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Dedan Kimathi: He thought Holy Bible was written… just for him

Field Marshal believe God had guided his grandmother’s hand and had chosen him to be the head of the whole tribe  

White Kikuyu: Ian Henderson was nicknamed Kinyanjui. He spoke fluent Kikuyu having lived near Nyeri. He knew how best to capture Kimathi using ‘local knowledge.’

By GW Ngari


 Freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi, whose grave is said to have finally been located at Kamiti Maximum Prison (but Interior Ministry has since dismissed the find), 62 years after he was hanged, thought highly of himself.

Never mind his age mates often thought him a coward since he became a man inside a clinic and by dipping himself in a river for the cut. That was what Ian Henderson, the ruthless British colonial officer who led the search party for his capture gathered about Kimathi.

See, Henderson,  nicknamed Kinyanjui, spoke fluent Kikuyu. Although he went to The Prince of Wales School (now Nairobi School), his family lived in the outskirts of Nyeri, which was why he was chosen to lead Kimathi’s man hunt.

A year after he captured Kimathi in 1956, Henderson, who died in Bahrain in April 2013 aged 86, had the episode captured in a book, a brilliant piece of colonial propaganda titled Man Hunt in Kenya, by Philip Goodhart. 

See, unlike other liberation and even terrorist organizations, the Mau Mau did not have a communication department to spearhead their cause. The British did. They used V.O.K. (today KBC)  and The East African Standard to paint Kimathi bad.

Kimathi thought himself as ‘Popular Prime Minister of the southern Hemisphere’

Prisoners of War: Unlike the British colonial government, the Mau Mau war machine did not have a propaganda department to tell its side of the story. Info was thus one sided.

Then there were authors like Goodhart through whom we can get to see the other side of Kimathi in the forest where he led his untrained army that used homemade guns.

Captured Mau Mau fighters told Henderson that Kimathi had nicknamed himself “Prime Minister Sir Dedan Kimathi” and “popular Prime Minister of the southern Hemisphere.”

He cemented his image in the eyes of the fighters during a forest ceremony in which he bestowed himself the title, K.C.A.E. That is “Knight Commander of the African Empire”-long before the country honoured him with an estate, high school, university and a monument along a street named after him in Nairobi.   

Kimathi had many things going well for him. For one, he was a magnetic, compelling orator who at “times he seemed to believe the Bible was especially written for him.” That his grandmother dipped her finger in a goat’s horn, before she died, and sprinkled water on his head made Kimathi believe God had “guided his grandmother’s hand and had chosen him to be the head of the whole tribe,”   recalls Henderson.  

 Henderson used Mau Mau turncoats in betraying, tracking, capturing Kimathi who was tried and hanged, effectively ending the Mau Mau war and with it, the State of Emergency that lasted seven years to 1959.

Freedom hero was nicknamed ‘Njangu’ meaning rough and treacherous

Man Hunt in Kenya, paints a disturbingly variegated picture of Kimathi,  the freedom hero nicknamed ‘Njangu’ (rough and treacherous) for being proficiently endowed in the violence department as the  Mau Mau army he commanded was said to have “killed nearly a hundred times as many Africans as Europeans,” according to Henderson.   

Viciousness aside, his lack of scruples, recalls Henderson, and dabbling in subversive nocturnal undertakings besides spear heading massive oathing ceremonies made Kimathi popular in Central Kenya where his educational attainments were “pitiably small by Western standards, but they were substantial in comparison with his fellow Kikuyu.”

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