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Uhuru Gardens where our heroes shed blood and sweat

By Hudson Gumbihi | Dec 20th 2021 | 2 min read

During the quest for independence, the ground was known as Lang’ata Concentration Camp. [File, Standard]

When President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed the nation during the 57th Jamhuri Day celebrations at Uhuru Gardens, he said the venue of the event was a reminder of our liberation struggle.

During the quest for independence, the ground was known as Lang’ata Concentration Camp. Here thousands of fighters were detained for challenging colonial power.

It is estimated that up to 10,000 liberators who the British regarded as “hardcore criminals” were confined at the camp. Most of them did not survive atrocities meted on them the by prison authorities.

Indeed, the Lang’ata camp has been described in the books of history as resembling the Nazi Camps in Germany, both in its psychological warfare and methods of brutality. In fact, using “quack scientists, the colonisers argued that devotion to the cause of Mau Mau was a mental illness,” said President Uhuru

This mistreatment was common in all camps in the country. However, despite the abuses, most prisoners did not cow into submission; they remained steadfast in their pursuit for freedom.

Prayers and songs were frequent, to express defiance and lift their morale. In many of the camps, the more educated among the prisoners taught their comrades basic literacy and politics.

“Within the compounds, prisoners organised their own hierarchies of command, with committees and councils to settle disputes, punish those who transgressed the inmates’ own code of conduct and decide upon tactics in the struggle with the prison authorities,” wrote David Anderson in the book Histories of the Hanged.

In the camps, there were frequent disputes over food and work. Sometimes the conflicts degenerated into confrontations.

According to Anderson, food rations issued to prisoners were seldom sufficient, even by the minimum standards set by the prison authorities.

This led to nutrition-related illnesses among prisoners. The withdrawal of food was frequently used as a punishment for non-cooperation and refusal to work.

Towards the end of the emergency, camp commandants were given power to quell strikes by whatever means necessary.

Most of the camps were located in remote areas where ailments like malaria were common. Medical provision was rare, and medical supervision often cursory. Conditions worsened in 1954 when excesses intensified, coupled with disease outbreaks. 


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