Mama Ngina Kenyatta: The Kenyan Matriarch and First Lady


Ngina Kenyatta, affectionately known as “Mama Ngina,” is the widow of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, and the mother of its fourth, Uhuru Kenyatta. She is a recipient of the Macky Sall Prize for Dialogue in Africa for her efforts in conflict resolution. The Kenyan Matriarch’s life story offers a unique perspective on the country’s tumultuous journey towards independence and beyond.

Early Life and Marriage

Mama Ngina was born Ngina Muhoho to Chief Muhoho wa Gathecha and Anne Nyokabi Muhoho at Ngenda, Kiambu District, Central Province, in 1933. Ngina’s life changed dramatically when she met the much older Jomo Kenyatta in 1951. He was already a prominent anti-colonial leader. In 1952, at 18 years old, Ngina Muhoho married Jomo Kenyatta as his fourth wife. Mama Ngina is a Roman Catholic and was known to attend Mass every Sunday in the Catholic mission with some of their children. Ngina had 4 biological children through her marriage to Jomo Kenyatta, Jomo had other children through his previous marriages

From Prison Wife to First Lady

That very year, Kenyatta was arrested and subsequently jailed on charges of masterminding the anti-colonial Mau Mau uprising. While Jomo Kenyatta remained incarcerated for most of their marriage, Ngina became his loyal supporter and confidante. She smuggled messages, advocated for his release, and provided unwavering emotional support. This period cemented her image as a steadfast woman standing by her man, earning her the respect and admiration of many Kenyans.
Upon Jomo Kenyatta’s release in 1961 and subsequent rise to power as Prime Minister and then President, Ngina stepped into the role of First Lady. Though Kenyatta adhered to Kikuyu traditions of multiple wives, it was Ngina who assumed the public duties and became the face of the first family. She actively supported social causes, championing women’s empowerment and education, particularly within rural communities.
Despite her public appearances, Ngina was known for her reserved and private nature. While she projected an image of dignity and grace, whispers surrounded her influence behind the scenes. Some perceived her as a powerful advisor to her husband, wielding influence on political decisions and appointments. Others saw her as a devoted wife, focused on family and supporting her husband’s vision. The true extent of her involvement in political matters remains debated.

Later Years and Legacy

Following Jomo Kenyatta’s death in 1978, Ngina maintained a strong presence in Kenyan public life. She remained active in philanthropy and established the Mama Ngina Kenyatta Foundation. And continued to hold significant influence within the ruling party. When her son, Uhuru Kenyatta, was elected president in 2013, she became the only woman in Kenyan history to be both the wife and mother of a sitting president.
However, it is important to acknowledge her notable achievement in receiving the 2019 Macky Sall Prize for Dialogue in Africa. Awarded in 2020, this prestigious recognition honors individuals who use dialogue to avert conflict on the continent.


Ngina Kenyatta’s life story is far from one-dimensional. She embodies the complexities of Kenyan history, from the fight for independence to the challenges of nation-building. While her public image portrays a dignified and supportive figure, questions linger about her influence and involvement in power dynamics. As Kenya continues to evolve, Ngina’s legacy will remain a subject of debate and analysis. Recognizing and highlighting the intricate links between family, power, and history in one of Africa’s most vibrant democracies.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.