In 1964, a newly independent Kenya was facing the uphill task of reconstructing herself into an African State. That reconstruction was called “Africanisation”.
As part of the Africanisation policy, my father, Vincent Nderitu, was posted to Sasumua Dam in Kinangop to take over from the British superintendents who were leaving the country.
Not long after he had arrived, he asked the foreman, Harun Musungu, to find out where he could buy milk. That was how he met Mukami Kimathi. My father was thunderstruck. Back home in Tetu, Nyeri, his home and Mukami’s were within a walking distance. My father knew her as a legend. She was a Mau Mau heroine, the wife of Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi.
My father began treating Mukami like an elder sister, fixing her fences and installing a water tank for her among other duties. When I was growing up, Mukami was the auntie through whose home we passed on our way from school; the one who made my brothers and I porridge and gave us red plums. She was not a blood relative, but we always thought she was.
Mukami and her children, Nyambura and Waceke, would often come to our home in the afternoons and I would read the newspaper to her haltingly. She encouraged me saying; “When you grow up, you will write as well as you read. One day, you should write my karugano ( story) because what is not written is forgotten.”
She wanted me to remind Kenyans to take care of the country the Mau Mau fought for.
Her lowest point was the 2007-2008 post-election violence and often said: “Because we fought the colonialists, Kenyans now have arrow roots, sweet potatoes, bananas and yam on the table. But instead of eating, they are fighting! I wish this generation of Kenyans from all ethnic communities would rally as we did and this time emerge with, instead of independence like we did, national unity!
In her story, Mukami shows us who Dedan Kimathi was as a father and husband. Her experiences provide an important complement to existing written records on Kenya’s history.
Mukami Kimathi’s prophesy that I would write her karugan is now a reality. The book, Mukami Kimathi: Mau Mau Freedom Fighter, was launched at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi last evening. She was also proved right on another front; my sister Consolata Wakonyo became a pilot.