Senior Chief Njega wa Gioko: Land defender with 80 wives

Senior Chief Njega wa Gioko who ruled over Ndia and Mwea was born in 1865. He is legendary for marrying more than 80 wives, his ?ght with colonialists and today, Njegas area just before Kutus town in Kirinyaga County is named in his honour. Njega wa Gioko was a farmer.

Livestock farming formed part of his wealth, and indeed made him a wealthy person in the standards of the day. The Kikuyu had several age sets and age groups and/or regiments sets. Such included: Karanja (1759-1762), Kinuthia (1772-1775), Nduriri (1785-1788), Mugacho (17981801), Njoroge (1811-1814), Kang’ethe (1824-1827), Gitau (1837-1840), Manyaki (1850-1853), Kiambuthi (1863-1866), Watuke (1876-1879), Ngugi (1889-1892), Wakanene (1902-1905). Other ruling generations that obtained before they were dismantled by the colonial government included: Manjiri 1512 to 1546, Mamba 1547 to 1581, Tene 1582 to 1616, Agu 1617 to 1652, Manduti 1652 to 1686, Cuma 1687 to 1721, Ciira 1722 to 1756, Mathathi 1757 to 1791, Ndemi 1792 to 1826, Iregi 1827 to 1861, Maina 1862 to 1897, and Mwangi 1898 Njega’s Mwea When the colonialists came, they wanted to take some parts of the present day Kirinyaga county.

 Ndia leaders worked hard to stop colonial advance, and particularly the taking of land. Njega was one of the defenders of the land. Known for his strong stands and brevity in defending Mwea from European penetration, Njega employed all tricks in the game to stop it. In all these discourses, geared towards protecting Mwea, Njega went through hard times which were characterized by the following setbacks: He was once taken to Chania Falls (near the present day Blue Post Hotel, Thika Town).

 Here, he was tortured and was expected to announce that “Mwea belongs to the European settlers!” Failure to do so meant that he was to be drowned through the mighty River Chania. Surprisingly, Njega stood his guns. For him, it was no retreat no surrender.

 Instead, he announced, “Mwea ni wa Ndia! Or Mwea belongs to the local people of the present day Kirinyaga. In secret, the Europeans later sub-divided Mwea, put up boundary posts and then went for Njega at his Kiamuthambi base. They implored upon him to accompany them to Mwea to see the demarcating beacons that they had erected. They wanted Njega to sign that he had consented with the ‘new’ arrangement. Upon arrival in the Mwea public gathering, Njega spoke in the local dialect and didn’t allow any translation.

 Conversely, Njega mobilized the people to uproot the beacons that had been erected in Mwea. This annoyed the colonial administrators and settlers. They refused to take him back home and left him in the then bushy parts of Mwea, now Wang’uru Town and its environs. The aim was to see him mauled to death by the wild animals that were common in those bushes then. Surprisingly, he made it and returned to his Kiamuthambi home.

In 1933, Chief Kombo wa Munyiri of Mavuria location of Mbeereland, in the present day Mbeere South Constituency, announced that henceforth, Mwea would be part of his Mavuria Location. Njega swiftly moved to the colonial court where he won the case; and even after an appeal in Nairobi, Njega still won the case.

It is from there that songs were composed in praise of Njega wa Gioko. Njega’s Fourteen Settlements as a farmer, Njega wa Gioko was a farmer with fourteen settlements. These 14 settlements are as follows: Kiorugari (Muratina), Kiarukungu, Kanyangi-ini, Kathigiriri where he had four homes and where we now have Mwea prison, Kirerema also called Kiamanyeki where he had a home near Manjengo, Ndindiruku where he had 3 homes, Kithogondo where he had four homesteads and where we now have Mucii wa Urata Polytechnic, Mianya where there was an old homestead, Karira where Njeru Githae also claimed was his, Ciagi-ini as one of the old homes of Njega and where a butter processing factory had been established to cater for his cow’s milk – though it was later taken over by the National Irrigation Board after the declaration of the State of Emergency in 1952; Kiangage where mother Mutisya lived; Marurumo where Njega’s two wives (Wanjiru and Mugeni who originated from Meru) stayed; Banda Salama; and Kathi-ini.

After the declaration of the State of Emergency in 1952 by the then Governor of colonial Kenya, Sir Evelyn Baring, the shy Governor who had no mercy for Mau-Mau, Njega’s ‘house’ was scattered up. Some of the members of Njega house were taken in diverse colonial detention camps, put in the new villagization that came with the crackdown of Mau-Mau uprising and so on. To date, lots of challenges has faced the kingly family, including, ironically, destitution.

In the twenty ?rst century, some members of Njega’s kinship were pleading that the government provides a common settlement so as to help them build a family bold that has been scattered since 1950s.

On the whole, though Njega was recognized as a Muthamaki (leader of the people), he was officially pronounced an Administrator in 1908, and went on till 8 July 1948. He was buried within his large compound on 9 July 1948, at the present day, Njega Secondary School, where his grave is visible.

Even though it is his large family that buried him, ordinary people raised up funds that built the stone grave that is visible to date.