Unsung MauMau heroine
07 March 2012, 16:21
It is a warm and humid afternoon. At an obscure homestead within Engashura Village in Nakuru North, 82 year old Naomi Njoki undertakes her domestic chores amidst shrieks and animated chats by scores of her grandchildren.
The grand old lady though revered and respected in this desolate part of the world, remains an unsung hero for the role she played in the struggle for the country’s independence close to five decades ago.
Born in Kinangop the mother of ten is no longer a fan of contemporary Kenyan politics. Nevertheless Njoki fondly referred to as Muiritu Wa Kariara, does not squander an opportunity in speaking out against the prevailing political climate in the country.
She says “Kenya’s independence should be safeguarded at all costs. People should stop bickering and inciting youths into acts of violence and lawlessness. Supposing we were to be recolonized today, how many Kenyans including those maverick politicians will have courage to retreat into forests to fight for independence? How many of those bickering Cabinet Ministers and members of Parliament would be willing to boldly stick their necks out and even sacrifice their lives for the sake of their beloved country-Kenya?”
Njoki goes on to add, “Politicians are no longer patriotic. They have no interest of common Kenyans and the country at heart; they are selfish and interested only in self aggrandizement. Kenyan politicians are over obsessed with acquiring wealth and power and will do anything to get it”.
“Taxation, food and fuel prices have skyrocketed beyond comparison to what were paying in terms of hut tax, breast tax. The government must act as a matter of urgency."
The former freedom fighter is upset that rampant corruption, shameless grabbing of public land, ugly physical and verbal confrontations among politicians are clear indicators that they are not keen on serving the electorate.
”Look around, all you see are suffering masses ravaged by poverty, disease and illiteracy in a country that has enjoyed independence for more than four decades. Those were not the aspirations of Kenya’s founding fathers Jomo Kenyatta, Tom Mboya, Daniel arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki, Wycliffe Works Waswa, Achieng Oneko and Paul Ngei among others” she laments.
Njoki vividly recounts events that preceded the Mau Mau war of independence terming the experiences African natives underwent at the hands of colonialists as harrowing.
The octogenarian is however deeply upset that opportunists and masqueraders have over the years lined themselves to unfairly reap the plight of genuine freedom fighters.
“There are far too many bogus groups and individuals out there extorting money from public and the government in the name of freedom fighters. There have to be decisive steps by the government to put an immediate halt to activities of such masqueraders and focus redirected towards rightful freedom fighters.”
“Initial resistance to British rule was spurred by a decision by the colonial administration to bar boys from attending schools. Some were herded into labour camps while a significant proportion was conscripted into humiliating menial jobs such as grazing and milking of livestock. Njoki reminisces a white man who was derisively nicknamed Kifago who had been tasked to enforce a rule that restrained the number of livestock a native could rear."
“It was decreed that the maximum number of animals that an African could rear was to be 15 whilst those who had excess had to dispose them off. The rule was enforced with alarming alacrity that was couched in brutality and intimidation.”
Sustained onslaught on the natives by the colonial administration constrained the now furious mass to troop into the then nascent Kenya African Union (KAU), a clandestine organization.
“Once we were at a flower garden at Kinangop on Saturday when an airplane dropped copies of newspapers indicating that 6 million whites were due in the country anytime” Njoki said.
Njoki shudders when she recalls how she sustained a gunshot on her left groin and had to contend with concoctions derived from tree barks for three days.
“It was a heart rendering experience as I could not visit any medical facility for that would be taking an obvious and would have promptly been locked up and eventually killed as a Mau Mau sympathizer.”
During the period of pain and agony, Njoki was hidden under the bed unconscious due to the blast she heard when she was shot. She is full of praise and of gratitude to God that her life was spared miraculously.
As the crackdown on nationalists intensified, Africans were confined in Kiugo (trench) which was dug and at the end of the trench stands armed policemen to guard them not to run away.
Njoki recalls 1952 when the state of emergency was declared a crackdown on suspected members of the now vibrant Mau Mau movement went a notch higher.
“ I count myself as lucky to be alive as the out of the 170 members of a squad I was in, led by Kigo Waboka only three people survived after we came under attacked from colonial forces backed by airplanes in the Aberdare at Kederedu forest. Most of Africans were shot dead and their bodies abandoned in the forest.”
Other squads that fought alongside Muiritu wa Kariara platoon were led by the likes of Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi, LCM Wokabi among others.
She says that for the past 47 years of the country’s independence, the state has turned a blind eye to thousands of freedom fighters’ plight who are wallowing in abject poverty.
“Government officials always tumble running to funerals of freedom heroes to pay insincere homage and shout hypocritical pledges that are never fulfilled. It leaves an indelible blot on the country’s image that current generations of freedom fighters have not enjoyed ideals that made us retreat to the bush.”
Njoki believes that Mashujaa Day is a complete mockery of freedom fighters and would rather that funds spent to mark the occasion are directed to assist Kenyans who are unable to sustain a decent livelihood due to their age and suffering they underwent and should be treated with dignity.
Muiritu wa Kariara asserts that the government should allocate freedom fighters and their families land and compensate them as what the country owes cannot be quantified.
She counsels the state to stop anticipation for compensation from the British government ‘as it is nearly to impossible for the former colonialist to do it’
“We fought for this independence but genuine persons are not the ones who are reaping the fruits of that struggle as home-guards walloped us and impropriated huge chunks of lands rendering millions landless.”
She adds that successive governments since independence have not appreciated the role of freedom fighters in anyway and most of them were crippled, died while others disappeared. Njoki appeals to the government to consider them in coping with the hard economic situation in the country as their old age hampers their efforts to eke a decent living.
The freedom fighter is angered as she is yet to receive any cash from the Older Persons Cash Transfer Programme where recipients are to be paid KES. 3,000 per month.
Njoki petitions the government to ensure efficiency and accountability in disbursement of the funds to ensure that deserving cases are addressed and instances of fraud averted.
“These funds are still on a lower scale. The state needs to get very serious and address strategies that will greatly improve our standards of living.”
Her take on the unfolding Hague saga: “I woke up early that morning when our children were summoned to The Hague and prayed to our creator to protect them. It is very painful to go back to the very imperialists who killed, maimed and detained our leaders”
She is of the opinion that Kenya should be given a free hand to deal with its domestic affairs without reference to foreigners as some of them are the culprits who sowed discord and nurtured the seed of ethnicity in the country. Njoki maintains that they cannot be trusted to undo the messes and historical injustices they entrenched in the continent decades ago.
On the contrary, Njoki points out the same western powers angling themselves to have Kenya’s issues handled by foreign powers are yet to be held accountable for arbitrary killings, executions and detention of the natives in the colonial era.
“We are not prepared to revert to colonial times as we treasure our hard-won sovereignty. It is imperative that suspected masterminds of crimes committed on our soil should be subjected to local judicial mechanisms.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since independence and our diverse ethnic communities have intermarried. We have come of age and outgrown interference from the whites.”
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