This week in History

Mashujaa Day: Hot eggs, snakes and gun barrels were thrust up their butts!

Mzee Jomo Kenyatt’s son was among traitors who castrated Mau Mau suspects

Son of Buttocks: Mau Mau suspects being rounded up for interrogation during the State of Emergency in October 1952. There were 15 official interrogation facilities but Kenya’s Governor, Evelyn Baring, allowed illegal ones in Central Kenya and the Rift Valley due to lack of funds and manpower. Interrogators were given nicknames like Son of Buttocks, The Man with No Shirt, The Whip, Karoki (early rise) and Kiboroboro (killer).

By GW Ngari

Editor-at-Large

It was not uncommon to have a hot egg thrust up your butt this week in October 20, 1952. Kenyans celebrate it as Mashujaa Day. Heroes Day. But being a hero then could also have meant inserting a snake up the tooshy of any suspected member of the Mau Mau ragtag militia during Kenya’s war of independence and the ensuing State of Emergency.

Mau Mau suspects also had their nails plucked with pliers. Their mouths were also hammered with spikes on fingers at full force to force confessions on the Mau Mau whose assassination of colonial Paramount Chief Waruhiu wa Kung’u of Kiambu sparked off the State of Emergency. It lasted seven years. Consequences are still being felt over 50 years later.

Mashujaa Day was for years named Kenyatta Day in honour of the day founding President Jomo Kenyatta was arrested with five others on October 20, 1952 for “managing the Mau Mau.”

State-sponsored confessions were done via ‘screening’ sessions featuring the suspect’s skin being burnt live

Kagunia: Also called ‘gakonia,’ these were Kenyan turncoats who wore sacks to single out Mau Mau suspects from open-air parades. Their victims were friends, family, neighbours. Around 150, 000 people in Central Kenya and Nairobi were ‘screened’ to weed out Mau Mau elements and siphon ‘intelligence’ reports. Over 10, 000 died, others were maimed for life and countless detained.
‘…If therefore we are going to sin, we must sin quietly,’ said a Colonial officer to British Ministers on the intended cover up of torture, forced labour and murder of ‘screened’ Mau Mau suspects.  

Jomo Kenyatta was never part of the Mau Mau which was agitating for ‘land and freedom.’ The Mau Mau got the freedom, but majority of them hardly land worth the blood they shed. In fact, Kenyatta’s son Peter Muigai, later MP for Juja was among turncoats who collaborated with colonialists to torture Mau Mau suspects as Harvard University historian Caroline Elkins notes in Britain’s Gulag: The brutal End of Empire in Kenya published in 2005.

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Muigai, Kenyatta’s eldest son with first wife Grace Wahu, was stationed at the Athi River detention camp where state-sponsored confessions were done via ‘screening’ sessions featuring the suspect’s skin being burnt live. Others were beaten with mattock handles before spending hungry days in water pits filled with animal carcasses. Others still, were castrated, had their ears chopped off to weed out Mau Mau adherents, force confessions and gather intelligence on their activities for military use and as court evidence.

To be singled out as a victim, all you needed was a ‘Mau Mau look’ manifested in ‘aura of evil’

Devil on the cross: Peter Muigai, the Juja MP and assistant minister for Foreign Affairs with his dad, President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi (then one of the world’s richest), M.K. Ali and Chief of Protocol, F.K. Nganatha at State House Nairobi in 1976.
Muigai became a turncoat at Athi River Detention Camp during the State of Emergency. He even visited Kenyatta in Lokitaung Prison, a red star on his breast pocket, the symbol of traitors, to update him of his screening activities. Detainees warned Muigai how his father would deal with him once Kenya won its freedom but “it was not until years after the Emergency that former detainees would realize how grossly they had miscalculated both father and son.” Muigai died in a road accident in 1979 at 59. 

The screening team consisted of British soldiers, Kenya Police Force, district officers, Home Guards and other loyalists. Private Vigilance Committees also carried their own screenings. To be singled out as a victim, all you needed was a “Mau Mau look” manifested in ”aura of evil” writes Elkins.

No mercy was shown or torture spared on Mau Mau suspects if the kuhungwo mahuri (or ‘cleaning the lungs’) as the interrogation sessions were called, did not bear fruit. Often, mud was stuffed in a suspect’s mouth and a stick used to push it in.

Jeremiah Kiereini often beat Mau Mau suspects ‘with pairs of pliers, knocked out and broke their teeth with steel covered fists’

Petals of Blood: Mau Mau suspects being photographed before their detention at Lang’ata Camp in Nairobi. But Manyani Detention Camp was the worst hell hole. Suspects were first taken to a cattle dip (there were no cattle there though) which was filled with acaricides-for killing ticks. The chemicals made bodies beaten with mattock handles “itchy and scratchy”. Those unlucky to swallow the chemicals during the involuntary swim suffered bloated tummies and severe pain. Next would be the injections with cattle-size syringes to reduce libido. For sanitation, the cells at Manyani sported a single bucket for long and short calls. Inmates cleaned the buckets with sand, then used them to fetch drinking water.  

Also on hand to help were notorious African rehabilitation assistants like the late former Rift Valley PC Isaiah Mathenge and the late former PS for Defense Jeremiah Kiereini who were brutal to inmates. Kiereini, in particular often beat Mau Mau suspects “with pairs of pliers, knocked out and broke their teeth with steel covered fists,” notes Elkins, adding detainees would be repeatedly beaten to confess or “vomit” the Mau Mau oath.

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The late Kiereini, later a filthy rich former head of the Civil Service turned corporate executive, denied the allegations in his 2014 memoirs, A Daunting Journey. The late Isaiah Mathenge’s daughter Catherine Wangui married Jomo Kenyatta’s nephew, Ngengi Muigai in 1976. President Kenyatta’s wedding gift to the couple was government land!

Among Kenyan communities, the Kikuyu suffered the most as no man, woman or child was spared during the use of “dilution techniques” a system of assaults and psychological shocks to force compliance on African detainees.

After independence in 1963, the Home Guards and other loyalists were rewarded with state jobs, diplomatic appointments besides  lucrative government tenders

Weep Not, Child: Dedan Kimathi Jr chained himself on the statue of his grandpa, freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi in 2014. He was decrying his family’s blighting poverty. Mashujaa, the Heroes inherited nothing but ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’ of the freedom struggle. It wasn’t until 2007 that Dedan Kimathi was honoured with a Sh3 million statue along the street that bears his name by the Mwai Kibaki regime. Kibaki like Kimathi, hailed from Nyeri County.

Then there were the Mau Mau fighters in the forests where they formed African continent’s only peasant revolutionary army. Bare feet and using homemade guns, they kept the British colonialists on their toes for the seven years the State of Emergency lasted.

After independence in 1963, the Home Guards and other loyalists were rewarded with state jobs, diplomatic appointments besides lucrative government tenders that set them off to being part of Kenya’s political and business dynasties-now busy crafting how to have one of their own as president in 2022.

One Reply to “Mashujaa Day: Hot eggs, snakes and gun barrels were thrust up their butts!

  1. Great piece of writing GW Ngari…So sad to learn how Mau Mau fighters experienced torture and killings, and finally other few people got rewarded! Kenyan government should compensate the families of the freedom fighters.

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