Field Marshal Baimungi M'Marete's son Wilson Kiremi displays one of the flags given to the fighter by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, at their home in Katheri, Meru. Mr Kiremi said the flag is the only remaining gift that Baimungi received from the government.

| David Muchui | Nation Media Group

Kin of freedom fighter Baimungi still pursuing land given by Jomo

Mr Wilson Kiremi holds tightly and carefully the only piece of paper containing evidence that a 12,000-acre piece of land in Timau, Meru, may have been given to his late father and freedom fighter M’Marete M’Ikandi (Field Marshal Baimungi).

A document seen by the Nation shows the land believed to have been awarded to Baimungi is registered as IR N0 66178/MERU/F.NO/159146 covering 12,086.39 acres.

But 56 years after his death and 58 years after independence, the family is still hoping that the government will hand over the land to them.

Baimungi laid down his arms on December 17, 1963 at Kinoru Stadium under the watch of two powerful ministers, Jackson Angaine and Mbiyu Koinange.

Baimungi was killed by government forces on January 26, 1965 in circumstances that former Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara described as “the first political assassination in independent Kenya”.

He and his group of fighters were accused of defying a government order to leave the forest.

According to Mr Kiremi, the family was never shown his grave, which is believed to be at the Meru town cemetery.

The family also believes they were disinherited from their father’s 12,000-acre land in Timau, awarded to the decorated freedom fighter by Jomo Kenyatta.

“We are still pursuing the land and are in touch with senior government officers, who have promised to ensure the land reverts to the family. My hope to recover the land lasts as long as President Uhuru Kenyatta is in power,” Mr Kiremi said.

Besides the land, Mr Kiremi says they are also pursuing payment of royalties for his late father’s artefacts in the form of guns held by the National Museums of Kenya.

A pile of letters and correspondence with the National Museums, various Lands ministers, including James Orengo, Charity Ngilu, and Jacob Kaimenyi, as well as the office of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and others point to the family’s long struggle to recover their father’s land.

Ms Muthoni Baimungi, widow of the war veteran, died in 2014 after years of a fruitless pursuit of her husband’s land and compensation.

Mr Kiremi says their last thread of hope is a promise made by Mr Kenyatta, when he visited the family in 1999 as the chairman of Kenya Tourism Board.

“At the time, Mr Kenyatta came at the invitation of then MP Gitobu Imanyara. He promised to help the family recover our father’s land and secure compensation for the artefacts. We have been following up this promise for the last 21 years,” Mr Kiremi recounts at their home on the edge of a river valley in Katheri.

After years of a wild goose chase, Mr Kiremi says they managed to confirm that the land in question is registered under his father’s name ‘M’Marete M’Ikandi.

But former Imenti Central MP Kirugi M’Mukindia, who had helped the family in seeking justice, said he is not sure whether the land exists.

“It is true the Baimungi family was mistreated and the State should do something about it. They were left high and dry but it is not too late to help them. Even if they do not get the land they were promised, the government has a way of compensating,” Mr M’Mukindia said in an earlier interview with the Nation.

Dejected, Mr Kiremi claims that the land is occupied by senior politicians and business people in Meru, with records showing up to 10 allotments.

“We have been to Mama Ngina Kenyatta’s home with my mother several times and she also promised to help us recover the land because she is aware of it. But the biggest impediment has been the tycoons and politicians who are occupying it,” he claims.

He maintains that their only hope in securing the land lies with President Kenyatta, as he had promised to do so.

“I would like to remind President Uhuru to honor his promise to this family in 1999. Please know that my mother died seven years ago hoping that you will give her the title deed to our father’s land. She died hoping. I hope I won’t leave my children hoping,” he said.

In the meantime, the family’s only mementos for their father’s sacrifice to the nation are a flag given by Jomo Kenyatta, a portrait given by Meru’s first governor, Peter Munya, and a plaque awarded by the current governor, Kiraitu Murungi.

Mr Kiremi says the family also received Sh200,000 from the county government in 2016 and a further Sh100,000 in 2017 during Mashujaa Day celebrations.

President Kenyatta also gave the family Sh200,000 when he visited in 1999 as chairman of the Kenya Tourism Board.

Elsewhere, a year after Mau Mau war veterans and their descendants in Meru were promised land ownership documents, they are still waiting.

Governor Murungi, Lands Executive Jeremiah Lenya and the Buuri deputy county commissioner at the time, Aisha Kiva, issued allotment letters to 5,000 war veterans and their descendants during last year’s Mashujaa Day celebrations at the Timau stadium.

Mr Murungi said it was a shame that many Mau Mau heroes never got the land they had selflessly fought for during the freedom struggle.

“Descendants of Mau Mau (fighters) were dumped in Timau as squatters and we have decided to celebrate this year’s Mashujaa Day here as respect for the sacrifices made by the families during the war. We will ensure you get your land titles,” Mr Murungi said.

He said the National Land Commission, the Lands ministry and the county department of lands collaborated in identifying the families of those who fought for independence and who qualified to be issued with titles.

The national government, through the sub-county commissioner, was tasked with ensuring that unscrupulous persons did not manipulate the system to deny deserving families their rights.

But a year later, those issued with the documents are still waiting for communication from the county and national governments on the way forward.

Mr Joel Mwariama, the son of freedom fighter Field Marshal Musa Mwariama, said although the documents had been issued, little had been done over the past 12 months.

“It is sad that politicians use us to achieve their objectives. Every year during Mashujaa Day celebrations people sweetly tell us that they will take care of our needs but they don’t follow up. We are used to empty promises,” Mr Mwariama said.

Contacted for a comment, Mr Lenya said the process was still underway.

“We have completed (verifying) the documents and our teams are on the ground ascertaining that the sizes of land stated on the allotment letters are the same ones on the ground with owners recorded on the papers,” Mr Lenya said yesterday by phone.