Ronald Ngala – Grand master of Coast politics

Ronald Ngala (centre) and Mzee Jomo Kenyatta chat with British Colonial Secretary Maulding at his Nairobi residence in November, 1961.

Born in 1922 in Kilifi, Ronald Gideon Ngala went to St John’s School, Kaloleni, Shimo la Tewa and later Alliance High School. He then joined Makerere College for a diploma in education. He taught at St John’s and Taveta’s Mbale Secondary schools between 1949 and 1954. He moved to Taita and Buxton (Mombasa), where he was the principal, between 1955 and 1956. He was then promoted to supervisor of schools and served in the position between 1957 and 1958.

But before long, and with the clamour for independence picking up momentum, his interest shifted to where his heart really belonged: politics. His springboard, as it were, was the Mombasa African Advisory Council (MAAC), which represented African interests on the Mombasa Municipal Board, where he was an elected representative. But he closely associated with another group, the Coast African Association (CAA), which was more political than MAAC. From then on, there was no stopping Ngala. By the time he joined the Legislative Council in 1957 to represent the Coast region, he had made up his mind to drop his teaching career for politics.

The Encyclopedia of World Biography records that Ngala’s career was marked by a realistic approach to politics as well as devotion to Kenya. He thus placed the country’s stability over his political ambition. This perhaps explains why it was easy for Ngala to become the secretary-general of the Kenya National Party (KNP), a multi-racial grouping formed in 1959.

Ngala’s election to the Legco was not surprising. After all, Ngala had solid grassroots support built over many years. For instance, when he campaigned for Legco in 1957, he concentrated on the local problems at the Coast, as his opponents dwelt on national issues. Ngala won the seat by 3,400 votes against Dawson Mwanyumba’s 2,539.  Francis Khamisi got 2,267.

Ngala had a strong following in this Mijikenda area. But in Taita-Taveta, he had to contend with Mwanyumba and Mwashumbe. Khamisi’s core support was in Mombasa. When an additional Legco seat was created for Mombasa, courtesy of Ngala’s agitation in 1958, Khamisi joined the House.

Ngala’s entry into Legco was largely attributed to his long-term association with the Education Department of the Church Missionary Society (CMS), which had brought him into contact with the educated elite at the Coast. In 1955, when the colonial authorities allowed district-based political organisations, Khamisi formed the Mombasa Democratic Union (Madu) and became its president. Ngala joined the organisation soon after.

Later, he threw his weight behind other political organisations, like the Kilifi African People’s Union (Kapu) and the Kwale African Democratic Union (Kwadu), in 1956 and 1958, respectively. These satellites of Madu operated on the outskirts of Mombasa. Pundits believed that Ngala sponsored them. After election to the Legco in 1957, he quit Madu to concentrate on Kapu and the Mijikenda Union.

Share this post

Comment on post

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *