Monday, April 30, 2012

Makhan Singh Trade Unionist and Freedom fighter

As Kenya joins the rest of the world in celebrating the annual Labour Day tomorrow, we can’t afford forgetting the contributions of Kenyan Trade Unionists who fought for the interest of workers in the country. Trade unions played a great role in the struggle for the Independence of Kenya and breeding of nationalistic leaders like the late Tom Mboya.
Singh was born in province of Punjab, India in 27 December 1913 and was in the frontline of introducing the force of trade unionism in the country. In 1927, at the age 13, he moved with his family to Nairobi and he joined the present-day Jamhuri High School.
After high school, he couldn’t farther his education and supported his father’s Khalsa Printing Press, where he came close to the plight of workers in the country. At the age of 23, he was appointed the secretary of the Indian Labour Trade Union.
 In 1935, he successfully formed the Labour Trade Union of Kenya. Fourteen years later, in 49’ together with Kapenguria-Six’s Fred Kubai they formed the East African Trade Union Congress (first central organization of trade unions in Kenya). As was the trade unionist of the day, Singh was also a freedom fighter who wanted the British colonial gone for realization of independence. This resulted to his 10 years detention in the late 50’s in a desert prison camp in Lodwar.
He died of a heart attack in Nairobi at the age of 58 years.
Currently Trade Unions in the country are under the umbrella union the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU-K) under the charismatic leadership of the Secretary-General Francis Atwoli.
Other Great trade unionists:
Tom Mboya who was a great statesman and trade unionist (In 1952, he founded the Kenya Local Government Workers Union, KLGWU).
James Dennis Akumu, was a Pan-African Trade Unionist who headed the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), COTU and a member of parliament of Nyakach.
Ambrose Adeya Adongo, longest-serving Secretary-General of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) from 1970 to 2001, when he died.
Francis M. Ng’ang’a he succeeded Ambrose in 2001 and continued in championing the rights of teachers in the country up to 2008.

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