Did the British castrate some Mau Mau supporters?

by Julie Ngigi

One of the least mentioned atrocities of the British officials towards the Mau Mau fighters was the castration of men.

While few victims have over the years come out, due to the dehumanizing nature of the abuse, it is now emerging from sources that indeed British administrators, indeed, castrated some men.

Castration was mooted by Terence Gavaghan, a rehabilitation officer then based in Mwea region in present day Kirinyaga County. Gavaghan, served as a District Officer during colonial era and came to Kenya in 1944.

It did not take long before he stamped his presence. The government tasked him with rehabilitation of 30,000 prisoners, mostly Mau Mau adherents, living in the British internment camps in the colony.

Gavaghan initiated Operation Progress, a government programme aimed at breaking the morale of the prisoners by forcing them to confess and renounce support for Mau Mau. He believed in the use of force to achieve results. Castration was one of the methods he used to break some of the freedom fighters. Victims say it was a horrid experience.

But while castration was one of the most dehumanizing tactics used by the British to fight Mau Mau, there is a massive effort to cover it up six decades after independence.

Data on the number of men castrated by the British are unavailable, probably hidden from scrutiny to cover up the human rights violations. However, victims are available and some have publicly narrated their ordeals.

In an interview with Mau Mau Chronicles, Kinyua wa Ndugire recounts the events that led to his castration and subsequent long stay at a hospital. He had been arrested in the forest and taken for interrogation when he was castrated ostensibly for lack of cooperation with authorities.

 In the interview, partly published on our YouTube Channel, Ndugire notes that he bled “profusely from the fresh wound that had been inflicted” and “experienced all forms of pain known to man; physical, emotional and spiritual.”

Another freedom fighter, Ndiku Mutitwa Mutua, told Al Jazeera, that after he was arrested and interrogated on his role as a Mau Mau fighter,  he “was forced to lie on his back” as his “groins were taken” using pliers. His interview is among the few published accounts of what the victims went through. He added that he felt “a very painful yank” on his testicals.

Like many other counter Mau Mau strategies, castration of African men was not spontaneous. It was a government strategy, albeit secretly deployed, with approvals from high quarters in the colonial establishment.

George Monbiot an activist and author sheds light on this inhuman act in the DDN Vlog, and says; “They (the imperial government) invented new pliers whose purpose was to crash men’s testicles and then cut them off.” The purpose of this act speaks to government desperation to crush Mau Mau. 

The use of these pliers is within the living memory of Mau Mau veterans. Only those who have overcome the stigma of castration openly speak about the ordeal. Most veterans make reference to castration in veiled mentions. Many choose not to speak it about. 

Castration brought serious lifelong consequences among them cutting the inalienable and universal human right to bear children. Thus, the perpetrators of the act took away victims’ rights to procreate. Despite fighting for prosperity of future generations, castration meant watered down these efforts by ensuring the victims could not bear children. 

Those who survived castration had to live with the fact that they could not start families of their own.

.In spite of the glaring evidence that point toward the horrendous maltreatment and torture of Africans during the colonial period, there is still widespread belief that the British government has never offered enough compensation to Mau Mau veterans.

In 2013 the British government offered the Mau Mau veterans compensation for the atrocities committed during the colonial period but nothing can take away the pain, agony, and humiliation of the inhumane act.

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2 comments

Sunna May 21, 2021 - 5:53 pm

I love the stories

Reply
Maina wa githui June 3, 2021 - 8:17 pm

Sad and horrific

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