Bernard Mate

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Bernard Mate (1922 – 6 January 1994) was a Kenyan politician and one of the first group of Africans to be elected to the Kenya Legislative Council (LegCo), the then legislative arm of government in the British Colony of Kenya, representing what was the black constituency of Central Kenya. He served three terms in Kenya's Parliament finally losing in 1979. He died on 6 January 1994, after a short illness. As a politician, he was part of the KADU's delegation to Kenya's Lancaster House Constitutional conferences. He was described by Oginga Odinga as a being a philosopher.[1]

Early Childhood[edit]

Bernard Mate was born to M'Thura wa Rware and Ruth Igoji, who hailed from Mutuguni (near Nturiri). He was their fourth born child and the first to survive childhood.


Bernard Mate enrolled in Ndiruini (now Kiereni) Primary School for his early primary education and sat his K.A.P.E and Chogoria Junior School. He entered Alliance High School in 1939, graduating in 1945 to pursue a diploma in teaching at Makerere University. He spent four years teaching at Chogoria High school, before enrolling for a Bachelor of Arts degree in the University of North Wales Bangor. He then pursued a postgraduate diploma at the University of Edinburgh.

Teaching career[edit]

Bernard Mate again returned to Kenya in 1954 and taught at the Alliance Girls High School, for one year, before being transferred to the Government Teachers Training College Meru (now Meru Teacher's Training College). From 1957 to 1964 and 1970 to 1974, he taught at the Kilimambogo Teachers Training College, and was the founding headmaster of Ikuu High School, Chuka.

Political career[edit]

In 1957, while continuing to teach, he before ventured into elective politics when Africans were first allowed to elect their own representatives to LegCo (Kenya Legislative Council).[2][3] Mate ran in the 1957, winning the CentralKenya seat for the LegCo,[4] against former nominated MP Eliud Mathu as well as such politicians as Jeremiah Nyagah.[5] Mate won fifty one percent of the vote ahead of Elliud Mathu (30 percent) and Nyagah (12 percent).[6][7] (Central province is now composed of Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Embu, Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Laikipia Kiambu and Murang'a counties.) During Mate's term of office, he served in minority KADU government of Ronald Ngala in various capacities including Minister of Health, Education and Social Services.[8] He is credited with participating in the abolition of the discriminative Common Entrance Exam (CEE), and the establishment of Kaguru Farmers Training Centre during this time. He lost his seat parliamentary seat contesting what was then Meru Central Constituency (since split into North Imenti Constituency, Central Imenti Constituency and South Imenti Constituency) in the 1963 elections that elected Kenya's independence government. He recaptured the Meru Central seat in a 1965 by-election. He would lose the seat in the 1969 general election, and then moved to Meru South to serve one final term in the general election of 1974.[9] He was an avid debater and a political philosopher. The Ena-Ishiara-Ciakariga-Tunyai-Meru road is named after this gallant son of Kenya


Bernard Mate was married to Edith Gatakaa and with her had eight children. Four daughters: Anne Keeru, Amy Kagendo, Ivy Kathanje, and Alice Kanyua and three sons: Arthur Njage, Munene Mate, Nelson Njeru.


  1. ^ Not Yet Uhuru: The Autobiography of Oginga Odinga By Ajuma Oginga Odinga Published by Heinemann, 1967 Original from the University of Michigan
  2. ^ Kenyan blacks had been on the Legislative Council since 1947 when Appolo Ohanga was appointed. Okoth, Assa (2006). A History of Africa: African nationalism and the de-colonisation process. Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers. p. 85. ISBN 978-9966-25-358-3. 
  3. ^ Maxon, Robert M. (2011). "Chapter 4: Multiracialism in Practice, 1954–1957: African Elections and the Assault on the Lyttleton Constitution". Britain and Kenya's Constitutions, 1950-1960. Amherst, New York: Cambria Press. pp. 161–183. ISBN 978-1-60497-776-9. 
  4. ^ Okoth 2006, p. 85
  5. ^ Maxon 2011, pp. 129–130
  6. ^ Kenya National Archive 1955–1961b
  7. ^ Loyalists, Mau Mau, and Elections in Kenya:The First Triumph of the System, 1957–1958
  8. ^ "Government formed with KADU Co-operation". 
  9. ^ Mwangi, Mburu (8 January 1994). "Veteran Politician Mate Dies", Daily Nation