Miriam Muthoni Mathenge, the wife of Mau Mau freedom fighter Stanley Mathenge wa Mirugi, is bedridden at her home in Laburra village, Nyeri County.
She built the three-bedroomed brick house in 1991. When the Nation team arrived, Miriam was holding a portrait of her husband – General Mathenge – whom she believes is still alive.
Gen Mathenge is said to have been among the people who ignited the Mau Mau rebellion together with Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi. He is presumed to have died in Ethiopia.
Gen Mathenge emerged as a prominent Mau Mau figure in the 1950s. “If you get married and you suddenly get separated, will you really be happy?
I lost my dear Mathenge and it is my wish that the government finds him. I believe I will see him alive. The President should help us get him,” Miriam said. “I once visited him in Ethiopia and I know he is still alive. He is a courageous and wise man.
That probably is why he was retained in Ethiopia where he was working as a miner. I want him back.” Due to illness and advanced age, she does not know that her close friend, Field Marshal Muthoni Kirima, died on September 5 and was buried in Gitungi village, Tetu constituency, days later.
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Miriam and Muthoni met President Ruto, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga at Sagana State Lodge on August 8.
Early this month, Miriam was taken ill and admitted to the High Dependency Unit (HDU) at Nairobi West Hospital. “I visited Miriam Muthoni Mathenge, the widow of Mau Mau veteran General Mathenge Mirugi, at Nairobi West Hospital. I was happy to see that Miriam is recuperating and is out of the HDU. I wish her a quick recovery,” Governor Kahiga posted on Facebook on September 7.
Miriam’s grandson John Gitonga and two health workers from Nairobi West Hospital were busy attending to her when we visited, though he appeared frail.
Miriam had seven children, but only Peter, Lucy and Wambui Mathenge are alive. Gen Mathenge’s fighting capabilities evolved, and he eventually assumed the leadership of the Forty Group – an organisation aligned with the Kenya African Union. He also established Kenya Riigi, a group of fighters dedicated to the independence cause.
During the Mau Mau uprising, policemen stormed Miriam’s house in Gitugi and injured her. Though aged about 104, Miriam recalls going to neighbouring Murang’a after the death of Chief Nderi Wango’mbe.
The Nyeri-based colonial administrator was reportedly killed by Mau Mau fighters on October 22, 1952, days after the murder of senior chief Waruhiu wa Kung’u in Kiambu.
“I remember carrying my daughter Wambui on my back as we navigated the thick Aberdare forest. I had to stop breastfeeding her to get enough energy to walk,” Miriam said. As the struggle for independence dragged on, Miriam was arrested and detained at Kamiti prison.
The government declared a state of emergency and detained many freedom fighters. “There was torture. I was detained three times. I spent seven years in detention.
Many people died there,” she said. After independence, President Jomo Kenyatta gave Miriam 55 acres, where she has lived since 1964.
The family land in Othaya was seized by the British colonial government because of Gen Mathenge’s association with Mau Mau