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You're our son don't neglect us, Mau Mau war veterans tell Gachagua

Some of the Mau Mau war veterans display a letter to Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua to honour their pledge including the allocation of land. [Kibata Kihu,Standard]

During campaigns, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua reminded all and sundry that he was a son of the Mau Mau.

Gachagua was essentially telling Kenyans that being of Mau Mau bloodline, known for fighting the colonialists, he would fight to the end and deliver.

After Kenya Kwanza won, Gachagua’s boss President William Ruto likened the Hustlers Nation movement to the freedom fighters of yesteryear. The president and his deputy thereby displayed their recognition and respect for the Mau Mau.

And as they spoke, some of the men and women who fought that war back in the 1950s were listening.

“I fully agree with the president that we were the ‘hustlers’ of the 1950s and we celebrate his deputy for unapologetically reminding Kenyans that he is the son of the Mau Mau. But just like today’s hustler, we were left to look up at those that took government as if they (leaders) were insurmountable mountains.

“I sincerely hope that what the president is saying today is heartfelt and will be followed with action,” said Mau Mau War Veterans Association (MMWVA) secretary general Gitu wa Kahengeri.

On October 7, Mzee Kahengeri chaired a meeting by the association in Gachagua’s home county of Nyeri.

“After hearing Gachagua refer to himself as a son of the Mau Mau on several occasions, I took it upon myself to research the veracity of his statement. On contacting our members who come from the same area as the DP and on perusing our records, I realised Gachagua’s mother Martha Kirigo Gachagua was a member of MMWVA,” said Kahengeri.

According to MMWVA’s records, Mrs Gachagua is listed as member number 171 from Hiriga village, Ngorano sub-location, Ruguru location, Mathira sub-county, Nyeri County.  

“This makes Gachagua, truly a son of the Mau Mau and he should do what sons do; assist parents when they grow old and incapable of fending for themselves,” said Kahengeri, 96.

The Nyeri meeting was to seek an audience with the DP so that as parents we can tell him what we require of him as the second-in-command.

After the meeting, Kahengeri wrote to the DP on issues affecting surviving members of Mau Mau and their families.

“We will remind him of our suffering as we battled the British war machine for seven years to liberate our country from colonialism,” he said.

In an interview with The Standard, Kahengeri said it was time leaders looked back and realised how far the freedom fighters had brought this country.

“We have never been appreciated for what we did by successive governments. We would therefore through the deputy president urge to be recognised, appreciated and rewarded,” he said.

He noted that many freedom fighters were murdered and buried in mass graves.

“We want the government to identify these sites and build remembrance monuments in these places that are scattered across the country,” said Kahenjeri.

Kahengeri says October 20 is important to the Mau Mau as it’s after the arrest of the Kapenguria Six that the young generation of the 1950s declared unsling the guns, no one will live forever.

The struggle for independence had moved from underground to guerilla warfare.

Apart from President Mwai Kibaki who repealed the proscription of Mau Mau in 2003, no other government has done anything substantive to assist those who fought for independence.

In fact, when the freedom fighters took the British government to court for atrocities committed by its forces during the emergency period, they had to depend on well-wishers for legal fees and other expenses, including travel to London.

On February 17, 2016, former President Uhuru Kenyatta gave an audience to officials of MMWVA following a chance meeting the president had with Kahengeri. They presented a petition, which among others called for a presidential gazette notice declaring the Mau Mau freedom struggle noble and just.

They also asked Uhuru to initiate the writing of the struggle’s history for the benefit of current and future generations.

The MMWVA officials pleaded with Uhuru to support the surviving freedom fighters by providing them with National Hospital Insurance Fund cards and stipends.

“Among other things, we also requested the former president to establish symbolic settlement schemes for the freedom fighters on lands that they recovered through tears, sweat and blood,” said Kahengeri.

The officials also asked Uhuru to grant a sizeable number of their members a visit to State House to have a feel of the freedom they fought for and bless the occupant of the house on the Hill.

Uhuru promised to actualise the visit soonest but by the time he left office, last month, it was still a dream.

On May 26, Kahengeri said, he wrote a letter to the former president reminding him of the request.

“We are confidently looking forward to the day when you will invite us to the State House lawn before the end of your presidency”. State House did not respond to the letter.