Freedom fighters launch foundation in bid to set up historical gallery

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga (left) during the launch of the Mau Mau Freedom Fighters Foundation, website and a memoir at a hotel in Langata, Nairobi, on November 8, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Azimio leader Raila Odinga Wednesday said freedom fighters should be compensated for the sufferings they went through to liberate the nation.

Raila was concerned that King Charles III did not apologise to Kenyans for what they went through under the British regime before gaining independence. The King was in the country last week for a four-day official visit.

"The battle against the British was fierce and they were very brutal. Many people were killed and others lived in the forest out of fear," he said.

Raila was speaking during the launch of the Mau Mau Freedom Fighters Foundation, website and a memoir at a hotel in Langata, Nairobi on Wednesday.

Leaders present were former Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, Busia Senator Okiya Omtata and Prof Yash Pal Ghai among others

The Kenya Human Rights Commission Executive Director Davis Malombe said they were disappointed that the King did not issue an apology arguing that this was a a critical step in acknowledging the pain and suffering of Kenyans.

"An apology is public acceptance of guilt and also a commitment to provide redress," he said

Lawyer Paul Muite said: "We wanted Mau Mau to be recognized for them to get their dignity and their humanity, they were not terrorists. They were freedom fighters and that’s why we demanded an apology."

The King acknowledged that he felt the "greatest sorrow and deepest regret" for the atrocities suffered by Kenyans

Malombe compared the visit of the monarch to that of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier who offered an apology to the people of Tanzania for the killings committed to their people during the colonial rule when he recently visited the country.

Tanzania suffered under German colonial rule for decades before and after the start of the 20th century and saw one of the region’s deadliest uprisings from 1905 to 1907.

During his tour, Steinmeier noted that many bones and skulls were taken to Germany from East Africa and ended up in museums and anthropological collections, and they were largely forgotten after the end of the colonial era and two World Wars.

"Along with you, I mourn Chief Songea and the others who were executed,” he said.

“I bow to the victims of German colonial rule. And as German president, I would like to apologize for what Germans did to your ancestors here,” he added.

"I want to assure you that we Germans will search with you for answers to the unanswered questions that give you no peace.”

Malombe however said they are still waiting for an invite from the British High Commission and a response to a petition filed last week before the arrival of the Majesties.

"When it comes to dealing with past atrocities we remain very committed until justice is delivered according to UN guideline principles on the right to remedy which talks about effective reparations, unconditional apology and the satisfaction of the people involved," he said.

Wachira Waheri the national coordinator for the national victims and survivors networks said the Mau Mau Freedom Fighters Foundation's first mandate would be to set up a historical gallery that will offer the veterans an opportunity to share their stories through artifacts and tales so that generations can access the historic recordings that will be safely stored.

"We need a place where future generations will easily access historic recordings so that they always appreciate where we come from. If this doesn’t happen we will have other people telling tales that are misleading," he said

"The remaining galleries at Uhuru Gardens I hear are only 27 slots left so let’s move with speed and secure an our space so that we get that opportunity to share our experiences as we best know," Waheri added.

The Foundation is also expected to support by way of stipends the Mau Mau heroes and heroines, erect statues of the freedom fighters where they were buried and seek funds for running operations.

It will also be expected to give bursaries to deserving students, maintain and sustain the Mau Mau War Veterans Association

Muindi Mbingu Memorial Chairperson Lucas Kituku Mutuma recalled how governors in the colonial era allowed brutalities to be meted upon the families, especially when they went to Kariokor in Nairobi to meet them to demand their livestock.

"Please don’t relent until the cattle are given back to them. I remember we pleaded with the governor to speak to the whites to give us back our cattle. The cattle were very important to our community when it comes to bride price and since they were taken away most of the men did not end up with wives," he said.

The veterans are now seeking a bipartisan approach to help them recover what they deserve.

"Going forward we would like the effort to be bipartisan we would like the official opposition and the government to take up the issue in a bipartisan manner. Any nation that doesn’t recognize and respect their heroes cannot nurture heroes tomorrow," said Muite

He further said there ought to be a list of all freedom fighters so that no one is left out in the compensation and only the genuine ones are compensated not the elite

"The first step is to have an exhaustive accurate list of who was who in Mau Mau because we do not want anyone to be left out kuna wengi ambao walikua detention, others died including women who risked their lives to cook for the Mau Mau, let us have that list," Muite said.