A Gallery of Kenyan Liberators

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Speech presented during celebrations of Mashujaa Day, October 20, 2020 at the newly established RPP Resource Centre in Kibichiku, Kabete.

Committee for Release of Political Prisoners in Kenya

I want to congratulate all those celebrating the Mashujaa day, and for placing the soldiers of The Kenya Land and Freedom Army, led by the Great Liberator, Dedan Kĩmathi, at the center. Mau Mau, the name the British enemy gave to the Liberation Army, was meant to confuse people about their Mission, clearly stated in the title: LAND AND FREEDOM.  The name Mau Mau was a mumbo-jumbo British gibberish.

The ten years Liberation War between 1952-1962 was between the British Colonial Army of Occupation, which included their internal allies known as Home guards. The Home guards were an auxiliary arm of of the British and were set up by General Hinde in 1952.  So where we talk about the British army of colonial occupation, we must always remember that this included Kings African Rifles, of which Idi Amin was a prominent recruit, and the poorly paid Home guards.

Though the Soldiers of the Kenya land and Freedom Army were outnumbered in guns and planes, they still created mobile gun making factories in the mountains and also underground ones in the cities. But their main power came from their connection with the people: People Power. That was why the British created the NAZI-Hitler type of concentration camps and Villages, their attempts to cut off the Liberation Soldiers from their supply bases.

We must never forget the heroic deeds and sacrifice of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army. They are part of our glorious history of struggle.

I am also glad to see you are also celebrating RPP.  RPP (Release Political Prisoners) of which Karĩmi Nduthi was a prominent activist, was inspired by Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners in Kenya, CRPPK.  CRPPK was a London based organization, formed in June 1982 following the arrests and imprisonment with or without trial of Maina wa Kĩnyattĩ, Kamoji Wachira, Edward Oyugi, Al-Amin Mazrui, and Willy Mutunga, who were then followed into prison by many others. The CRPPK under the chairmanship of the Late John la Rose, included Kenyans, Wanjirũ Kĩhoro (secretary), Wanyĩrĩ Kĩhoro, Abdilatif Abdalla, Yusuf Hassan; Wangũi wa Goro; Hassan Durani, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, and Mũthoni (Wanjirũ Kĩhoro’s sister). CRPPK was an anti-imperialist organization. And it recognized that many people imprisoned under the Moi regime, whether through a court of law, or without trial, were NOT criminals: They were political Prisoners.   Hence the Name CRPPK.

The Commitee also included Caribbean Intellectuals and activists like Jessica and Eric Huntley, originally from Guyana, Walter Rodney’s country, and Kwesi Johnson, the internationally known poet singer. But many other people would  occasionally attend the Committee’s deliberations, including Jeremy Colburn, who, years later would become leader of the British Labor Party. The late C L R James who used to work, with Jomo Kenyatta, was among the early speakers at the Committee’s public events.

The committee worked closely with other progressive organizations in London, Eg The Chilean solidarity Committee that exposed the atrocities of Dictator Pinochet, and also Solidarity Committees against the Marcos dictatorship in the Phillipines. It also had good contacts with ANC, (London) and other anti-apartheid organizations and exiles, including those associated with Sobukwe’s Pan-Africa Congress.

CRPPK also spawned other solidarity committees in Norway, Denmark and Sweden, the USA, and Nigeria. The Swedish Committee was especially active and it was responsible for aborting a planned Moi’s state visit to Sweden.

The publications of CRPPK are now under the roof of The George Padmore Institute in London. These include Kenya News  edited by Wanjiru Kihoro, and which often drew attention to atrocities done by the Moi regime.

One of the CRPPK’s spectacular feats was the discovery and exposure of the fact that Nyayo House was the location of torture chambers. Here credit goes to the late Elizabeth Wanjiru Matenjwa, (Mother to the late Wanjiru Kihoro and Wanjiku Matenjwa), who happened to have a contact that worked in the chambers. So when later Wanyiri Kihoro (her son in Law) was arrested, on his return to Kenya, and taken to the chambers, this contact was able to dictate to Wanyiri Kihoro all about the torture chambers and their location in Nyayo House. Elizabeth Wanjiru Matenjwa was then able to send the written dossier to her daughter, the late Wanjiru Kihoro in London. The detailed material was then handed over to International Amnesty, who were able to release the explosive 1987 dossier: Kenya: Torture Political Detention and Unfair Trials. The Late Elizabeth Wanjiru Matenjwa, like so many ordinary working men and women of our country, is clearly one of the many unsung Mashujaa of  the post-colonial  struggles against dictatorship and for a people powered Democracy.

In remembering Dedan Kĩmathi, the Great Liberator, andh is entire Liberation army, we must always remember that they stood on the shoulders of other Kenyan heroes and heroines before them.  Examples:

 1 Yusuf bin Hassan aka Don Geronimo who in 1630 fought the Portuguese, and for time retook control of Fort Jesus. The Great Mombasa resistance helped rout the Portuguese from Kenya Coast and made them retreat to Mozambique.

2. Moraa Ngiti (woman) and Otenyo Nyamaterere (man). Inspitred by the anti-colonial politics of Moraa Ngiti (his aunt), Otenyo fought against the forces of GAS Northcote, whose forces had had perpetrated massacre against the Kisii people in 1904. After Otenyo Nyamaterere was captured, the British beheaded him and took his head to the British Museum. On this Mashujaa day, we should demand the return of the Otenyo’s head so he can be buried with honor, among our other heroes.

3. Me Katilili

4. Koitalel Arap Samoe

5. Barsirian Arap Manyei ( son of Koitalel, the longest political prisoner in Kenya History). This is an incredible family of anti-imperialist heroes

On this day, we should ask: 1. The Kenya government demand the British government return of the head of Otenyo Nyamaterere. 2. The revelation of where Kimathi was secretly buried; 3. That all these heroes from Yosuf Hassan to Kimathi and Arap manyei be reburied in the heroes garden…

People who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.

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