Remembering Dedan Kimathi

February 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

Dedan Kimathi, a leader of the Mau Mau group which led an armed military struggle against British colonial rule in Kenya in the 1950s, was murdered 58 years ago today by the British colonialists.

Dedan Kimathi (October 31, 1920 - February 18, 1957) at his trial in Nyeri

Dedan Kimathi (October 31, 1920 – February 18, 1957) at his trial in Nyeri

I’m currently reading The Trial of Dedan Kimathi by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Micere Githae Mugo, some excerpts below:

… it is generally assumed that Kimathi fought in the Second ‘World’ War and people have tended to assume that was where he learnt his military skills as well as his skills in making guns. Kimathi never fought in that war. He evolved his brilliant guerrilla tactics and his enormous organizing capacity from the needs of the struggle. Karunaini people were proud of their son; they talked of him as a dedicated teacher, the committed organizer of a theater group he named Gichamu, as a man with a tremendous sense of humor who could keep a whole house roaring with laughter. They talked of his warm personality and his love of people. He was clearly their beloved son, their respected leader and they talked of him as still being alive. ‘Kimathi will never die’, the woman said. ‘But of course if you people have killed him, go and show us his grave!’ She said this in a strange tone of voice, between defiance and bitterness, and for a minute we all kept quiet.

Wanjiru, they called her. She was lean, wiry and strong. Fought like a tiger in the battle of the Beehive. No wonder the terrorists made her a Colonel… Should have seen when we captured her. She swore at us, spat in our faces and kicked like a wild goat as we bound her. Later at Karunaini camp, she would not eat or drink. And she would not tell us where we could find Kimathi. And you know? She bit my finger. And why? I wanted to see if she was really a woman. Our Africans: Gati, Hungu, Mwendanda and even Wambararia, Kimathi’s brother, were frightened of her.

To a criminal judge, in a criminal court, set up by criminal law: the law of oppression. I have no words… I will not plead to a law in which we had no part in the making… Two laws. Two justices. One law and one justice protects the man of property, the man of wealth, the foreign exploiter. Another law, another justice, silences the poor, the hungry, our people.

Which people? Loyalists? Home guards? Traitors! Simpletons! These are your people.

I have never feared anybody’s rivalry. I have only sought to protect the struggle from betrayal, opportunism and regional chauvinism.

It’s not numbers that fight. Better fifty men armed with faith, armed with discipline, than a thousand villains, doubters, possible collaborators.

It is true children, that Kimathi could do many things. Even today, they sing of the battle of Mathari; the battles he waged in Mount Kenya; the battle of Naivasha. Yes, they sing of the enemy aeroplanes he brought down with only a rifle! He was a wonderful teacher: with a laugh that was truly infectious. He could also act and mimic any character in the world: a story teller too, and many were the nights he would calm his men and make their hearts light and gay with humorous anecdotes. But above all, he loved people, and he loved his country. He so hated the sight of Africans killing one another that he sometimes became a little soft with our enemies. He, Great commander that he was, Great organizer that he was, Great fearless fighter that he was, he was human! Too human at times!

And, a few memorable quotes attributed to Kimathi:

“We reject colonization in Kenya because it has turned us into slaves and beggars.”

“The journey to freedom is full of sacrifices, tears, hunger, clothes full of lice, blood and death”.

“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.”

“I consider myself a great African patriot fighting, not for the liberation of Kenya alone, but for East Africa and the rest of the continent.”

Rest in peace O great warrior, freedom fighter, African hero.


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