Mau Mau hero Dedan Kimathi's betrayal and his never say die attitude

Dedan Kimathi. [File]

It was described as the ultimate betrayal. A few hours before Dedan Kimathi was hanged, the colonial authorities had promised him that his children would be allowed to see him one last time.

Uncharacteristically, the government had made a series of concessions that had at first confounded Mukami Kimathi, Dedan's wife.

They allowed her access to a letter that had been written by the freedom fighter. When she rejected it, a second one was delivered. This letter had been given to a priest in Kaheti who relayed to Mukami at Kamiti prison.

And as Mukami read the letter, looking for a hidden message from her husband, her jailers watched bemused. Mukami says the letter indicated that the government had finally allowed Kimathi to see her.

“Colonial officers would take me to him at the Industrial Area Remand Prison where Kimathi was being held. I assumed that it was a trick but I was desperate to see him. I decided to hedge my bets and accept to go with the prison officer. I had lived in the shadow of death for so long that I was not afraid to die."

In her memoirs, Mukami Kimathi: Mau Mau Freedom Fighter, she writes that when she arrived at the prison, she was greeted by Kimathi’s smiling face. “He jumped up and hugged me. When I expressed concern over his gunshot wounds he jumped up twice or thrice telling me that it no longer hurt. He said that they had removed the bullet from his leg."

As if he sensed his death was nigh, he beseeched his wife: "Even if the colonialists kill me, let them not kill my name. Find ways to keep my name alive. They will kill me but do not let them kill my name."

And as Mukami left to go back to her cell, relishing Kimathi’s last embrace, a colonial officer promised her that they would send her to Nyeri the following day on February 18, 1956 to pick her children.

“The children were to visit their father. Kimathi had told me to tell the children that he was going to work in another country and needed to see them before he left. I left... happy that he would see his children before he died." Mukami had been lied to bid time for on the morning she was to fetch her children for one last meeting with their father, they hanged Kimathi.

“I received the news at 6.30 in the morning that my husband was dead through an announcement by a prison officer."

And for the past 66 years, Kimathi's bones have been confined in an undisclosed location but his spirit lives on, inspiring generations.