Argwings Kodhek: First black lawyer in EA was an achiever


Clement Michael George Argwings Kodhek was a notable Kenyan politician and lawyer who served in the government of the founding president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, for more than six years.

Kodhek also served as the MP for Gem Constituency. Kodhek also served as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Natural Resources.

The politician was touted to have been an achiever par excellence, having been the first black lawyer in East Africa. His passion for law was evident since he was young.

Upon completing his secondary education, he applied for a government scholarship to study law in England. However, the colonial government dismissed him as a ‘native upstart’. The government wanted him to switch to social sciences because this is what they believed Africans could do.

Kodhek was born in 1923 in Nyawara, Gem. He went to school in Yala before proceeding to Makerere University. Thereafter, went to the University of South Wales where he graduated with a law degree. In 1951, CMG, as he was commonly known then, was admitted to the bar at an esteemed Lincoln’s Inn, London, to the amusement of colonialists.

Upon coming back to Kenya in 1952, he was deployed to the AG’s office as a barrister. However, Kodhek left the AG’s chambers shortly after to start his law firm at Church House, making him the only African to own a law firm.

He married an Irish woman during his studies in England and came with her to Kenya. However, due to segregation laws, Kodhek’s relationship with his wife has some restrictions. He was not allowed to walk with her hand in hand, or even kiss her in public.

He was also forced to live in Nairobi’s Eastlands, reserved for blacks, even though he could afford to live in Nairobi suburbs, including Wetlands.

Kodhek used his education to push for independence, particularly in relation to colonial injustices. He employed his legal expertise to defend Mau Mau fighters in court. Kodhek died in January 1969 in an accident in Nairobi, when his car rolled several times. The road where the accident happened was later named after Kodhek.


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