Connect with Kenyan history

Kenyatta House Maralal

By Maina Kiarie

Maralal is a small hillside market town in northern Kenya, lying east of the Loroghi Plateau within the Samburu District. The town is home to Kenyatta House, the location where Jomo Kenyatta was detained prior to his release.

Upon conviction and sentencing at Kapenguria on April 8, 1953, Kenyatta remained in prison in Lokitaung until 1959. He was then detained in Lodwar under house arrest for two years.  On April 11, 1961, he was moved to Maralal with his daughter Margaret where he met world press for the first time in eight years. On August 14, 1961, he was released and brought to his Gatundu home.

The house was built with the specific intention of housing Mzee Jomo Kenyatta after his stay in Lodwar. It was a halfway house between freedom and imprisonment (he was allowed visitors). Unlike in Lodwar, where access to him was controlled, at Maralal he was free to walk around with his Somali bodyguard to the town downhill, interact with locals and shop from his government allowance.

Kenyatta house in Maralal is a testament to the endurance and workmanship of British colonial architecture. The house is functional with no elaborate décor, it has a tiny verandah as with all colonial designs, and square edges without a curve in sight. The house has three rooms, with three photos of Kenyatta in and around Maralal town in the sitting room, low-hung.

The house, which immortalises the suffering of the people who fought for Kenya’s independence including the first president of the Republic of Kenya, was gazetted on January 14, 1977.

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