Mboya, Tom

1930–1969
Kenyan labor and political leader

Tom Mboya was a labor leader who played a key role in the early government of KENYA after independence. At age 22 he founded a government workers’ union and later became general secretary of the Kenya Federation of Labor. At the time, labor organizations had considerable power in Kenya (then a British colony) because African political parties were not allowed.

In the mid-1950s, Mboya went to England to study. On his return, he was elected to Kenya’s Legislative Council, where he fought for and won a new constitution for the colony. He also helped form the Kenya Africa National Union (KANU). When Kenya gained independence in 1963, KANU became the country’s governing party.

Mboya, a member of the LUO ethnic group, served in the government of Kenya’s first president, the GIKUYU leader Jomo KENYATTA. As minister of economic planning and development, Mboya promoted a program in which Western nations would assist African nations with economic development. As Kenyatta aged, some Gikuyu became concerned about holding onto power after their leader’s death. Mboya was considered a likely successor, but as a Luo he raised alarm among the Gikuyu. On July 5, 1969, a Gikuyu man assassinated Mboya. (See also Unions and Trade Associations.)

Mboya, Tom