Former British armoury and holding cell in ruins

‘Ithamirio ria Ndundu-ini’. It functioned as a secure storage facility and operated as a prison. [Amos Kiarie, Standard]

Nestled within a eucalyptus tree plantation in Ndundu-ini village, Kirinyaga County lies remnants of a two-room house that once stood as a silent witness to the loud struggle for independence.

The structure, now in ruins, carries a legacy that echoes Kenyans’ resilience and determination. Built during the dark era of colonialism, one room served as an armoury, clandestinely storing weapons and supplies used by colonialists and home guards during the struggle for independence.

The other room, however, held a much sinister purpose - it served as a makeshift prison where those who dared challenge colonial oppression were confined and subjected to harsh conditions.

To Josiah Ndongo, a survivor of the oppressive regime, the house of exile ‘Ithamirio ria Ndundu-ini’ remains his worst nightmare.

In his twilight years, he bravely recounts the shocking experiences he endured during his incarceration in the two-room prison house.

He suffered physical and psychological hardships. He recalls the daily struggles for survival, constant fear of retribution, and deprivation of fundamental human rights. Yet, even within these walls of despair, his spirit persisted, fueled by a resilient determination to see justice and liberation of the country from colonial rule.

“Built in 1954 by the British colonial regime, this house served a dual purpose during that time. It functioned as a secure storage facility for weapons, tightly guarded by the home guards. The house also operated as a prison where individuals who resisted colonial rule were detained, often enduring harsh torture, in their quest to extract information about the whereabouts of Mau Mau fighters and their plans,” he said.

He faced brutal beatings that left him with a broken limb, a painful reminder of the inhumanity. “I and other inmates refused to surrender the information they sought from us. The home guards fueled by anger and frustration, unleashed a torrent of violence upon us. Each blow inflicted pain, but we remained resolute. It was during that horrific incident that my limb was forcefully shattered,” he said.

He said the weapons stored in the house were those collected from Mau Mau fighters captured by the colonialists. These weapons were part of those utilised by the home guards to suppress any attempts at escape from the colonial villages.

“When a Mau Mau soldier was arrested by either the colonialists or home guards, any weapon, be it a gun, machete, or rungu, was brought to this house to prevent the freedom fighters from accessing them again,” he said.

Today, he urges the government to remember the sacrifices made by Mau Mau veterans and honour the heroes who fought against colonial oppression.

“We are hopeful that President William Ruto will expedite the compensation process for the immense suffering and torture inflicted upon us during the colonial period. We urge the government to prioritise this matter and provide restitution for the pain and trauma we endured,” he said.

Muchira Ruraga, an ex-freedom fighter in Kirinyaga, said his unwavering determination and quick thinking helped him narrowly escape clutches of imprisonment after being apprehended by home guards.

“I was a dedicated fighter against colonial rule and became a target for the oppressive forces. As the night grew darker, I found myself surrounded. With every passing second, the risk of being imprisoned grew stronger. I made a daring move, running through the dense vegetation surrounding the village, I escaped,” he said.

He added that he couldn’t allow himself to be arrested, having heard stories of the atrocities that awaited those in captivity.