Kaloleni Public Bar: The joint where fruits of ‘uhuru’ were peeled
4 months ago, 8 Mar 16:18
Kenya’s push for independence might have gotten its momentum in a bar, which still stands 50 years later. Drinking, then, was a preserve of white colonialists, and Africans in rural Kenya needed a letter from a chief to drink. Not so for those in Nairobi’s Eastlands where businessman Jason Achieng Anyim set up Kaloleni Public Bar in 1954, and gradually grew it into a popular pub. After all, it was strategically located in Kaloleni Social Hall, then the only meeting place reserved for Africans. Kenya’s first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, would ride his motorbike from Dagoretti to Kaloleni Social Hall to meet fellow African leaders. In fact, it was at this hall that Kenyatta, Mboya and Kibaki received news that Kenya would get independence. From Kaloleni Social Hall, these leaders, who included businessmen, scholars and high-ranking government officials, would troop to Kaloleni Public Bar to unwind, while talking about how sending young bright Kenyans abroad to pursue higher education could change the country. “Independence started here, and that should be put on record,” says George Anyim who inherited the bar from his late father, Chris Anyim. George is grandson to the bar’s founder, Jason Anyim. Kaloleni Public Bar was designed to accommodate Africans of different social classes. It was partitioned into two chambers with different entrances. The front one christened ‘House of Commons,’ was where the likes of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Paul Ngei, Moses Mudavadi, CGM Arwgings Kodhek and Tom Mboya, swilled premium brands. The other chamber hosted lowly busaa drinkers. Robert Katete, a two-term councilor of Kaloleni Ward, recalls that, “It is true there were two chambers, one for the ordinary Africans and the other for the elites,” says Katete. He adds: “To be allowed into some of these joints, you had to be dressed in a full suit and tie.” Such was the dress-code in the House of Commons section of Kaloleni Public Bar. “Even after independence, this was the bar for well-off Africans,” says Anyim, adding that Africans who came from abroad made it their second home. The father of US president Barack Obama Sr, then an economist at the Central Bank, was a regular, and one of the prominent Luos in Nairobi who frequented it. On the day he died, Obama Sr was drinking Scotch whiskey with a colleague from Treasury, Jim Otieno, before he called it a day. He died in a car accident not long after he left the bar that fateful day, on November 24, 1982. Coincidentally, Argwings Kodhek also died in a car accident while on his way home after spending an evening at the bar. Indeed, the infamous fall-out involving Jaramogi, Tom Mboya and Argwings-Kodhek is believed to have started here. One evening, while the trio was sharing a drink, an argument ensued between Mboya and Kodhek. The latter is said to have challenged Mboya to first get a degree before talking politics. A stung Mboya turned to Jaramogi for support only for him to echo Kodhek’s sentiments. Mboya then shifted ...
Category: entertainment enews