Meet Lawyer Who Fought for Kenyan Men to Cohabitate With White Women

Kenya’s first indigenous lawyer, Argwings-Kodhek, had an Irish wife, Mavin Tate whom he could not legally kiss, walk hand-in-hand in public or live together within the same house.

In a test case on the segregation laws imposed during the colonial times, he went to court and fought for the rights of married couples (blacks and whites) to live together and won.

Until the mid-1950s, there was a hanging penalty for black men who had sexual relations with white women. However, white males who had sexual relations with black women faced no penalty.

Kodhek was in a dilemma since he could afford to live in the white suburb of Westlands with his wife, which was only reserved for whites and couldn’t live with Tate in Nairobi’s Eastlands, then reserved for blacks only.

Kodhek, whose baptismal names are Clement Michael George, made it his duty to defend the rights of ordinary citizens and Mau Mau fighters saving many from the hangman’s noose.

He was one of the radicals reorganizing national politics alongside Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

He later emerged as a radical voice taking on Tom Mboya, an emerging trade unionist who had the support of the West, for the control of Nairobi politics.

For the Nairobi seat, Argwings-Kodhek had to fight it out with Mboya who had formed People’s Convention Party (PCP).

During the campaigns, Kodhek explained that he formed the Nairobi District African Congress party to stop Mboya and “and his American allies” who he described as his masters.

On the other hand, Mboya in his campaigns would describe European women as “Africans public enemy number one” in reference to Argwing-Kodhek’s Irish wife.

Some people thought Kodhek, fondly known “Chiedo Mor Gem”, which loosely meant “frying oil of Gem” or “oil of Gem” would rise to become President.

January 29th marks his 50th death anniversary.


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