Who Really Killed Dedan Kimathi?
By Warris Kimathi
Over the past few weeks, Kenyans have yet again found themselves talking about Dedan Kimathi, the Country’s most Iconic liberation hero.
As details of how Kimathi’s elderly wife Mukami has had to beg for money to cover for hospital bills, many have pointed angry fingers at the government of the day for neglecting their heroes.
What many of these infuriated netizens fail to recognize, however, is how far back the betrayal of Dedan Kimathi by his own Country goes.
The whole story begins in Tetu, in the early hours of October 21st, 1956.
Dedan Kimathi, a stocky yet quick ex-soldier is dressed in a leopard skin headdress complete with a cloak of similar fashion.
He has been visiting his wife in Secret, having crossed over the treacherous trench that surrounds the reserve village in the dead of the night.
As he leaps over the sharp spikes into the trench below, he hears sounds in the forest ahead.
He’s quick to duck, but the two men concealed by the leaves of Mugumo, Miringa nad and other trees have already seen his nappy-haired head disappearing under the spikes.
These two men are Ndirangu and Wanjohi, heroes then, but now villains in Kenya’s skimpy Independence Saga.
Ndirangu was the first to notice, at first he thought he’d seen a leopard and quickly signalled to Wanjohi to be cautious.
They had been lurking in the forest for hours now, donned in <span;>kapturas <span;>and armed with rifles.
After years of the scathing Operation Advil, the Colonial government had finally gathered credible intelligence that Kimathi would be here to see us his wife this night.
The plan was to capture the Mau Mau leader dead or alive.
As Ndirangu and his Compadre lay in wait for the leopard’s next move, rifles at ready, Kimathi made the mistake that would cost him his life.
He suddenly decided to make a run for it and started running across the wide ditch from the side bordering the Kikuyu village to the forest tree line.
When he reached the edge, it was too steep, he hesitated for a moment, his World War II instincts kicking in.
He quickly resolved to run back and climb out of the ditch on the opposite edge.
As he ran back, Ndirangu saw him, aimed his rifle from up above, and fired.
The bullet rang through the silent Mount Kenya forest, startling scores of birds from the nearby trees.
Kimathi dropped to the ground, and the two Homeguards suddenly sounded an alarm to the rest of the battalion rummaging through the early morning forest dew.
Ndirangu’s Bullet had torn open Kimathi’s inner thigh, rendering him immobile.
He is arrested where he fell, and bundled into a waiting police Land Rover truck. A small pistol is found tucked in his loins, a major crime in Kenya at the time.
His capture became instant international news, with celebrations breaking out in many White households across the Colony and beyond.
At the time, Kimathi was one of the most wanted persons in the entire British Empire.
News of hus arrest was announced over loudspeakers in many parts of the country.
In Machakos district, some African women loyal to the colonial regime were rehearsing to welcome Princess Margaret from England, and when the news of Kimathi’s capture was broadcast on loudspeakers cheers broke out in the group.
Later, Kimathi was moved to Nyeri Hospital for an operation to remove the bullet from his thigh.
Outside the hospital, asmall crowd of Kikuyu tribesmen gathered to catch a glimpse of the Mau Mau leader.
Dr PP Turner, a surgeon who was the Head Surgeon in Nyeri told the court on November 23rd that he believed Dedan Kimathi was epileptic.
“During the operation he suffered seizures which might have caused him severe headaches and mental problems.” Dr. Turner said.
When he was eventually brought to court, Kimathi told his counsel Frederick Miller that he had lived in the forest for almost four years but he had parted ways with most of his companions in early 1954.
He further insisted that said that except for three leaders who had been friendly to him, the other remaining Mau Mau generals were opposed to a letter he had written offering to negotiate with the Mzungu government.
He said, “When the three friendly leaders told me my life was in danger I decided to relocate to another hiding place deep in the forest.”
Miller asked him, “since then have you carried out any anti-british, anti-african or any other normal activities?”
To which Kimathi answered, “Not even previous to that.”
Kimathi also said that a pistol which had been found on him when he was arrested was given to him in April 1955 by a man called Macharia Kimemia to defend himself against Mau Mau, who he said wanted to kill him.
Kimemia I had warned kimathi that his enemies had increased within the Mau Mau and therefore he needed to be careful.
The Field Marshall told the court that he had not fired a gun before while in the forest.
Mr Miller, Kimathi’s government-appointed defense lawyer, asked him why he had not left the forest if he knew the Mau Mau Wanted him dead.
“Because there was a 500 Sterling Pound reward on my head and I knew if I came out either the police or homeguards would kill me to get the money.
I have been writing secretly to the government to meet them because I knew that if I met them and came out with them I would avoid getting shot.” Replied Kimathi.
At this point, Mr D.W Conroy, who was the Solicitor General and who was Prosecuting the case interjected saying,
“The government denies that any letters offering to surrender were written.”
Upon cross-examination in court by the Solicitor General, kimathi admitted to calling himself Field Marshall President of the Kenya Parliament, Knight commander of the African Empire and Supreme Commander in Chief of Kenya and the land Freedom Army.
Kimathi was detained in Kamiti for the duration of his bizarre court trial.
After the trial, which was conducted by a white judge and a mock all-African Jury, Kimathi was sentenced to hanging for the possession of an illegal firearm, a capital offense during the emergency years of the 1950s.
In early 1957, Kimathi’s day came, and he asked to spend the night with a Catholic priest in his cell.
The next morning, he was hanged by rope until dead.
Dedan Kimathi was first Celebrated as a hero in October 1962 at an exhibition organized by Mr ambul Patel Amana in Nairobi.
The exhibition was opened by Tom Mboya, and it described Kimathi as “Field Marshall Sir Dedan Kimathi, the great hero of the forest Army —and also displayed many of his photos.
The Kimathi exhibition provoked the anger of both the government and white settlers.
Dedan Kimathi was born in Tetu in 1923. Between 1949 and 1950, he worked as a teacher at Karumani School in Ol kalau.
In 1951 Kimathi worked as a clerk at South Tetu Dairy before joining Shell Oil Company at Thomson Falls as a clerk.
Towards the end of the same year, Jomo Kenyatta personally appointed him as Kenya Africa Union Secretary at Thompson Falls.
Dedan Kimathi took to the forests in December 1952, when the colonial government launched a Crackdown on Kenya African union leaders at the beginning of Operation Advil.