Dedan Kimathi

The late Mau Mau hero Dedan Kimathi.

| File

Dedan Kimathi: How Angel of Death is killing grave search

The race to locate the remains of Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi is becoming increasingly urgent, with loud whispers of discontent from remaining freedom fighters and leaders that the issue is becoming a wild goose chase.

They fear that the angel of death is striking faster than the government's commitment to facilitate the search for the Mau Mau leader's body at Kamiti Maximum Prison.

In what is turning out to be a black year for the Mau Mau freedom fighters, a number of high profile heroes have died within months of each other, each death further diminishing the chances of the decades-old search.

Since May, when the wife of Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi died, the country has buried at least one Mau Mau icon every month.

The first commitment by President William Ruto's government to facilitate the search for the body was made in May during the funeral of Dedan Kimathi's widow, Mukami Kimathi, at her Njabini home in Nyandarua.

Governor Kiarie Badilisha, whose administration set up a team of experts to document Mau Mau history, says not an inch has been moved to locate the body.

"The person who was supposed to take us to the grave was Brigadier John Kiboko, but he fell ill shortly after burying Mrs Mukami Kimathi and later died. The issue is not dead but we are appealing to the national government to expedite its part of the facilitation, the Mau Mau fighters and the people of Nyandarua have been crying out for a long time," said Governor Badilisha.

He added, “We can't enter the prison to conduct the search without the express permission of the national government. I am ready to mobilise the remaining Mau Mau fighters from all over the country and facilitate their stay in Nairobi during the search until the body is found.”

"This is a very important issue for the Mau Mau, for Kenyan history, for the people of Nyandarua and for Kimathi's family. It's time we dealt with the matter and put it behind us. I have been pushing the matter with the national government which is still committed," said Governor Badilisha.

The late Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi is said to have been buried at Kamiti Maximum Prison.

For many freedom fighters, this burial has kept his spirit in bondage and the current generation owes the freedom fighter a proper burial.

Those who have died this year include the widow of Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi's Mukami in May, General Elijah Muraya in June, Brigadier John Kiboko who was buried last month, and Ms Muthoni Kirima who died last week.

Most of these heroes and heroines, like other freedom fighters, died with many secrets about Kenya's history, including details that could help locate Dedan Kimathi's grave.

"The government must urgently seek the help of the remaining Mau Mau freedom fighters to locate the remains of Dedan Kimathi. People like Brigadier Kiboko, who was supposed to lead the search for Kimathi's unmarked grave, are dead and others are ill. The government should move quickly to locate the remains," said John Kienye, a freedom fighter.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, who identifies himself as a Mau Mau descendant, promised to lead the process by involving those who may know the location of the grave.

"I am going to call a meeting of 10 Mau Mau leaders, the elders from the 11 Mt Kenya counties. We will meet in Sagana soon and plan how they will go to Kamiti and stay there, even if it takes months," said Mr Gachagua.

Mau Mau general Kihiko Kabue, who is also chairman of the Nyandarua Mau Mau Association Forum, says the search should be expedited.

"We are frustrated and pained by the death of Brigadier Kiboko because he was sure of the exact spot where Kimathi was buried," said General Kihiko.

"The brigadier had secretly told us that Kimathi's grave had been guarded for a week for fear we would steal his body. He told us about a man who bought tea and mandazi for the colonial soldiers during the week they guarded the grave. We should locate the remains before time runs out," said General Kihiko.

General Kihiko says the journey is not over yet and the freedom fighters will meet to discuss how to speed up the recovery of Kimathi's body and Mau Mau documentation.

With the death of their colleagues, the surviving freedom fighters say they feel like orphans.

Until her death in May, Mrs Kimathi, Dedan Kimathi’s widow, was determined to find her late husband's body and give him a decent burial.

The veteran freedom fighter's widow wanted the Kenyan government to help her find her husband's remains from the former colonial administration, which not only captured her husband at Kahigaini in the Aberdare Mountains in 1956, but also executed him at Kamiti Prison in 1957.

In an interview with the Nation last year, she said:  "I want my husband's grave to be identified. I want to know where he is buried. I want President William Ruto and King Charles to intervene in this matter," she told the Nation at her Komarock home.

"I do not want to die before I am shown the exact place where my husband was buried. I want to see my husband's remains. I do not have long to live and this matter has been a thorn in my flesh," she added.

A grandson of the freedom fighter once chained himself to the Dedan Kimathi monument on Kimathi Street.

"Our mother, the wife of a national hero, has not been helped to find our father's remains. We have been to Kamiti Prison several times to find out exactly where our father is buried, but we have never received any help," said her daughter, Nyawira Kimathi.

The search for the remains of their patriarch began in the 1980s, when Argentina offered to help with the search in Kamiti's maximum security prisons.

Attempts to contact the British government through the Family Life Healing Initiative (Falihein) group have hit a brick wall.

Mr Kimathi's family wrote to the British government through Falihein on November 23 last year, asking for information on where their loved one was buried so that they could give him a dignified funeral.

Falihein chairman Joseph Njoroge questioned why the British government had not yet released Mr Kimathi's remains when other former colonial powers had done so as soon as they left their colonies.

These include the German government, which released the head of Chief Mukwana of the Hehe tribe shortly after Tanzania, then known as Tanganyika, gained independence.

The British government also released the remains of a woman it had arrested to 'study the growth of African female parts' after the release of the late South African president Nelson Mandela.

This was also the case with the Belgian government which, through its royalty, returned a tooth of the former and late Prime Minister of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba.