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Villains became heroes who should never be forgotten

NATIONAL
By Amos Kareithi | October 19th 2021

All adults were guilty of being Mau Mau and were subjected to forced labour. [File, Standard]

An estimated 30,000 people had unwittingly signed to witness the beginning of the end. The convenor Senior Chief Waruhiu Kungu never did things in half measures and on this day he was determined to arm-twist politicians to disown Mau Mau.

But when senior chief Josiah Njonjo Mugane took the podium on September 24, 1952, the people started walking out when he proclaimed Africans were not yet ready for self-governance. Special squads of riot police transported from Nairobi to deal with mob trouble expectantly waited.

But reason prevailed when Jomo Kenyatta warned the people not to walk into that trap, he inadvertently tripped himself when he ambiguously declared “may Mau Mau disappear like the roots of Mikongoe". The Mau Mau wanted Mr Kenyatta dead for disowning them and the government was convinced that he had cryptically advised Mau Mau to go underground to avoid detection.

Two weeks later, Mr Waruhiu, was killed by a Mau Mau hit man triggering the declaration of a curfew in Kiambu and later the Mt Kenya region. This caused a series of events that plunged the country into political turmoil that lasted more than 10 years.

Top Criminal Investigation Department detectives were fetched from Uganda and Tanzania to get Waruhiu's assassins. At the same time, the government mounted a military operation against civilian population that saw 12 Royal Air force aircraft deployed from Suez Canal.

And on the night of October 20, 1952, the government unleashed operation Jock Stock where 180 prominent politicians led by Kenyatta were arrested. In the next 25 days, a further 8,000 people accused of being Mau Mau were arrested in Nairobi as the military patrolled.

All adults were guilty of being Mau Mau and were subjected to forced labour. Children were not spared either as the government closed down schools in Central Kenya, evicted Kikuyu peasants working in Rift valley, repatriated them to Central where they were herded into concentration villages. Here massive screenings were conducted and the politically unclean were detained without trial.

Indigenous churches were also closed and people had to obtain special passes to leave their villages where they lived under guard only allowed a few hours to the farms to scavenge for food.   

In the meantime majority of the men who found life in concentration villages unbearable fled into the forests to join the ragtag armies where government troops pursued them with bombs and aircraft.

In the mismatched war, British Army was deployed to protect the Europeans while the Kings Africa Rifles took charge of the Kikuyu reserves to prevent food and supplies from reaching the fighters in the forests. By the time the state of Emergency was lifted in 1960, the mighty colonial guns had won the battle but the Africans had won back their freedom.

The sacrifices of thousands of unsung heroes shone the light for a brighter tomorrow. And for this, they should never be forgotten.

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