Dedan Kimathi. The unforgotten Kenyan hero. And slowly he is becoming a shadow in the past. With the changes in the generations, Dedan Kimathi is slowly fading into oblivion. Yet Kenya’s independence owes so much to this hero among others in his local brigade. |
The celebration of Kenya’s independence will not be complete without the mention of the likes of Dedan Kimathi Waciuri, born in October 1920. In 1947 Kimathi joined Kings African Riffles, KAF. Soon after word got to him of how his fellow colleagues were being mistreated by British rulers. It is from here that the rebel in him started in order to try and stop the mistreatment.
The same year he left KAF. He became an untrained teacher till 1949 when he became the Ol Kalou chair of Kenya African Union. This was the first political party. This is where the Mahimu committee was born, which was in charge of committing oaths to join the unnamed movement at that time.
The Mau Mau believed in violent ejection of the British rule from Kenya and to commit to the group, one had to take ritual oaths as a prerequisite and swear to the movement’s cause. The oath was a process of initiation into the movement, and Kimathi was the administrator. He became the leader of the fighting arm of the movement, which eventually almost everyone became, as it turned harder with the British rulers.
Dedan Kimathi was a strong leader and served as the high ranking military leader as well as the leader of Mau Mau uprising. Mr Kimathi continued to lead the revolutionary battle against the British. This was in the 1950’s where the Mau Mau freedom fighters took to the forest to demand and fight for their freedom led by Mr Kimathi. The secret movement, Mau Mau, was a nationalist group of strong, like-minded peasant farmers who teamed together to get rid of the British Empire.
The movement mainly wanted full freedom from the colonial masters and for the masters to vacate their farming land. This was mainly in central Kenya, and as such, the movement was mostly by Kikuyu community farmers from Mt Kenya region. The rich farmlands of the central Kenya highlands had been grabbed by the British colonialists, and this created the enmity with the local farmers.
In 1952, the state of emergency was declared and the Mau Mau movement continued to hide and live in the forests. The Mau Mau fighters continued to put great pressure on the British masters. They continued with surprise attacks from their hideouts in the forests Rumours have it that Mau Mau’s origin was Kikuyu words for Muzungu Arudi Ulaya, Mwafrica Apate Uhuru.
This translates to mean that Whiteman to leave the country, and for the African to get freedom. The rebellion was equivalent to a civil war, where each side was in arms to outdo the other. The Mau Mau on one had trying to regain their land, while the British struggling to keep both the lands and rule.
This tag created a series of detention camps by the British as they continued to fight the local rebels by capturing and incarcerating them. Over 80, 000 Mau Mau members had been arrested and put in the camps. Majority of the group members were living in the forests of Aberdare, where they had dug caves. They would steal food and weapons and hide in the caves. They would then plan surprise attacks on the British rulers.
Dedan Kimathi was a hot target for the British colonial masters. Despite all the success the movement had, the Mau Mau group had one drawback. Some of the group members became inside traitors. The few would let out the movement’s secret plans to the British rulers.
In addition, some became really hostile to the Mau Mau leadership, and eventually Dedan Kimathi was shot in the leg by a local officer in 21 October 1956. Mr Kimathi was armed with a revolver and ammunition. Having being shot in the leg and captured by an officer called Ndirangu as he was trying to run back to the forest to evade capture. This started the downfall of the Mau Mau movement. He had very strong followers who believed in the patriotic cause.
One such leader was Stanley Mathenge from Nyeri , who was one of the military leaders. Other committed leaders were Jomo Kenyatta who among other 180 members of the Mau Mau was arrested. That was a milestone mark for the British as now they had a way to suppress and crash the Mau Mau Movement. It was a huge victory for the colonial masters to capture and torture the Mau Mau leadership. Unfortunately, it was a great turning point for the guerrilla fighters in the forest as their leadership had been crippled.
In 19 November 1956, Chief Justice Kenneth O’Connor at Nyeri’s Supreme Court sentenced Dedan Kimathi to death by hanging after being found guilty of having a firearm and ammunition. He was hanged on 18 February in 1957 at Kamiti prison. Till today, his grave’s location is unknown. To the present day, Dedan Kimathi has continued to be remembered as the figure behind the famous Mau Mau rebellion.
He remains a celebrated memory of Kenya’s freedom. Every 12 December, Kenya’s Independence Day, is a time to sing the fallen heroes. We must not forget these heroes who have sacrificed their lives for the betterment of others. The Kimathis of today are many.
They include other freedom fighters, environmental fighters like Prof. Wangari Mathai, Medics who endure long hours serving others, military forces who work so hard to protect others. We must not forget to sing for our heroes.
A safari in Kenya today owes a lot to the heroes of environment, including Prof Wangari Mathai. As we look back at the history of Kenya and freedom that we enjoy, it is paramount to remember those who have put their lives on the line for the sake of the environment.
Peter Philip is a safari guide with Natural Track Safaris, based in Nairobi, Kenya. He has been arranging and guiding field nature safaris for over 15 years. Natural Track Safaris operate custom-made tours, private Kenya safari packages and shared group safaris. From walking trips, bush safaris ending with a sun tan at the beautiful Kenyan beaches. Visit us at https://kenya-safaris.co or https://naturaltracksafaris.com
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