• Joan Letting

Lodwar dispensary holds Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s memories


Just behind the emergency room in Lodwar County Referral Hospital stands a jewel.


The hospital which sits near the Central Business District, in Lodwar holds a dispensary where Kenya’s founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was treated when he was taken ill during his incarceration and detention by the British colonialists.


The Turkana Guardian caught up with the hospital’s CEO Dr. Gilchrist Lokoel the medium-sized man in his early thirties smiles broadly as he greets us.


He explains that a building in the current county referral hospital holds a history that is of great importance to the country: “When the first President Jomo Kenyatta and the four who were detained with him were in Lodwar, they could sometimes be taken ill due to the hard labour and the climatic conditions. When they were ill they would be rushed to the only dispensary at that time which happens to be that building over there,” he says pointing to a building behind emergency room.


The building, which was built in the late 1950s by the British, is one of the landmarks of Kenya's struggle against British colonialism.


Standing tall, painted white, the strong structure has defied time and harsh conditions. It was however renovated and now houses the hospital’s theatre and an eye unit.


“Records show that the first President Jomo Kenyatta who is also the forth president’s father was managed here whenever he became unwell. If the walls could speak, they would tell of the pains and struggles that the first president and his colleagues had to go through to liberate our country from colonialists,” says Lokoel.


The dispensary turned theatre is not the only building that carries the history of the nation.

On a hill a few metres from the hospital stands five old structures that housed five out of the famous Kapenguria six during their detention between 1959 and 1961.


According to the curator National Museums of Kenya Justus Erus, the houses are an important symbol for the country as it hosted the first president Jomo Kenyatta.


“The buildings are commonly referred to as Kenyatta House carry an important part of our history. Most of us just learnt in school that the first president who is the current president’s father was detained in Lodwar and Lokitaung in Turkana County. When they see the buildings they will be able to appreciate the fact that the first president laboured in such a harsh environment as he fought for our country’s freedom,” says Erus.


According to Erus, Lodwar acted as a transit point for the political prisoners to Lokitaung in Turkana North.


He adds that after their trial in Kapenguria, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Bildad Kagia, Kungu Karumba, Paul Ngei and Fred Kubai were sentenced to seven years in prison with hard labour in Lokitaung, Turkana North.


“Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Bildad Kagia, Kungu Karumba, Paul Ngei and Fred Kubai were brought to Turkana and were forced to work hard in Lokitaung. They went through hard labour to protect our country,” explains Erus.


In 1959 they were transferred to Lodwar which acted as a detention camp until 1961 when they were released.


The five buildings were constructed in 1959 by the public works department for prison department Kitale Division to be used by the prison department of the colonial government.