Kenya: We Were Betrayed, Says Veteran of Mau Mau War

20 October 2020

At the heart of a densely forested area in Laburra village on the Nyeri-Nyahururu highway, Miriam Muthoni wa Mathenge basks in the sun on her 55-acre piece of land.

The widow of Mau Mau war veteran General Stanley Mathenge wa Mirugi, says the land was gifted to her for participating in the struggle for independence.

General Mathenge, who is presumed dead in Ethiopia, is believed to be one of those who started the Mau Mau rebellion alongside Dedan Kimathi.

But despite being the widow of a revered freedom fighter, and also being a Mau Mau war veteran, Ms Muthoni still struggles.

As Kenya marks this year's Mashujaa Day today, Ms Muthoni has little to smile about as she recounts unfulfilled promises by the government to those that fought for the country's liberation.

"They stayed in the forests for more than 10 years, took an oath to liberate this country from the colonial masters, only for their efforts to be betrayed like this," she says. Ms Muthoni is baffled that she is never invited to Mashujaa Day celebrations in both levels of government.

"Freedom does not come cheap ... there was a lot of family sacrifices and compromises that went into it. I would like to see Kenyans being patriotic," she tells the Nation in an interview.

Recognition

She says the government has not done enough to recognise and assist freedom fighters. Save for the farm she was awarded by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Ms Muthoni says there is nothing much to show for her part in the struggle.

"To date, I have no access road to my home, neither do I have access to piped water in my homestead. We rely on rainfall and a seasonal stream on the farm," she says.

Ms Muthoni is passionate about trees and conservation of the environment and it's evident from the forest of trees in her home.

"Charcoal burners and people cutting down trees ... they approach me and I refuse," she says.

Though General Mathenge is believed to have crossed the Ethiopia border after the collapse of the rebellion, Ms Muthoni is optimistic that one day he will return home to her.

Ms Muthoni says she last saw him in Munyange, Othaya in Nyeri, where he was hiding during the war.

"He then disappeared without a trace until word spread that he was in Ethiopia," she says.

Precious memories

Though age has caught up with her, she has the memory of an elephant - narrating how the freedom fighters meandered in the Aberdare forest and their hideout.

Ms Muthoni, who relies on her two children for financial support, attributes her immobility to the blows, kicks and gunshot wounds she suffered during the resistance. Evidence of it is in the scars on her feet.

"We were beaten up like animals. We witnessed deaths in the forest and maiming of people who would be left to be eaten by dogs ... it was terrible and we suffered," she says.

She wants the government to give her a car that will ease her movement, especially while being seeking medical attention at the local health facility.

Ms Muthoni says she suffered most after the disappearance of her husband and was even detained for eight years at the Kamiti Women Maximum Prison alongside Mama Ngina Kenyatta.

"My offence was failing to disclose the whereabouts of my husband ... they whipped me. At the prison I was tasked to clean lorries that ferried bodies," she narrates.

She also wants to be given the monthly stipend allocated to the elderly, noting that she has never received any money from the government to sustain her.

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