How Ronald Gideon Ngala positively influenced the Coastal Politics

In Kenya, it is customary to refer to our politicians as waheshimiwa. However, it is important to remember that in a real sense they are our representatives. Therefore, their score ought to be measured by how our lives are impacted by their decisions. In this article, we review the political journey of Ronald Gideon Ngala and how he has influenced Coast life.

Being the most celebrated politician of all time from the Mijikenda community, we thought it necessary to highlight how he influenced local politics during his time.

Ronald Gideon Ngala joined politics in 1957 at the age of 34. At the time, he had a successful career in the education sector as a teacher and administrator. He was a member of the Mombasa municipality board in addition to being the secretary general for the coast Teachers Association.

In his capacity, he witnessed with displeasure the racial inequalities that persisted in education, labor, and religion. He strongly believed that Africans ought to have equal treatment as the other races. This is what prompted his decision to join politics.

Ronald Gideon Ngala Localized campaign strategy

Ronald Gideon Ngala’s entry into politics was not as easy. He too had to contend with seasoned politicians to become the first coastal representative at the Legco. However, he overcame this challenge by focusing his campaigns on the immediate challenges affecting the Coastal people.

For starters, he made a case for their underrepresentation at the national level.    He argued that the region was too extensive to be represented by one person. He honestly expressed his fears that it would be almost impossible for him to juggle the parliamentary responsibilities and have time to move around the region to address the local prevailing issues. For that reason, he pledged that should he be elected, he would press for more representation.

On education, argued that having a competitive entrance examination was unfair to African children from remote villages. Instead, he suggested that all children should have access to primary education up to class 8 in both urban and rural areas. At the time most of the Coastal region was underdeveloped. Children had to travel to urban centers to access education.

In addition, he protested against the colonial labor arrangements. Ngala found it both immoral and inhuman to pay people within the same job group differently based on race. At the time African employees were paid less than their Asian and European peers.

By localizing his campaigns, he endeared himself to his people by addressing the core problems affecting them. Besides, he had already established himself as a credible leader.

Regionalism ideology of Ronald Gideon Ngala

When you look at the face of Kenya, it is easy to assess that each region has its own issues that are unique to it. From this basis, Ronald Gideon Ngala’s nation-building should focus on addressing these unique needs. At the Coast, he feared that nationalist policies would undermine the needs of his people.

Instead, he led the campaign for his people to be allowed to express themselves freely and to conduct their affairs independently without undue influence from overseas. For example, there was a ten-mile strip of land on the Kenyan Coast believed to be part of the Sultan’s dominion. The Coast- Arab people wanted control over this land.

However, Ronald Gideon Ngala would argue vehemently that the Mijikenda were the indigenous inhabitants of the land and that although others might have settled there, the Africans remained the owners of the land, enye tsi. Ultimately, the Sultan of Zanzibar would forego the land with assurances that Muslim rights would be respected.

To address the regional imbalances in accessing education, he championed the empowerment of  African District Councils to run and manage local schools. The councils, he believed, were best suited to come up with localized solutions affecting the education sector in the region. According to him, the national policies should be geared to improving the capacity of the councils.

Social and economic inequalities There are regional imbalances in accessing social and economic opportunities. There were more learned people from upcountry than there were at the Coast. The locals were thus afraid jobs would be lost to upcountry people leading to their domination. To protect his people, Ronald Gideon Ngala formed the Coast African People’s Union to fight what he would call upcountry imperialism at the Coast.

Cultural preservation of Ronald Gideon Ngala

Unlike most educated people who would renounce their traditional beliefs, Ronald Gideon Ngala embraced his Giryama culture. For him, he was first an African. That was his true identity and forgetting that would be succumbing to the popular Swahili saying, mwacha mila ni mtumwa. He believed that Western civilization should only compliment his identity instead of overhauling the culture that he was born into.

His stance earned him the admiration of kaya elders and was accepted as the true spokesman of the Mijikenda people. For most of his life, he spent his weekends at his rural home with elders or entertaining guests with mnazi. Besides, he was a member of the Kaya Fungo, from where he continued to nature his knowledge of Giriama culture. His book Nchi na Desturi za wa Mijikenda speaks of his close attachment to tradition. A previous article titled Significance of Kayas to the Mijikenda people will shed light on his choice to endear himself to Kaya elders.

Political Challenges

In Kenya political allegiance often influences development plans. Regions whose leaders are aligned with the opposition are likely to be overlooked in government programs. Such was the case at the Coast.

Ronald Gideon Ngala was a maverick politician whose tactics and outspokenness saw him command the entire Coastal region. No one wanted to compete with him on the ballot. Ronald Gideon Ngala was the king of the Mijikenda people and led the opposition. While he advocated for a decentralized government, Kenyatta wanted a centralized governance structure.

Therefore, since the Coast region was perceived as an opposition stronghold, few development programs were taking place at the time. Rather than allow the trend to continue, Ronald Gideon Ngala would dissolve his party KADU, and join KANU so that his people would get a share of the national cake.

While in KANU, Ngala’s prominence kept growing as he became a close associate with Tom Mboya. In fact, it is rumored that at the time of Mboya’s death, Ronald Gideon Ngala was seen as the best choice to succeed in Kenyatta’s presidency. This prominence was not well received. Ngala had become a threat to the status quo.

Both Oginga and Kenyatta would each champion to frustrate his dominance at the Coast. They sponsored rival politicians to challenge his reelection bid. In response, Ronald Gideon Ngala merely cautioned the elders to look into the accusations for valid issues and not be swayed by propaganda. He still emerged as the true leader of the Mijikenda community.

Needless to say, Ronald Gideon Ngala’s legacy is still haunted by his inability to replicate Mboya’s issuance of scholarship opportunities for his people despite having visited those foundations together in the United States.

Economic Freedom

It is inarguable that Ronald Gideon Ngala was a true representative of his people. In his capacity as their leader, he not only represented them but also brought them one important message. To his people, he warned that independence in itself was not the end, but only a means to an end. Ronald Gideon Ngala stressed that freedom only meant that people were now free to develop themselves. Therefore he urged the coastal people not to be lazy but to be proactive in developing self-help schemes to develop their land.


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