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Archive for May 2nd, 2009

Swine flu or porcine influenza?

Posted by Popular Ombudsman on May 2, 2009

As the flu spreads across the world, the pork business lobby is forcing scientists to change the name of the disease: leave out the animal and have your disease…so it is H1N1!  Since Bird flu was aptly named Avian Influenza, this should also be called Porcine  Influenza to keep a consistent system of nomenclature if it actually means anything to scientists.


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The truth about post-independence Kenya…

Posted by Popular Ombudsman on May 2, 2009

Of Mathenge and traitors who became heroes

Sunday Standard, 3/05/2009

By Peter Thatiah

At the beginning of 1956, I strongly felt we needed to change our rules of engagement with the colonial establishment. General Mathenge Mirugi, among others, shared this feeling. In the following two months we suffered overwhelming number of defections and cases of mutiny. This made me think we were definitely doing something wrong.

Mr Kassam Gicimu Njogu.


To my consternation, the colonial government recruited some of our troops, especially men from Murang’a, into their ranks. There was a lot of suspicion and you could not tell who was a mole. But Dedan Kimathi, Gen Mwariama and Gen Baimungi were diehards and also counted on me as I had sworn to die in the forest than defect. But it reached a time I started fearing my own troops.

Then one day, Mathenge received emissaries from the Government, who also thought it was time rules of engagement were reviewed. On hearing this, Kimathi was very annoyed. He immediately ordered the arrest of Mathenge and the six men who had accompanied him and quickly organised a court-martial to try them.

I was not there but the troops told me what transpired on that night. Mathenge and the six men were bound with the hands in the back and tied to trees.

Mathenge’s saviour

But there was a woman among Kimathi’s people who thought what Kimathi was doing to his comrade was unfair. Her name was Wambui wa Nderitu and she hailed from Mirangini in Nyandarua. Because the men were tied a distance from where Kimathi was conducting his trials, the young woman cut the ropes and set the men free.

No one suspected how Mathenge set himself free, so the young woman was never punished. From that day we never saw Mathenge again. I kept on asking Kimathi where Mathenge went but he evaded my queries. Later, there emerged a tale that Mathenge fled to Ethiopia. I know it was untrue because Mathenge deeply loved his family and home. He surely would have come back after some time. Mathenge was so committed to the struggle he could not have fled to Ethiopia.

Two things could have happened. Mathenge might have run into the British as he fled from Kimathi, or Kimathi sent his people to pursue Mathenge and caught up with him. I suspect the British never caught up with him because they would have made a big show of capturing such a big Mau Mau fish. I think Kimathi’s people re-arrested Mathenge and executed him. His body was never found.

In 2003 I received a message the Government wanted me to identify a man at a boardroom of a Nairobi hotel and tell if he was Mathenge. After a mere glance I realised it was a bad joke.

Sometimes in mid-1956, I was organising a mission to Nyeri when I received the news that the British had nabbed Kimathi and one of his wives. I did not have time to worry much about the development because I was also undergoing peculiar problems. It seemed to me we were fighting amongst ourselves more than we were fighting the enemy. After Kimathi, I was next on the line.

I had six men with me in the forest near Karumandi when men I knew as colleagues attacked me. The three were from Murang’a and I did not know they had defected.

Former President Jomo Kenyatta and Government officials meet some of the Mau Mau fighters soon after independence in 1963. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]

One bullet went through my collarbone and the other ripped out a chunk of my thigh. My men fled as I was taken away to the military base at Kangaru in Embu. The junior officers wanted to execute me right there but a senior one intervened. They took me to hospital but when the doctors realised that I was Gen Kassam they refused to treat me. My leg began to rot and they only came to amputate it. They did not even bother to put me under anaesthesia and it was very painful.

Manyani prison

Luckily, I did not have my rifle when I was arrested and so I could not be sent to the gallows. A court sitting in Thika sent me to Manyani for detention. I was not officially jailed. Many of my colleagues were detained at this time. With Kimathi awaiting execution at Kamiti, Mathenge having disappeared and myself behind bars, there was a general lack of direction amongst those who were left behind.

The staunchest outfit of the Mau Mau turned out to be the Meru faction. None of their leaders was arrested and they stayed in the forests longer than everyone else.

When I arrived at Manyani prison in 1956, I thought they kept cattle because there was a cattle dip full of slimy insecticide. Little did I know that it was meant for men. They threw me inside there even though I had only one leg and I had to be assisted by the other men who had been tossed there to make it to the other side.

The following year they took me to a Nyeri court and charged me with murder . The trial did not proceed and I was taken to Kangubiri detention camp near Kagumo. It was while I was there that reports of Kimathi’s execution reached me. I thought I was next. Then I was taken to Kandongu detention camp. Here I found that the head of camp was a tall and impressively dressed young African man.

But he was extremely brutal and when the guards refused to drag me to my quarters because I had only one leg, he did so. His name was Isaiah Mathenge, who’d later become a PC. Mathenge exhibited incredible contempt towards us and he would spit in our faces as he spoke.

Later in 1957 I was taken to Kathigiriri detention camp. Here I met another young African in-charge. He was extremely brutal. He would wear metal spikes in his fingers and punch you very hard. The young man was Jeremiah Kiereini. The punishments that were spelt out in this camp were extreme and many people died.

In 1958 I was taken to Hola on what they called ‘exile’. I tried to escape but my efforts were in vain. I once even attacked a white DO to provoke him to shoot me but he didn’t even touch me. I was tired of living and I wished I had a rifle. Finally, with Kenyatta as Prime Minister, we were all released unconditionally in 1962.

I was reunited with my wife. Up to her death last year, she lived a painful life because she never regained full health after the beatings of the 1950s. My father could not give me land, explaining that the Mau Mau slaughtered all his cows. And because I was the owner of the Mau Mau, as he put it, I had gotten my share of the inheritance. But I bought my own land near our home and Kenyatta helped me acquire another one in Nyandarua. I also bought my first car and settled home.

Kenyatta’s talk

After independence in 1963 Kenyatta called me and he told me that I was to accompany Dr Munyua Waiyaki, Lukas Nguriti and Kariuki Gichi on a tour of our former bases and ask all those who had not left the forest to come out.

All of them did, except Baimungi and some of his more fanatical followers. Baimungi was later killed and only then did his outfit agree to disband and go home. None of them was prosecuted. A good number of the younger ones were recruited into the disciplined forces.

Looking back, I have lived a full life and I have no regrets about my struggles, misfortunes and accomplishments. If you would take me back to 1950 again in the same circumstances, I would still take arms and go to the forest of Mt Kenya.

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