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Historic stadium loses its glory

By - | April 4th 2013

By Eric Wainaina

For a stadium that was once held in great esteem, Kirigiti Stadium in Kiambu has deteriorated to inconceivable lows.

The ground is in pathetic condition, to say the least, and only got minor touches on the eve of the swearing-in of Kiambu governor William Kabogo.

A dilapidated chief’s camp and Administration Police post, littered and unkempt compound welcomes you to this facility fondly referred to as the historic stadium by writers and historians. Often you will find boys herding cattle on the grounds.

Previously, public holiday functions would be held here but not anymore; they were transferred to Ndumberi stadium and the only government event held here now is the police and military recruitment of those from Kiambu District.

The stadium is seen as a ‘lucky’ ground as many functions held here have been successful.

Sacred ground

Constructed by the colonial government as a cricket ground, the stadium according to 78-year-old Kimani Charagu, hosted the last meeting to emergency in 1954 held by the founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

Locals unable to pronounce the word ‘cricket’ coined the name Kirigiti.

Mr Charagu, who is also the chairman of vetting board of the Kikuyu Council of Elders-Kiambu chapter, said years of land grabbing has left the stadium smaller than it used to be.

It was here that the outgoing President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga held the last rally to campaign for the new Constitution, which was voted for overwhelmingly through a referendum.

In the run up to elections, President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were at Kirigiti where special prayers where held in their honour.

Charagu says the locals were not allowed to interfere with the ground, which was always kept in good condition.

“You can not compare its current status with the past. The ground has been neglected and today you find livestock grazing, litter everywhere which I feel is a big shame,” Charagu, who says he attended the Kenyatta meeting as a teen, said.

The white men, he said, had first opened the Kiambu Golf Club located about a kilometre away and also had a chamber, which was located opposite the stadium, explaining it significance.

According to Charagu, Kirigiti was also used as meeting place by the Gikuyu, Embu Meru Association led by the late Njenga Karume, who also hailed from the area.

Kikuyu elders also used it during their traditional functions such as recruitment popularly referred to as Mburi cia athuri (Goats for the elders) hence the elderly man adds that it was a sacred ground.

“These are some of the historic and traditional events that people around prefer to hold here due to its significance,” he said, adding that Kikuyu elders use it while making major declarations.

But its not only Kirigiti stadium that has been neglected. Mau Mau veterans say Githunguri stadium is also in a pitiful state.

The ground, according to Njihia Mburu of Mau Mau veterans, was hand-constructed by their women during the colonial era as punishment from the colonialists.

The veterans have been appealing to the Government to honour them by giving the stadium a face-lift and constructing a monument.


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