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Dedan Kimathi varsity built 'over the body' of a racist

By Amos Kareithi | May 2nd 2022 | 2 min read


President Uhuru Kenyatta unveils a commemorative plaque to mark the official opening of the Semi-Conductors Technologies factory at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology's Science and Technology Park (DeST-Park) in Nyeri County. [Mose Sammy, Standard]


When a white supremacist was approached by African leaders to sell part of his land in the white highlands so a technical institute could be established, he was livid.

Johnston Rex Ronald Hope, who was a coffee planter, had named his expansive estate in Nyeri, Gungunyumu, (dry firewood) to depict how tough he was.

He declared the proposed institute could only be constructed on his land over ‘his dead body.’ What Hope did not comprehend was that the winds of change had blown in Kenya and swept aside the colonial administration.

This was in 1960s and Africans were determined to right some of the wrongs that had been perpetrated by the imperialists by establishing learning institutions that would cater for the needs of the Kenyan child.

He was the “king of the whites” in Nyeri and was the president of the Nyeri Golf club. It had strict rules of who was  allowed into the premises. So strict were the rules that women of whatever colour including whites were not allowed in.

But the president’s wife stormed the club accompanied by other white women and embarrassed Hope. He, however, refused to compromise on land but leaders from Nyeri pressed on their demand and when the settler refused to budge, they went a notch higher.

They approached President Jomo Kenyatta who directed that the land be compulsorily acquired. True to his vow, Hope died long before Kimathi Institute of Science and Technology was established in 1972.

The institute named after Dedan Kimathi opted to use the manacled wrists of the freedom fighter to symbloise how people were still shackled by ignorance.

This is best captured by Michael Waweru, former Kenya Revenue Authority Director General, in his memoir, Kenya’s Tax Czar. He recalls how Mrs Hope, the settler’s widow, once approached him when he was managing an audit firm in Nyeri.

She had a burning tax issue which needed to be untangled and she believed was beyond the grasp of an African. When she went to the audit firm and found Waweru in charge she was disillusioned.

Mrs Hope approached Waweru on a tax matter and he solved it to her satisfaction. However, she hated Africans so much that she took her business away from Pannell Bellhouse Mwangi (PBM) anyway. At the time, Waweru was the manager of the PBM Nyeri branch, one of the oldest audit firm established by Africans in 1926 in Nakuru.

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