Jomo Kenyatta’s Peculiar Habits

  • President Jomo Kenyatta at State House Nakuru in 1976 The Standard
  • President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was both feared and revered in equal measure. He will always be remembered as Kenya's founding father. But away from state duties, Mzee Kenyatta led a normal life. Here a few interesting habits you probably didn't know.

    Jomo Kenyatta Hated dogs. He never went anywhere without his fly whisk and walking stick. Unknown to many, these items served a  more practical use. Driving away stray dogs. His hate for the animals grew during his time abroad.

    “He hated dogs, thanks to his days in Europe where he said he had had more than enough of the stray mongrels in his life. At State House, he barely tolerated Lulu, the little dog accompanying Emperor Selassie because he was a friend, otherwise, it would have been banned from ‘desecrating’ the roses”, his secretary, Elizabeth Mumbi recounted in an interview with The Standard on Septemeber 2018

    Elizabeth Mumbi served as Kenyatta's Secretary from 1963-1978
    Elizabeth Mumbi served as Kenyatta's Secretary from 1963-1978

    Kenyatta had an appetite for Fish. Other than his love for cheese and tomato paste which he developed while in England, Kenyatta loved fish.

    “He always ate four-course meals. He started with soup, then fish, which he particularly liked, then the main course, and then a dessert. His caterer knew his tastes perfectly well and never once did I hear him complain” Mumbi told the Kenya Yearbook 2017/2018.

    The President Never Spent a Night In State House. State House is the official residence for the President but Mzee Jomo liked sleeping in his own bed. He preferred to be driven to his Gatundu home and back on a daily basis.

    “Kenyatta never ever spent a night at Nairobi State House. It was a trip to Gatundu every evening and from there every morning, except when he was out of Nairobi,” Mumbi recalls.

    Kenyatta arriving in home in Gatubdu after release in August 1961
    Kenyatta arriving in the home in Gatubdu after HIS release in August 1961

    Mzee’s favourite beverage was VAT69. During his early years, Mzee Jomo loved the drink so much he always had it close by. A habit he later quit.

    “In the early days after, Kenyatta kept alcohol in his car, especially Vat69. This greatly tickled Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, who used to tease him about VAT69 when he came to visit,” a report by The Standard in 2018 reads.

    He preferred Herbs over western medicine. Every president is accorded a personal doctor, for Kenyatta it was Dr Njoroge Mungai, who also served as the Health minister. Despite this access, he still turned to herbs in times of pain.

    “The head of state’s love for plants was infectious. He loved herbs so much that if while driving he saw a plant he thought had medicinal value, he would abruptly stop the motorcade, walk out of his limousine and minutely scrutinise it, explaining its attributes to those present,” Mumbi recounts in her 2016 memoir Miss Uhuru 1963: Working for Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. 

    Elizabeth Mumbi has since then dedicated her life to charity work and is heavily involved with Tesia Kisanga organisation that champions for HIV/Aids orphans.