Research stay at the University of Nairobi

April 2024

My first research stay in Nairobi was in 2011: that is when I got hooked by Kenyan political history. Since then, I visited Kenya many times, but returning to Nairobi in April 2024 for my research felt very special. Looking for historical sources was not necessarily easier: there are always new places to go to. The main difference was that the people I met with knew my previous work and I knew their; we were eager to discuss Kenyan past and present, so each conversation went deeper.

As a research affiliate of the Department of History of the University of Nairobi, I was able to visit and explore the archives of the University of Nairobi. The university has an outstanding collections of historical documents related to all aspect of academic, social, political and economic issues. They also have an outstanding collection of colonial and postcolonial newspapers, which proved extremely useful for my research.

Since my project deals with parliamentary history, I also visited the library of the National Assembly. I was warmly welcome in the brand new Bunge Towers. Unfortunately for my research, the library only stores material directly related to parliamentary laws and debates and election material was nowhere to be found. But the library has of course all the parliamentary hansards – an important source to document’s women’s potential contributions to parliamentary debates. I was still looking for traces of elections petitions to document contested polling outcomes. Since there are not at the National Archives nor in the Parliamentary archives, I went to Nairobi High Court and Nairobi Supreme Courts to enquire about their archives. Some documents have been digitalised, and I was hoping to find more there. Unfortunately, the archives there are only partially sorted out and the organisation of the collections was nowhere to be found.

As to oral history, I was also able to meet again Mrs. Jael Ogombe Mbogo to continue our discussion about her outstanding life. Our previous discussions have nourished an article that has already been published (…). This time again, Jael welcomed me in her home, for breakfast and for lunch, and it was a real privilege sharing some of her time and listening to her story. Over the phone before my trip, I told her that I was impressed at the number of interviews she was giving. She replied saying people knew she won’t live much longer and so they are all hurrying up to get bits and pieces of her story. Jael is sharing her memories – I feel very privileged to be able to collect some of them.

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