The story of a Mau Mau hero who promised us an interview then died

by Rose Wangechi

On 29 January 2021 this writer, in the company of other researchers, got a chance to meet Mau Mau veteran Njuguna Makimei on the shores of Lake Naivasha.

He promised to meet us again – but that was never to be. He died a few weeks later – another story of the Mau Mau war was gone.

Makimei was reluctant Mau Mau story teller when we first met him at a recreational park in Naivasha. We had travelled from Nairobi in search of the veteran in a bid to document his story as an independence hero.

Makimei, a tall well-built man, had interesting stories to tell. However, there was something holding him back. When we finally met, he looked jovial and enthusiastic to narrate his story. We remained expectant of his good stories as a Mau Mau fighter in Kiambu, Murang’a, and Nyandarua. But that was never to be.

Once we settled on our venue, his stubborn streak came to show early on. He first declined to be recorded. It took persuasion from Kenyan scholar Prof. Macharia Munene, the team lead researcher, to convince Makimei to narrate his story on record.

As we found out, many of the veterans still subscribe to the Mau Mau oath of secrecy.

As a young boy, Makimei told us, he travelled a lot. He grew up in Banana Hills in Kiambu County. His family, displaced by the colonialists, moved to Kongoni Farm, then owned by a white man in Naivasha. 

Dissatisfied with the colonial administration, Makimei joined Mau Mau. Without revealing details, Makimei told us that he was an oath administrator – an oath that still binds him from revealing the details of the oathing process.

He had interesting an interesting  account of  how the Mau Mau war started saying that Mugo wa Kibiru, a legendary Kikuyu seer and medicine man, had predicted the war decades before it started.

Makimei told us that Kibiru also predicted the construction of Githunguri Teachers School, an offshoot of the independent movement. When Kikuyus started contributing money for the construction of independent schools, Makimei made his donation.

Makimei’s ability to remember events that took place over six decades was impressive.  Although he did not want to go into detail of how the events happened, he was without doubt one of the veterans that heavily paid for the freedom of Kenya. 

Our interview ended with the old man promising another full day to narrate the Mau Mau events. But that was never to be.

On 6 February 2021, Makimei suddenly died. The news came as a shocker. On the day of our meeting, just under three weeks, he looked healthy and vibrant.

He was laid to rest on 17February 2021 at his home at Kimore in Longonot. From the speeches given on his funeral, one could tell that Makimei was a loved man. There were other Mau Mau veterans who came to his meeting.

Represented by General Wagocho, the veterans narrated how he was the one who held Makimei’s hand and took him to Kimathi in 1950s when Makimei joined Mau Mau. The lively General Wagocho confirmed to mourners that Makimei was a Mau Mau fighter.

At his village, Maikimei is regarded as an independence hero. However, his legacy, and that of the other remaining Mau Mau veterans, continues crying for attention from government.    

But his story within Mau Mau might never be told. Not in his own words.

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