Unsung heroes of freedom struggle

Mzee Ibrahim Hamisi at his home in Majengo, Nanyuki. [Olivia Murithi/Standard]
Aged dwellers of a slum in Nanyuki town that gave refuge to the nation’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta have bitter memories.

The slum located on the outskirts of Nanyuki town is said to have been used by Mau Mau fighters and was a place where strategies for formation of the Kenya African Union (KAU) were laid.

Some elderly descendants gave accounts to The Standard on the experience they had with the colonialists days after the slum hosted Mzee Kenyatta who had sought refuge at the time the colonial government was looking for him before the State of Emergency.

Among the victims of the colonial torture at the slum was Mzee Hamisi Ibrahim Kamwengo, 80, whose mother was a KAU representative and a Mau Mau oath administrator.

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As a teenager, Kamwengu (right) lost his right eye after it was gouged in an effort to have him reveal the whereabouts of his mother, who was believed to have hidden Kenyatta.

Some relatives of Mzee Kamwengu were founding members of KAU, which was instrumental in pushing for Kenya's independence.

“I see myself as a shujaa (hero) since we faced a lot of physical and psychological torture due to the actions taken by our parents and grandparents against the colonialists.

“I have been living with eye disability for close to 60 years, all because we hosted Mzee Kenyatta in our house. Mzee had sought refuge in Majengo because he could not find peace in Embu or Nyeri, since there were intelligence reports that he was being hunted there,” Kamwengu said.

His mother Fatima Mutune was later captured and taken to detention.

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According to Kamwengu, Kenyatta, dressed in a buibui, escaped the colonialists’ dragnet.

Despite their kin having been tortured and their property seized, Kamwengu said successive governments had neither recognised them nor given them any form of aid.

“Most of the people here are living poor and in desperate state despite their forefathers having fought for the liberation from colonialists. We have never benefited from the previous governments or the current one. We do not even own land,” said Kamwengu.

His mother, a freedom fighter, died poor in 2007. She was aged 90. None of the slum's residents has a title deed.

Kamwengu’s first son, Ibrahim Fuadih Hamisi, said his father struggled to raise seven children.

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Halima Kokugonza, another brood of a freedom fighter, shared Kamwengu’s sentiments.

Halima, born of a Tanzanian father and a Meru mother, said when she was eight years, her family suffered a lot since her parents were involved in the independence liberation.

Halima’s father was introduced to the slum by KAU founders. By then the slum was inhabited mostly by Kikuyu and Meru tribesmen.

“I was a child but l could understand what my parents were involved in. Oaths used to be administered at our house and my dad had joined KAU after he quit as a chief. When the state of emergency started, we were being woken up at dawn, taken outside our houses and tortured,” Halima said.

The 70-year-old retired teacher said her parents also died poor and the plots they own at Majengo have no title deeds.

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