“Who was Dedan Kimathi the man?”
Most people when they hear about Kimathi they automatically go to the Mau Mau guerilla freedom fighter. You think about a rebellious individual, who is unruly and loves violence. But in this article, we try to see, who was Dedan Kimathi the man? What was his life like before the Revolution? What were his beliefs? Amongst other things, to understand a cause of a man you need to understand the man, and in this article, we focus on Kimathi the man.
He was born on 31st October 1920, to a clan called Ambui which is part of the Agikuyu tribe, the largest of the 44 tribes in Kenya, the clan is popular for being very hot-tempered. The story has it that once the clan attacked a river with spears after it broke its banks and swept away their crop, funny but it’s true.
His father (the guy that was married to his mother) was called Wachiuri, left to go fight in the First World War and never came back; I know you wondering if he never came back how was Kimathi born in 1920? To many of the Kenyan tribes, it’s not a big deal for your closest friend to take up your wife once you have gone and even have a child with her. So Kimathi was fathered by his father’s best friend.
Dedan Kimathi at his early years joined primary school between age 12 and 14, from what we understand is that he really loved school, and had a passion to learn. He became very good in Poetry and English. The story also has it that a teacher was once very impressed with Kimathi that he was given a goat in applause. As he continued in his school years, he started to grow detest for some cultural practices, for instance when it was time to get circumcised, the culture dictates that the boys go to the river and a community elder would perform the right of passage, but Kimathi opted to go to the clinic to be circumcised.
He later was recruited at the Kings African Rifles, to be trained and later join World War 2, he had promise in him but he became Rebellious and left for what he deemed as Injustices. This is when we start to see Kimathi as a person who believes in equal treatment for all, black or white. After he left the Kings African Rifles he joined Tumu Tumu School, where he became a prefect, and with his powers as a prefect tried to change things he did not like at School. That would not go well with the school principle Rev William Scott Dickson which led to Kimathi dropping out of school citing the dictatorship ways of the principle.
The Rebellious character of the field marshal as we can now see did not come from his hate for white people but the unfair treatment of black people. That was why he was later on recruited by the Mau Mau movement as an oath administrator.
Later during the change of regime, the British were debating between Kimathi and the first President of Kenya Jomo Kenyatta but ultimately went with Kenyatta, due to His Non-Violent ways. Kimathi was later charged and sentenced to death by hanging.
You can read more about his life away from the battlefield in the book “Dedan Kimathi” by Joseph Karimi.