By Amos Kareithi
Hosting a visiting president can present a security nightmare for a country. And the situation becomes even trickier when that guest happens to a US president or top official.
But back in the day when global terrorism as we know it today had not yet been defined, the worst that could happen to a high-profile guest touring Africa was to be mauled by lions or gored by an angry buffalo. As such, the hullaballoo that usually accompanies such visits was largely none-existent.
And that is how one resident of Donyo Sambuk, a village in the outskirts of Thika town, got a rare opportunity to host Theodore Roosevelt, who had just completed his seven-year term at the White House.
Although there were no Wikileaks to relay the gripping details of the attendant scandals or reporters to follow up any reports of misdeed by a celebrity, the misadventures of the dignitaries still leaked.
Echoes of Roosevelt’s visit are still heard in parts of the country as it led to an incident where Indian stone carvings that had gone missing and later found were mistaken for Western African gods – Ju and Ja.
It is also speculated that it’s this visit that may have birthed the name for one of the fastest growing towns along Thika Road, ‘Juja’.
A new book by Judy Aldrick in her new book, Northrup - The Life of William Northrup McMillan published by Old Africa Books, reveals secrets of his visit, especially what transpired between the American president and McMillian, an American millionaire who pioneered safari tourism.
In the book, Aldrick adds an interesting perspective to this memorable weeklong stay by the 26th president of the US, which almost touched off standoff between Ismailia Muslims and the USA.
The book reconstructs Roosevelt visit to Kenya, where he stayed for seven months.
Roosevelt had come to East Africa in style with all the trappings of power befitting an immediate former head of state and his mission was to hunt. His visit had been sponsored by Andrew Carnergie, and he was expected to collect some samples for the Smithsonian Institute and the American Museum for the Natural History.