Herbert W. Armstrong: Co-Founder of Kenyan University of Agriculture and Technology

Remembering the humanitarian work of Jomo Kenyatta, and the world’s unofficial ambassador for peace and his 15 sons from the Japanese Diet

On the morning of Aug. 22, 1978, while sleeping at the State House in Mombasa, father of the nation President Kenyatta died. That very day, Herbert Armstrong recollected, “I had visited with him … at his office in the State House in Nairobi and the better part of the whole day at his residence 35 miles outside Nairobi. … We had luncheon at his home with members of his family. He conducted us on a tour through a suburban self-help hospital, which he had built. He was, as am I, a staunch believer in helping others to help themselves—to help them get on their own feet so they can make their own way, rather than supporting others outright in pure charity while they do nothing to help themselves.

“Through the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, we had undertaken to join with President Kenyatta in founding in Kenya a self-help school to help reduce the illiteracy of the country. He was apparently just my age—86, though he did not know his exact birth date. He was a very close friend—like two close brothers with Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.”

As far back as 1974, preliminary work was well under way for public appearance campaigns featuring Mr. Armstrong in the country’s capital. A year later, on May 26, 1975, he wrote to co-workers: “I am seven miles high over the Sahara Desert flying to Nairobi, Kenya, for the next big campaign. We expect a large and very successful campaign there.”

After his arrival, he was greeted by President Jomo Kenyatta at the official State House. The president asked him questions about his work and mission in relation to seeking world peace. “President Kenyatta and I generated a warm friendship immediately,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “We found that we had much in common in general philosophies and grasp of human conditions, right principles and concepts.

“Our first visit, almost an hour, was at his office in the State House. He does not live there, however, and the second visit was at his home, some 35 or 40 miles outside Nairobi. I met his wife and family. We were met at the airport on our arrival by his niece (whom he calls his daughter), and to a considerable extent we were guided and escorted by her during our two weeks in Nairobi. She and the president’s wife are going to visit us a little later in Pasadena, and they want me to try personally to induce President Kenyatta to visit Ambassador College at Pasadena. He never flies, but they feel that perhaps I may be able to induce him to make the flight.

“I still marvel at the favor God gives me in the eyes of the world leaders—a favor really needed to accomplish Christ’s great commission. … [I]t (Nairobi) may become a very important city to us, in terms of getting God’s work done in Africa” (co-worker letter, June 24, 1975).

Discussion then centered upon the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation (aicf). As Mr. Armstrong explained the aicf’s accomplishments, “the president was duly impressed by these concrete evidences of humanitarian concern for others and a definite manifestation of a willingness to help others to help themselves. We expressed our interest in establishing a permanent relationship with the people of Kenya in a project that would be meaningful both for the people and for us” (Bulletin, June 3, 1975).

The significance and far-reaching implications of this genesis of cooperative thought between Kenya’s founder and the unofficial ambassador for world peace must not be forgotten.

“And in Nairobi I had started a college with President Kenyata, back a little over six years ago; and we had made a certain small contribution through the Ambassador Foundation,” he reminded his audience in Ambassador Auditorium Nov. 27, 1982.

Mr. Armstrong had just returned from a trip to Africa that included a stop in Nairobi to speak before subscribers of his mass-circulation magazine, the Plain Truth, and a meeting with Kenyatta’s successor, President Daniel Arap Moi.

“And then those congressmen in the Diet of Japan who consider themselves my Japanese sons, as they call themselves. There were eight originally, and now there are about 15 who call themselves my Japanese sons; we have a lot of fun about that. But they got busy in the Japanese Diet and appropriated about 29 million United States dollars, or the equivalent in Japanese yen, for that college.”

“And now it is the Jomo Kenyatta College of Agriculture and Technology. And they built quite a college there. With 29 million dollars, they’ve been able to build quite a college. And they gave me quite a plaque, all carved in copper, as co-founder with President Kenyatta of that college. And it is quite a plant; they have many buildings, all new. They are not quite of the caliber of the buildings that we have here on the Ambassador College campus, but they are new. They are ultra-modern. They are very good. They are less costly in construction. But they have an auditorium; they have an administration building; they have a big science hall; they have a big home ec hall for women. They have greenhouses with all kinds of plants and things growing, because it is an agricultural college as well as mechanical. And they even have an athletic track, and they have many things. I was given quite a welcome there and presented with, as I said, quite a plaque” (ibid).

Today, just over 30 kilometers northeast of the Kenyan capital, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology is a bustling center of learning. In May 1981 it enrolled its first students and by March 1982 it was officially declared open by the president. Commencement exercises were conducted in March 1984 for its first Horticulture, Agri-Engineering and Food Technology graduates.

Those who travel the Nairobi-Thika Highway and pass by this institution are deprived of the memory of Herbert W. Armstrong, whose name is glaringly absent from the history section of the university website. Perhaps those in government or the university’s graduating students remember a white-haired patriarch who was so beloved by the founding father of Kenya that he would present him a plaque to formalize his participation, funding and co-founding of an institution patterned after the former Ambassador College, today perpetuated by Herbert W. Armstrong College.

Here at theTrumpet.com we continue to highlight the enduring global humanitarian legacy of Mr. Armstrong as our editor in chief follows in those footsteps of give as evidenced by the work of Armstrong International Cultural Foundation.