Ronald Gideon Ngala

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Ronald Gideon Ngala

Ronald Gideon Ngala (1923-1972) was a Kenyan politician. His career was marked by a realistic approach to politics and by a devotion to Kenya which allowed him to place his country's stability over his own political ambition.

Ronald Ngala was born in the coastal town of Kilifi in the British colony of Kenya. He was educated at Alliance High School and at Makerere University College, where he received a diploma in teaching. He then began a teaching career (1949-1954), rising to the positions of headmaster of the Buxton School (1955-1956) and of supervisor of schools (1957-1958).

During the 1950s, national political parties were banned in the British colony, but regional parties were allowed in some areas. African and non-African groups were competing for the chance to influence Kenya's future. Ngala began his national career by being elected to the Legislative Council in 1957. In 1959, the Kenya National party, a multi-racial grouping, was formed with Ngala its secretary. The party was generally opposed by the more radical members of the African community.

At the Lancaster House Conference of February 1960, the Africans sent a united delegation under the compromise leadership of Ngala. The conference was an attempt by the British to control Kenya's evolution to independence. But rivalries among African politicians remained. The leaders in the legislative council split into two parties, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) and the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU). Ngala was chosen as treasurer of KANU, but he was dissatisfied with that minor post and went over to KADU, and was elected its president.

In the elections of 1961 KANU, under the leadership of Oginga Odinga, won the popular vote and elected the most legislators. Most Kenyans still regarded the independence movement leader Jomo Kenyatta as their leader even though the British held him in detention. After secret negotiations the British gave KADU the opportunity to form a government with the promise that Kenyatta would be released in four months. Ngala was appointed leader of "government business." But with the release of Kenyatta, Ngala soon was relegated to the background. Both KANU and KADU sought to win Kenyatta's approval. Ngala attempted to compromise to preserve African unity, but he proved unable to control his party, and Kenyatta became president of KANU.

A new constitution in 1962 led to elections, won by KANU, and in May 1963 Kenyatta became prime minister of Kenya. Ngala was leader of the opposition, but when KADU members began crossing to KANU out of loyalty to Kenyatta, it became clear that KADU had no future. In 1964, Ngala dissolved the party and joined KANU in what became a one-party state. Ngala became minister of cooperatives and social services in Kenyatta's government. He never again played a major role in the political life of Kenya, but he was remembered as one of its leaders in the fight for independence.

Further Reading

A. J. Hughes's, East Africa (1963). □