who practised violence, he would do so, but only in general terms, never naming names. ‘The British would like us [Africans] to fight with each other and make this into a semi-civil war; they killing our supporters and we killing their supporters, and I am not going to allow that at all. I know what I want and they know what they want, our objectives are the same…’ It seemed then that the only disagreement between Kenyatta and those who supported the Mau Mau was the means to those objectives. ‘They think I am too mild, and I think they are picking on something that is not necessary and creating too much pain and suffering.’
The Kenyatta philosophy: Fitz deftly tries to explain why Kenyatta was so adamant that the Kikuyu should be among the first share in the spoils of Uhuru: “Kenyatta had recognised the very strong loyalties that lay beneath the surface of Kenyan politics a long time ago, and in his view, the country had to be ruled by a coalition of tribes, under whatever collective party name. He felt that through this process the Kikuyu would dominate, and would say as much in political meetings, his rhetoric along the lines that if you have fought for the independence of Kenya, you have planted a tree and watered it with your blood, so who should receive the fruits of that tree? As expected, the answer would come: ‘He who fought for them.’ And if you slaughtered a cow for a feast, which person should have the best parts? ‘He who slaughtered the cow.’ Very many people agreed. Having worked so hard for freedom, been imprisoned for nine years and given decades of his life to his nation’s struggle, Kenyatta felt it was his right to have the best. Few could question his industry and commitment, and without him, it was unlikely the national movement would have taken off. So many Africans had emerged from detention with nothing, having lost businesses, property, social position and support. It was only to be expected that they would endorse Kenyatta and seek something for themselves now.”
Fitz had a lot of time Oginga Odinga and two got on quite well: This is Fitz’s take on the Luo leader: “Tom Mboya and Oginga Odinga were two totally different personalities. Odinga, a 50-year-old Luo chief, was warm-hearted and affectionate, and more of a humorist than a socialist I would say. He loved people, helped them in whatever way he could, and had nothing against money, seeing the creation of wealth as a way forward. He had started a bus service from Kisumu and given it to an Indian to run, and also set up a Luo thrift society. I think he was keen on everyone having a better life all round. As leaders do, he liked to show himself off but didn’t seem vain, preferring traditional African dress rather than, like some, the most expensive modern suits and shoes. Odinga’s only real flaw I would say was a tendency to lose his head occasionally, and speak too strongly and emotionally.”
Tom Mboya for President: Fitz often found himself, sometimes unwittingly slap bang in the middle of various conspiracies, both good and bad. Kenyans may not know this, but once upon a time, Charles Njonjo touted Tom Mboya for President. Here is Fitz’s eye witness account. “What Tom (Mboya) saw in Charles Njonjo was an opportunity. Like Bruce, he realised that Charles’s bearing, outward intelligence and ability to express himself could be used for political gain. He also assumed that Charles had no ambitions. When Charles called me to have tea with him one day at the Queen’s Hotel (in Nairobi), I arrived to find Tom there also. ‘Fitz I have something very serious to say to you,’ announced Charles. ‘Tell your friend not to back that old man as President of Kenya.’ By ‘my friend’ I knew he meant Pio, and the ‘old man’ was Kenyatta. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Because,’ replied Charles in his lordly tone, ‘he is totally incompetent, he’s senile.’ ‘But who could you put in his place?’   ‘He’s sitting right here, Tom is the man.’    Exactly who had first latched onto who was hard to say, but both men had now shown their hand, to me at least. Charles clearly saw Tom as likely to be the next leader of the country, and perhaps a place for himself in a future Government. Charles’s use of the word ‘President’ was not accidental. Kenyatta had spoken to me about how he saw leadership. He believed strongly that just as you could not have two chiefs in one household, a country could not have two leaders. On the 1st of June 1964 he amended the constitution, and on the 12th of December, one year after independence, Kenya was declared a republic, with the office of Prime Minister replaced by that of President, a position Kenyatta automatically assumed, making him Head of State, Head of the Government and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Odinga was appointed Vice-President. One of the senior figures in the rival KADU party, Moi, whose fellow Kalenjins occupied much of the prime Rift Valley land, was promoted to Minister for Home Affairs. At the same time, KADU was dissolved and merged with KANU. There was now no clear official opposition.”
Fitz reveals for the first time how that land settler fund was established by the British Government to buy out white farmers who were leaving the country after independence: “As the discussions at 1962 Lancaster House Constitutional Conference wore on, it was clear that a major remaining stumbling block was the European settler community. The British Government told us plainly: the only way they could give us independence was if we could promise the farmers that we would pay them for their land, buy them out in other words. They had calculated the value of £36 million. That sounds like nothing today but was a fortune in 1962. I said, but we don’t have the money. No, they said, we’ll give you the money. Good God, I said, we could never afford to pay it back. They said, who’s asking for it back? We don’t want it back, we want to give it to you, and every year we’ll write a bit off until the whole lot is written off. We don’t want the British here to say we called you Mau Mau, and now we’re giving you money! You must buy the land from the European farmers on a ‘willing buyer and willing seller’ basis. So when they are willing to sell, you buy. Thus would come into being the Land Settlement Board, under Chairman Norman Feather of the Standard Bank, with the British Consular General and Moi, appointed to the post by Kenyatta, as committee members.”
Another little known aspect of the Lancaster House conference was the mystery Odinga: in some photos he is seated next Jomo Kenyatta and other he seated behind him. In most photos, JK is seated next to Fitz … explains: “Kenyatta, now around 70 years old, was also well aware of young Tom Mboya’s appeal and potential as a leadership contender. At Lancaster House, knowing Tom’s gift for oratory, he urged me not to let him take the stage but to answer every question myself and not worry that people might think I was talking too much. That wouldn’t have been a problem for me, as once I start talking I just can’t stop, but because of the seating layout, if I sat next to Kenyatta, Odinga would have to sit behind us. I told Kenyatta this wouldn’t be fair to Mr Odinga, who was Vice-President of KANU, while I was nowhere in the party. Odinga though seemed unconcerned and told me not to worry: ‘Fitz, I know you’re a good man and you’re not going to take my job. I’ll sit behind you, and if there’s a photo opportunity I’ll just put my head out in front.’ I assured him there was no need to do that; whenever any pictures were being taken he must take his rightful place and have my seat. He appreciated this and was a humble man in that sense, willing to step back from his official position and let someone else speak.  And speak I did! Anyone looking back over the minutes of the Lancaster House Conferences of 1962 and 1963 will probably find I talked more than anyone else. There were more technical discussions than anything else, trying to find compromise between the numerous communities – Indians, Muslims, Hindus, KANU, KADU, the two European parties, the Mau Mau party, which wanted independence at the coast, and the Kenya Freedom Party, supporting KANU and the Congress Party. The sharpest division was between the two large power blocs: KADU, which wanted Kenya to have a localised system of administration or ‘majimbo’, Swahili for regions, and KANU, which under Kenyatta wanted a centralised, national authority to govern the whole country.”
There was a time when JK preferred the company of Odinga. Fitz explains: “When official meetings were finished, we talked over the day’s events, or socialised a little. Kenyatta, avoiding Tom Mboya and Njoroge Mungai, his personal physician, spent most evenings drinking on the veranda of his hotel room with Odinga. Kenyatta drank only VAT 69. He joked it was the Pope’s phone number. They would sit and chat for hours, and being both older, I think felt they understood one another. It would transpire that Kenyatta wanted Odinga as his number two, as Finance Minister in the new Government. When the British overruled this, however, he accepted their wishes, and it shocked us all that he gave in just like that. We realised Kenyatta was very fond of Odinga in a way, while at the same time he wanted to make sure he was the right man, who would implement and support his own policies. There was only one other person close to Kenyatta during the Lancaster House conferences; anyone wishing to see the Kikuyu leader at his hotel had first to get past Achieng Oneko, who slept in the next room, barring the door with his bed. With the continued death threats against Kenyatta, it was the mild-mannered Oneko who was, literally, putting his life on the line for him.”

Fitz’s own hopes and dreams for an independent Kenya are best described in the final page of his legal thesis: ​“The future of East Africa is certainly not a dark one, and after many years of strife, the possibilities of a political settlement are in sight. East Africa, where races and civilizations from three continents meet, provides a challenge to its people: the evolution of a new way of life based on liberty, tolerance and equality of opportunity for the individual, far from the frustration and bitterness of racial intolerance and domination. In a world where East and West continually meet, East Africa can provide a beacon light to the people of the world who have yet to learn to live peacefully and to adapt their different ways of life in a new and fast contracting world.”

There are lots of other stories Kenyans will definitely be fascinated by. Get the book.

·         Cyprian Fernandes was one of the first Chief Reporters of the Nation, he was also the first to travel the world on foreign assignments. He now lives in Sydney, Australia.

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