Until her death on Thursday night, Mukami Kimathi, the widow of Kenya’s freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi, had always wished to be given the remains of her late husband so she could give him a decent burial.
The widow of the veteran freedom fighter wanted the Kenyan government to help her find her husband’s remains from the former colonial administration which not only captured her husband in 1956 at Kahigaini the Aberdare ranges, but also executed him in 1957 in Kamiti Prison.
The last information she, alongside her family, ever heard of her husband from both the Kenyan and British governments was that Dedan Kimathi was buried somewhere in Kamiti Maximum Prison where he was taken after his arrest.
During one of the interviews by the Nation on December 12 last year, she said: “I want to be shown my husband’s grave. I want to know where he was buried. No one knows where my Kimathi was buried except the British government and I want President William Ruto and King Charles to intervene in this matter.
“I do not want to die before being showed the exact place where my husband was buried. I want to see the remains of my Kimathi before I go. I do not have long to live and this matter has been a thorn in my flesh.”
All the efforts by the family to help their matriarch find the body of her husband did not bear fruit. At one time, one the freedom fighter’s grandsons chained himself at the Dedan Kimathi monument on Kimathi Street.
“Our mother, the wife of a national hero, was not helped to find the remains of our father. We have been to Kamiti Prison several times seeking details on where exactly our father was buried but we have never received any help,” her daughter Nyawira Kimathi said in an interview.
The quest for finding the remains of their patriarch started as far back as in the 1980s, when they kept asking the State to help them locate their father’s final resting place. So serious was their appeal that it received global attention that saw several States, including Argentina, offer to come and scan every bit of Kamiti to help them identify where Kimathi was buried.
According to the family, Ms Mukami died on Thursday night at a Nairobi hospital where she was rushed to for treatment.
Her daughter, Nyawira Kimathi, who lived with her mother at their Komarock home in Nairobi, said Mukami developed breathing problems and was rushed to the hospital on Thursday night where she died shortly after. In her prime, Ms Kimathi enjoyed immense privileges and powers during the regimes of former presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Mwai Kibaki.
Mau Mau freedom fighters interviewed by the Saturday Nation yesterday revealed that during the two regimes, the presence and role of Ms Mukami and the Maumau, were more felt and recognised. Mzee Mwangi Njoroge, the Mau Mau Association Nyandarua Secretary, disclosed that during Jomo Kenyatta’s regime, Ms Mukami was a nominated councillor at the Nyandarua County Council, with two Land Rovers and security.
“Mzee Kenyatta remained very close to the widow, it was during the Kanu regime that she was nominated as a councillor, but I can’t remember for how many terms. But she was very influential and had the ears of Mzee Kenyatta,” revealed Mr Njoroge.
“She is actually the one who pioneered the fight to have Nyahururu town be part of Nyandarua district, since all the district headquarters were in Nyahururu town, but she lost the fight during the Moi era when former powerful Minister Geoffrey Gitahi Kariuki used her position to have Nyahururu placed in Laikipia County, which was then in Rift Valley Province. Initially, Nyahururu was in Central Province.
GG Kariuki was very loyal to the Kanu government and a friend to late President Daniel Moi, and since he had some assets in Nyahururu town and a farm in Laikipia, he wanted his wealth under one administration,” added Mr Njoroge.
The freedom fighter recalls that Mzee Kenyatta gave Ms Mukami the Kinangop farm in Njabini, Nyandarua County, which automatically qualified her to be a Nyandarua nominated councillor. “The main reason there was a delay in bringing Nyahururu town to Nyandarua was that Nyandarua had no land to construct the headquarters, the current Ol Kalou town was still a private farm owned by colonial farmer Mr Morgan,”explained the freedom fighter.
According to another freedom fighter, Mzee Joseph Kimani, her presence was less felt during President Moi’s tenure, apart from when she lobbied for Mau Mau freedom fighters’ rights accusing post-independence governments of neglecting them. She would spring back soon after, during President Kibaki’s tenure. Kibaki’s government was the first to recognise Mau Mau in 2002, lifting a colonial-era law that banned the Mau Mau group after. “In honour of the freedom fighter, the late President Kibaki unveiled a statue of Dedan Kimathi as a first step in honouring thousands of freedom fighters killed during an uprising against British rule in the 1950s,” Mzee Kimani told the Nation. “It was during this time that Ms Kimathi was accorded national status. She was given personal security at home with two security vehicles at her disposal,” added Mzee Kimani.
The Kibaki government also constructed for her a decent house in Njabini. “She was accorded VIP security from Nairobi. Her security affairs were managed from Nairobi and not at the county level. The county government was never involved. VIP protection for persons recognised as national leaders is managed and coordinated from Nairobi,” Nyandarua County Police Commander Mr Omar Arero told the Nation yesterday. Yesterday, a sombre mood engulfed Njambini village in Kinangop, Nyandarua County, her rural home. Relatives and residents could be seen streaming in and out of the home to condole with the family. Family members and friends interviewed by the Nation described Mukami as a humble, honest and courageous person.
Although relatives, neighbours and friends accept Ms Kimathi death as natural due to age, they admit she died bitter for not having fulfilled her desire to give her husband a decent burial. Yesterday, leaders led by President William Ruto, his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta, and opposition leader Raila Odinga celebrated the life of s Kimathi, describing her as a heroine of Kenya’s independence. “Mama Mukami Kimathi will be remembered alongside other icons of Kenya’s freedom struggle who laid down their lives and made self-sacrifices for the sake of our country’s independence.
Mama Mukami courageously withstood the brutality of colonial oppression, proudly wore the scars of battle, and bore the terrible losses of war with admirable fortitude,” said the President.
He went on: “She was a steadfast patriot and well-known champion for national unity who inspired many Kenyans of all ages to cherish our country and stand ready to defend our values.”
DP Gachagua described Mama Mukami as Kenya’s “symbol of our resilience and our struggle.” Mr Gachagua, who was among the first leaders who arrived at the Lee Funeral Home shortly after 8am, said Mukami was an inspiring figure to all Kenyans.
“We want to say this is a great loss to all of us. Mukami Kimathi was a symbol of resilience, an icon of our freedom. We treasure her life here on earth. She had been the mother of our liberation struggle and has been the beacon of hope surrounding freedom fighters and their descendants,” the DP said.
Mr Kenyatta described Mrs Kimathi as “an enduring symbol of Kenya’s liberation struggle.”