Across Africa, when the British and Europeans came to the different territories to take over our resources, land and people, there were a few brave men and women who dared to stand. They refused to be intimidated by the white skin and neither did they fall for cheap ploys and schemes. Dedan Kimathi Waciuri is one of the few.
Born in Nyeri District, Central Province of Kenya on 31 October 1920, Dedan Kimathi (as he is popularly referred to) is a Kenyan hero who was a Field Marshal and spiritual leader of the Land and Freedom Army (KLFA). This group was later transformed to become the well-known Mau Mau group that led a fierce uprising against the British colonial masters.
Contrary to what the British made us believe, the Mau Mau Uprising was an armed military struggle against the colonial regime in Kenya in the 1950s, formed to reclaim land that the British settlers had taken away from citizens without authorization or compensation.
The British labeled Dedan Kimathi a terrorist and placed a bounty of 500 Great British Pounds on his head. It is sad that someone whose struggle would eventually pave the way for the country’s independence on December 12, 1963, was betrayed by his government and the people whom he fought to liberate.
A few days ago, 18 February 2019 marked 62 years since Dedan Kimathi was hanged after he was captured at Tehu in the early hours of October 21, 1956, by a British police officer, Ian Henderson. Henderson used intelligence gathered from former Mau Mau members.
It was disheartening that the day was not marked in the country and a hero's remembrance not organized in his honor. This is because the government like it did in the 1950s has decided to treat the matter in a way that it will not offend the colonial masters.
Kimathi remained in the forest when the colonial government launched a crackdown on leaders of the Kenyan African Union (KAU) in 1952.
At the time of his capture, Kimathi who had lived in the forest for almost four years, no longer had any links with the Mau Mau members who had gone rogue. He could not come out of hiding due to the bounty on his head and because the British were blaming him for some of the hideous crimes being committed at that time.
Although he was communicating with the colonial government from his hideout through letters, the British wanted nothing else but to paint him as a terrorist and use his capture as propaganda to score cheap points. They were bent on deceiving the people of Kenya and the world in general that they have captured and executed a terrorist.
Kimathi's claims that he hasn't been in contact with the Mau Mau ranks since early 1954, and that the group has been manipulated by the British to achieve its selfish aims was justifiable because it was members of the Mau Mau group who fought on the side of the British that helped to locate him in the forest.
A transcript of the court proceedings between Kimathi and his Counsel Fredrick Miller after his capture made available shows that Kimathi had a good reason for going to hiding, but this was clearly overlooked by the court because Kimathi's case was already decided even before he appeared in court.
Mr. Miller: “ you were a long time in the forest why didn’t you come out and surrender earlier since you had parted ways with your associates and your life was in danger?”
Kimathi: “ Because there was a £500 reward on my head and I knew if I came out either the police or home guards would kill me to get the money. I have been writing secretly to the Government to meet them because I knew that if I met them and came out with them I would not be shot.”
“I was left alone and I was ill, and I said to myself it is better to come out either to be killed or to get before the Government,” he said.
Kimathi would later be hanged in 1957 after he was sentenced to death.
During his capture, Kimathi was shot by a Kenyan called Ndirangu. This and the actions of his government was the height of betrayal.
Kimanti's case was presided over by Chief Justice O'Connor from Britain, but there was an all-black jury of Kenyans present in the courtroom, and they all sentenced him to death.
Before his execution, it is on record that he told his wife - who was at that time in a different prison, that:
"I have no doubt in my mind that the British are determined to execute me. I have committed no crime.
"My only crime is that I am a Kenyan revolutionary who led a liberation army... Now If I must leave you and my family I have nothing to regret about. My blood will water the tree of Independence."
His arrest and death was a major celebration in Kenya and Britain at the time, with the British government printing over 100,000 leaflets in Gikuyu and 20,000 in Swahili to announce Kimathi’s capture.
His struggle would eventually lead to the attainment of political independence for Kenya on December 12, 1963; but we cannot hide our guilt for betraying such a powerful African hero.
Dedan Kimathi deserves an apology.
Header Image Credit: GAFLA