Kenya: Nyeri Honours Kimathi With Monument

5 September 2019

The Dedan Kimathi monument being built in Kahiga-ini, Tetu, Nyeri County, is the place to pay tribute to the Mau Mau war hero, as his grave site remains unknown.

The Nyeri County government started building the monument at the site where the celebrated hero was shot.

A colonial home guard shot and wounded Kimathi when he ambushed him at the foot of the Aberdares, just outside the forest from where he led the Mau Mau war against colonialists.

He had come out of the forest in camouflage attire to attend a cinema show hosted by Catholic priests in Kahiga-ini village.

He was fond of sneaking out of the forest under cover of darkness to meet friends, collect food and gather information about colonialists and how they were waging the war against Mau Mau fighters.

An African home guard shot the war hero in the leg and captured him on October 21, 1956 as he scrambled to cross a 12-foot-wide ditch that had been dug to deter Mau Mau fighters from contacting villagers.

It was remarkable that a leader of his calibre -- who had eluded a manhunt by white soldiers on foot, land and air -- would be captured so easily.

Wearing a leopard skin and bleeding in pain, Kimathi stared at two intimidating home guards -- Ndirangu and Njogi -- as they captured him. He was alone, hungry and with only two maize cobs and a piece of sugarcane. His capture marked the beginning of the end of the Mau Mau war.

Previously, a concrete slab buried between towering trees and painted in the colours of the Kenyan flag marked the site. The slab was put up by family, friends and people who idolised the hero. But the Nyeri County government is putting up a five-metre statue -- complete with a staircase -- to access the top of the monument.

The area around the monument has been cemented to give it a better look. Barbed mesh wire and concrete posts have been used to fence off the 40m-by-40m shrine. A metallic gate has been put up to reinforce security and keep out uninvited guests.

Barren patch

Numerous commemorative trees planted inside the half-acre shrine by high-profile visitors create a canopy that makes the site look attractive.

The leaders include former area MP Francis Nyamu, former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, former Chief of Defence Forces Julius Karangi, and former Nyeri governors Ndiritu Gachagua and Samuel Wamathai.

A 20-foot pit inside the shrine was dug several years ago for the construction of a latrine, which was not completed. It is covered with several logs to avoid accidents. A few metres away is the spot where Kimathi's blood dripped after he was shot. The patch remains barren, and nothing grows there 62 years later.

Villagers believe that the area is unproductive "because the ground absorbed Kimathi's blood".

But they have never attempted to plant anything on the spot to test their theory, and they fear doing so.

Very few tourists visit the area, most of them former freedom fighters and members of the Kimathi family. The visits happen mostly when commemorating Kimathi's execution by the colonial government. But this is set to change once the monument is completed.

Kimathi was charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition and was sentenced to death. He was hanged at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison in Kiambu on February 18, 1957.

He was buried in an unmarked grave.

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