this article protests the bural site of this great Rasta...how many remember that Mau Mau liberator?
Mau Mau guerilla leader, Dedan Kimathi, continues to lie next to rapists and robbers.
Kenya's hero continues to lie next to rapists, robbers.
He was once called a terrorist.
Today, Mau Mau guerilla leader Dedan Kimathi is heralded as a freedom fighter who helped liberate Kenya. Now, a move is afoot to give Kimathi -
who was hanged in 1958 - a hero's burial. Trouble is, nobody knows the whereabouts of his body. Or do they? John Kamau, Gemini correspondent
digs into a grave issue.
Nairobi -- Thirty-eight years after independence the Kenyan government is under pressure to give a man the British colonial government hanged in
1958 for terrorism, a state burial.
'Field Marshal' Dedan Kimathi was the leader of the Mau Mau, the guerilla movement that fought against the British colonial government. The Mau
Mau operated from forest bases in this East African nation in the 1950s before it was crushed in 1959.
Kenya won its independence four years later.
"We want the government to recognise the role played by Kimathi," says Adolf Muchiri, a Kenyan legislator who is pushing the matter in Parliament.
"Time has come for us to recognise the role played by Kimathi in liberating this country."
But the Kenyan government under President Daniel arap Moi has said that Kimathi - dubbed a terrorist by the British although he remains a hero to ex-freedom fighters - will not be granted a state burial and his family will not be handed over his body.
His remains are in an unmarked grave somewhere inside Kamiti Maximum Prison,some 21 kilometres northeast of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
"The law clearly prohibits the exhumation of a prisoner's body for reburial outside the prison premises and unless that law is changed, Kimathi's
body will remain in Kamiti prison," says Wycliff Osundwa, an assistant minister in the president's office.
Kimathi's family has reacted with fury.
"It is unbelievable," says Mukami Kimathi, wife of the late freedom fighter.
"This is not a fight for the bones, but about national pride."
Mwaniki Nyamu of the Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi Foundation, a lobby group that first sparked the debate in the early '90s, warns that the
government should not ignore the latest demands.
"Kenyans want to get the body of Kimathi now and give him a decent burial,"
declared Nyamu, who is also a city lawyer. "We are not going to sit back when Kimathi's body continues to lie alongside rapists and petty
But there's another problem - nobody knows where the grave is.
For four years now, pressure has been mounting on the British government to indicate where they buried Kimathi, but still no official word has
Two years ago a 'Free Kimathi' lobby group was formed in Nairobi to pressure the British to release details of the exact burial spot after prison authorities said they did not have colonial records on Kimathi's grave.
However, the group clashed with government forces after it erected a billboard opposite the grave of Kenya's first president, Mzee Jomo
Kenyatta,with the inscription: "This is where we shall bury Kimathi."
"The war is not yet over," says Wafula Buke, secretary of the Free Kimathi Committee. "We will not tire until we get Kimathi's remains."
The British High Commission in Nairobi insists it does not know where Kimathi was buried and it does not have any records.
"At the moment we have no details," says Thomas Fletcher, head of the High Commission's political section.
But Kenyan historians maintain that the British carried away all the documents relating to the Mau Mau war after independence.
"They know where the grave is, they are just playing poker with us," says Kenyan Mau Mau researcher Maina wa Kinyatti, a history professor at the State University of New Jersey in the United States.
Some four years ago, the then commissioner of prisons Edward Lokopoiyot told a Kenyan daily newspaper that the prison department's attempts to
trace Kimathi's grave were compounded by inadequate information "because the colonial government kept the records about Mau Mau".
"The records at Kamiti Prison shed very little light on the burial site,"the prison's boss said.
In 1995 the prison department made a last-ditch attempt to solve the long-running mystery by tracking down Africans who worked at Kamiti at
"The closest we came was a prison officer named Mukuria, but we found out he passed away in 1994."
Activists do not want to hear this story anymore.
"The removal of Kimathi's remains from Kamiti Prison is no longer negotiable," says Mwaniki Nyamu of Kimathi Foundation. "The issue is
not whether but when it will happen."
Kenyan papers have now picked up the issue and written editorials in support of the lobby group. The Daily Nation, East Africa's largest
circulating newspaper, asked: "Is there any good reason why the government has not acted on this issue nearly 38 years since we attained independence from Britain?"
"The story of Dedan Kimathi is one shameful commentary on how badly we treat our heroes," the paper said.
The opposition-leaning People Daily also editorialised on the issue:"If Cubans struggled for years to get the remains of [guerrilla leader]
Che Guevara from a Bolivian jungle, why are we not doing anything to retrieve Kimathi's remains from the prison ground?"
A statement from the Kimathi family in November urges the government to act quickly: "Kimathi's body should have been lifted out of the prison
grave as the Union Jack was lowered and our independence flag hoisted."
"We are still waiting to give our father a decent funeral."
But the government insists that this cannot be done, triggering a torrent of abuse from the opposition.
"We should not be trapped into this colonial mentality that Kimathi was a terrorist," says Shem Ochuodho, a Kenyan legislator. "That would be
stooping so low. Kimathi remains a national icon and the faster we give him a state burial the better."
Fellow legislator James Omingo Magara agrees: "We are talking about a person who went to the forest to liberate this country when others were at
the comfort of their homes. This is a person we should honour."
About the Author: JOHN KAMAU is the editor of Rights Features Service and columnist for Kenya's Daily Nation.
December 05, 2001 06:26:09
===========Kimathi family to sit-in
By NATION Correspondent
Freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi's family is planning to hold a sit-in at Kimathi House, Nairobi in a bid to get the remains of Dedan Kimathi for an decent burial.
Funds collected by the Free Kimathi Campaign Committee will enable the family to sit there until the remains are released, a committee member said yesterday.
Addressing the press at Chester House, a member of the committee, Mr Wafula Buke said, "We are evolving new strategies to carry forward the campaign, we are still collecting money to support the Kimathi family."
The committee condemned what it termed as a 'shameless act' by the government of sending Administration Police on February 20 to uproot the billboard erected at the proposed site of a Kimathi mausoleum.
"We are instituting legal proceedings demanding the return and erection of the billboard at the site," Mr Buke said.
The committee has proposed to send copies of the petition to retired South African President Nelson Mandela who showed interest in Kimathi's family when he visited the country and to the Presidents of Uganda and Tanzania.
"These nations have recognised Dedan Kimathi's heroism by naming streets after him in their cities," Mr Buke added.
The committee has delayed presentation of the petition to the President as they seek support from individuals and interested organisations to sign the petition at points to be announced later.
The committee promised to hold up the struggle until justice is done to honour their hero.
"We are asking that the President orders the opening up of the cemetery at Kamiti Prison so that Dedan Kimathi's family and Kenyans at large can remove his remains for a burial that befits his heroic status. That is all."
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