Embulbul town: The little town with strong colonial history

By Obegi Malack

obegimalack@gmail.com

Embulbul town in Oloolua Ward Kajiado North sub county has hidden history of white settlers in Kenya in 1900s.

The town is inhabited by a number of communities compared to any part of Kajiado County and is identified as Waswahili hub,it was occupied by Maasais before nonMaasais who were mostly white settlers staff settled there.

The centre started to develop in 1920s after Karen Dinesen Brickson (Blixen), a well-known Danish writer settled in south–west of Nairobi which was later named Karen to run a coffee farm.

Blixen was born in the 1885 in Denmark. Her father, Wilhelm Dinesen (1845–1895), was a writer and army officer, Blixen moved to Kenya in 1914 in 1916 Blixen managed Karen Coffee Company which purchased a larger farm, Mbogani, near in Karen.

The property covered 6,000 acres (2,400 ha) of land: 600 acres (240 ha) were used for a coffee plantation, 3,400 acres (1,400 ha) were used by the Maasais for grazing, and 2,000 acres (810 ha) of virgin forest were left untouched.

In 1921, Blixen separated from her husband Swedish Baron Brock Brickson Finneck and took over full management of the farm.

The couple had hired local workers most who were Kikuyus who lived on the farmlands at the time of the couple’s arrival, but there were also Kambas, Kavirondo, Swahili and Maasai. Juma Kimojino, Farah, Kamande were some of the staff.

Farah was Blixens cashier, he had charge of all money she took home from the bank and of all keys.

In his book Blixen details that “Farah was a Somali, which means that he was no Native of Kenya but an immigrant to the country from Somaliland further north. In my day there were a large number of Somali in Kenya. They were greatly superior to the Native population in intelligence and culture. They were of Arab blood and looked upon themselves as pure-blood Arabs.”

Farah spoke English correctly, and French as well, his salary was disproportionately larger than that of other servants.

Embulbul resident former Kenya Defence Forces officer Yusuf Mohammed Juma 65 years old son to late Mohammed Juma, says his grandfather Juma Kimojino was a cook of Blixen, he worked for her for many years.

He described Blixen as a woman who loved nature, she used to ride horses in Ngong Hills with her dogs.

Karen Blixen, Nairobi, Kenya. Farah Aden (left) (1885-1942), her Somali butler, and his son Saufe (right) Juma, half Masai, and his son Tumbo.

Yusuf says his grandfather had a good relationship with Blixen he was like her son since she had no children, the white settler later purchased for him 20acres land in Embulbul.

“According to what I was told Blixen asked my grandfather to look for land in Embulbul and purchased it for him this is where we have settled, they were good friends,” he says.

The failure of the Karen coffee plantation, as a result of mismanagement, drought and the falling price of coffee, forced Blixen to abandon her estate. The family corporation sold the land to a residential developer, and Blixen returned to Denmark in August 1931 to live with her mother. Blixen wanted to take Yusuf’s father (Juma) with her to Denmark but the grandfather (Kimojino) refused since he was the first born.

Juma later joined Kenya Army under British Rule he was later employed in the Ministry of Agriculture as a driver to politician JM Karioki who was the assistant minister between 1974 and 1975, when he was assassinated Juma was among the first people who saw his body in Kajiado West, he was in his home in Embulbul when the incident happened.  

The Jumas family donated land where the first mosque was built in Embulbul around 1950s. Juma was at one time taken to Denmark and contributed in writing history of Blixen. Most of the families are mentioned in Blixen’s publication Out of Africa and in the Blixen books in her house which was later turned to a museum in Karen.

The property where Shade Hotel was located was owned by British Major and the hotel was for whites only, they donated back the land to a staff after Kenya gained Independence, there was also Ngong Dairy owned by the settlers some of the hotel staff that later settled in Oloolua were grandfather of Oloolua Chief Moses Mpesha who was originally from Laikipia.

Embulbul resident Njuguna wa Mathiaka who is now 74 years old says he was born in Oloolua and his father was also a worker in Karen farms. He said they practiced farming in Embulbul the Maasais used to rent out land for farming.

Embulbul and the larger Kajiado North was under paramount chief the late Iddi Hassan who lived in Embulbul before the late Nkoitiko took over Rongai with Tonito taking over Ngong, the first Oloolua councilor was Ambrose Wakaria.

The Oloolua forest side was occupied by Ole Tianda, Kantai and Lepoo were in Oloolua.In Kerarapon which is an extension of Embulbul had Sekentos,Mogosio ,Lewet, Kaurai,Nangurai among others.

Ngong was the settlers administration centre , the first Asian to settle in Ngong was Agakhan community , they owned Ngong Hills Bus Services.

The Maasais practiced livestock keeping they owned butcheries and slaughter houses in Oloolua and Ngong wards, most parts of Embulbul Centre been growing at slow speed due to unavailability of title deeds, investors focus in areas that have ready titles. The first people to operate businessss in the centre are Juma and Kantai who owned the first shops in the centre.

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