“I don’t lead terrorists. I lead Africans who want their self-government and land. God did not intend that one nation be ruled by another for ever. “ – Dedan Kimathi
[ The Land & Freedom Army Leader with these home made guns and intrepid peasant army took on the might of the British empire].
“We have stolen his land,” declared the British explorer and land-grabber
Colonel Grogan. “Now it is time to steal his limbs.” The colonial regime
enforced compulsory labor from African women and men.
By Stephen Millie’s
Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi was executed on Feb. 18, 1957, by the British occupiers of Kenya. Being captured with a loaded revolver was enough to send this freedom fighter to the gallows. Kimathi was hanged because he was a leader of Kenya’s Land and Freedom Army, demonized by the media as the “Mau Mau.”
According to David Anderson’s Histories of the Hanged1,090 Africans were hanged in the 1950s by Britain’s colonial regime in Kenya. Just for supplying food to guerilla fighters—labeled “consorting”—the colonialists sent 207 people to their deaths.
In her Pulitzer Prize winning book Imperial Reckoning Caroline Elkins estimated that 300,000 Kenyans were thrown into concentration camps.
Elkins and her assistant Ms. Terry Wairimu, a researcher at the Kenyan National Archives, interviewed 300 survivors. They heard how Alsatian dogs mauled women inmates at the Athi River camp and guards clubbed prisoners arriving at the Manyani camp.
Six hundred children were confined in Kamati camp alone. Almost none survived. “Hard Core Mau Mau” supporters were selected to bury the children. “They would be tied in bundles of six babies,” recalled former inmate Helen Macharia. . . . Over a million Kikuyu people were forced into 800 “emergency villages” built with their own slave labor. . . .
Stealing the land
In 1895, British Queen Victoria declared a “protectorate” over Kenya and Uganda. A few British settlers stole the best land. One named Lord Delamere grabbed 160,000 acres.
Troops wielding machine guns forced Africans into “native reserves” that were modeled on U.S. Indian reservations. As in South Africa under apartheid, Africans were forced to carry a pass, known in Kenya as a “kipande.”
“We have stolen his land,” declared the British explorer and land-grabber Colonel Grogan. “Now it is time to steal his limbs.” The colonial regime enforced compulsory labor from African women and men. Ten thousand workers, many from India, were killed or maimed building a 582-mile long railroad from Mombasa to Lake Victoria.
“Illiterates with the right attitude to manual labor are preferable to products of the schools” declared a 1949 report written by Anglican Bishop Leonard Beecher. Three high schools at the time annually admitted 100 African students.
The average yearly wage of 385,000 African workers in 1948 was $73. . . .
Kenyan revolutionaries made preparations for armed struggle against the oppressive colonial rule. Kenya’s colonial Governor Evelyn Baring responded by declaring a state of emergency on Oct. 20, 1952. The governor’s family controlled Barings Bank, founded in 1762 by the slave trader Francis Baring. . . .
Mau Mau fighters stole weapons and ammunition. Blacksmiths made hundreds of guns. Britain mobilized 55,000 soldiers and cops to fight the Mau Mau. The Royal Air Force bombed guerrilla strongholds in Aberdares Forest and Kirinyaga.
A posse led by Ian Henderson finally captured Field Marshal Kimathi on Oct. 21, 1956. A notorious torturer of Mau Mau suspects, Henderson’s cruelty couldn’t stop the revolution. Twenty thousand Mau Mau guerrillas didn’t die in vain. Kenya declared its independence on Dec. 12, 1963.
Africa remembers its heroes. Kimathi’s execution is commemorated and streets are named in his honor. A statue of Dedan Kimathi was unveiled in Nairobi on Dec. 11, 2006.
In October 2006, Mau Mau veterans filed a suit against the British government for reparations, charging it with systematic torture of Kenyan freedom fighters during the struggle for independence. The fallen and wounded “Mau Mau” are being avenged in Iraq and wherever else people are fighting against imperialist occupation for land and freedom.
Source: Stephen Millies, “Kenyans honor liberation hero Dedan Kimathi.” Workers
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Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi Waciuri was the head of the Mau Mau, a militant group that waged a guerrilla war against the British colonial government in Kenya. Kenya’s independence from British rule is largely attributed to the spirited fight the Mau Mau put up under the stewardship of Dedan Kimathi. The Mau Mau began as the Land and Freedom Army, a militant Kikuyu army out to reclaim their land that had been stripped from them by the colonialists. As its influence and membership widened it became a major threat to the colonialists.
The Mau Mau movement sprung from Central Kenya, home of the populous Kikuyu community. The movement, even though heavily Kikuyu, enjoyed nationwide support as it forced the colonialists to pay attention to Kenyan demands. The Mau Mau was outlawed in 1952, amid rising tensions in the Kenya political scene. The banning also saw a massive round-up of Kenyan political leaders, including Kenya’s first President, Jomo Kenyatta.
On February 18, 1957, Dedan Kimathi was executed by the colonialists at the notorious Kamiti Maximum Prison, where his remains are still believed to be buried in an unmarked grave. This has been a very contentious issue among Kenyans, and indeed other prominent African nationalists like President Nelson Mandela, who believe that Kimathi is a legendary figure and should be accorded a state burial with full rights. Such requests have fallen on deaf ears for reasons nobody can/or will ever comprehend. In fact, on President Mandela’s last visit to Kenya in 1990, he almost caused a major embarrassment to President Moi’s administration when he inquired about the whereabouts of Kimathi’s widow.
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Dedan Kimathi was born on October 31, 1920 in Tetu location in the North Tetu Division of Nyeri District. He used the surname of Wachiuri, his mother’s former husband who had died some years before his birth. Wachiuri had three wives and so it was a large family. Kimathi had two brothers (Wambararia and Wagura) and two sisters.
There are many stories about his legendary pranks as a child but it is impossible to say how many are true and how many are mythical and have grown with the legend. At the age of fifteen he became a pupil at Karunaini Primary School in Tetu and excelled at English and poetry.
To raise money for his school fees he established a small night class where, every evening, he taught other youngsters whatever he had learnt during the day. In exchange he took money or paraffin or soap, which he then sold at Ihururu Market.
Three years later he became a pupil at a more advanced school, Wandumbi, on the Tetu/Thegenge borders. This time the fees came from the seeds of Grevillia Robusta which he collected in the Aberdares and for which the Forestry Department was paying a cent a tin.
On September 17, 1938 he was circumcised at the Ihururu Dispensary. In 1939 he got his kipande from the DC’s office and got his first job with the Forestry Department. Leaving there under a cloud he met and impressed a teacher called Eliud Mugo from Mathira Division. Eliud, blind in one eye and later to become a notoriously oppressive Chief in lriaini Location during the Emergency, arranged for Kimathi to enroll at the Tumutumu CSM School. He stayed there for two years, save for a three-month break in 1941 when he joined the army. He finally left Tumutumu in February 1944, being unable to pay fees arrears.
Over the next five years he tried different ways of earning a living, becoming a school teacher, a clerk with first a dairy and then a timber firm, and a trader. In January 1949 he got a job, but not for long, as a teacher at his old school Karinaini.
But wherever he went and whatever he did Kimathi became a welcome and popular figure with his fellow Kikuyus on his travels. He had a powerful and attractive personality and he began to involve himself in the politics of the day, and also of the night.
Initially he was just one of the stewards at the mass rallies held by Kenyatta and other politicians. However, he speedily graduated and became the chief organiser. He was elected secretary of the Ol Kalou and Thomson’s Falls branch of the Kenya African Union (KAU) on June 2, 1952. It is widely accepted that he was already planning a more proactive and aggressive strategy than the Muhimu Central Committee with whom he had long forged links.
Four months later he was involved in organising a mass oathing ceremony on the banks of the Gura River, which was attended by thousands of Kikuyus. Nderi Wang’ombe, the Nyeri District Senior Chief, got wind of what was happening. Fatally, Nderi decided to intervene and he was killed by the frenzied crowd. Kimathi became a marked man and shortly afterwards he was arrested by Chief Muhoya’s Tribal Police at a friend’s house.
At the Chief’s Camp, he did a deal with the guards and disappeared in the night to the Aberdares. He was now 32 years old and entering the most important four years of his life.
By the end of it he had been, at the least, a crucial factor in forcing the British Government to reassert its right to dictate the pace of constitutional change in Kenya. British Colonial Secretaries henceforth used this right rapidly too dismantle the white settlers’ political power in Kenya, some more ruthlessly than others.
Source: “The making of a freedom hero.” Sunday Standard, Kenya, 17th Feb. 2002 Misterseed￼￼)
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