Dedan Kimathi Day: A Reportback from Kenya

Dedan Kimathi, African Revolutionary Leader of the Kenyan Land and Freedom Army

On February 18th, I attended a program (put on by my wonderful comrades here in Nairobi) to celebrate and commemorate the life and legacy of anti-colonial fighter Dedan Waciuri Kimathi. For those who may be unfamiliar, Dedan Kimathi was the chief and commander of the Kenyan Land and Freedom Army (KFLA), also known by the settler given name, “Mau Mau”. On the day mentioned above he had been savagely executed by British colonizers after being captured.

The important thing to recognize about the Kenyan Land and Freedom Army, was that they were the first to wage armed struggle against imperialism in Africa. The first swing at imperialism on the continent. During the program, we watched a documentary tracing the history of anti-colonial resistance in Kenya, and listened to panelists of community organizers speak about the legacy of Dedan Kimathi (and the KFLA) and what must be done to throw off neo-colonial exploitation today.

Throughout the program, my mind couldn’t help but flashback to October 20th, 2019 which was Mashujaa Day, also known as Heroes Day. I can recall sitting in my auntys living room that day. The television was on a local news channel streaming images to Kenya’s “anti-colonial history”. One of the images I remember seeing was one in which Jomo Kenyatta was getting arrested for “being Mau Mau”. At one point the streaming fast forwarded to the day Kenya got its independence, with Kenyatta shaking hands with his colonial master. The segment lasted for 30 minutes.

Throughout the entirety of segment nothing was mentioned about the Kenyan Land and Freedom Army or much of Dedan Kimathi. Yet, It was their blood that was shed for independence, not Kenyatta’s. Jomo Kenyatta for one thing was never part of the Kenyan Land and Freedom Army. He was mistakenly arrested by colonizers, but for the most part he was a member of the Kenyan African Union (KAU). The KAU believed in using constitutional methods to deal with imperialism. The KAU was completely against the revolutionary violence and armed struggle of the KFLA.

As a matter of fact when Jomo Kenyatta’s government came into power during Independence (after Kimathi had been executed), he along with his government ordered the the KFLA guerillas to stop fighting and to retreat from the forests, from where they had begun armed struggle. The KFLA righteously refused, recognizing that Jomo Kenyatta and his government had done nothing to dismantle the colonial system and were in fact collaborating with imperialism. If anything Jomo had let traitors – who had sided with British colonizers in killing KFLA fighters and terrorized the masses of Kenyans – into his government. For these reasons, the KFLA said they would only stop fighting on these conditions:

  1. “Return all the land that was confiscated by the british colonial occupiers during the Mau Mau war to the original owners with compensation”
  2. “Recognize the KFLA as a national army and unconditionally dismantle the colonial military machinery and close down the British military bases in the country”
  3. “Arrest all those Kenyans who took arms against the KFLA and charge them for the atrocities they had committed against the people”
  4. “Provide free education to all Kenyan Children”
  5. “Build National monuments for the Mau Mau KFLA martyrs and assist families of the freedom fighters who died during the war of national independence”.

from Mau Mau, a Revolution Betrayed by Maina Wa Kinyatti, pg.58

In response the Kenyatta Government refused and used the same colonial army that was used against the KFLA to wipe out the rest of KFLA guerillas in the forests.

My point in writing this is to emphasize that the real sacrifices of our revolutionary ancestors will never be highlighted by our oppressors’ media outlets. If they are, they are white-washed to such an extent it makes it seems as if our ancestors were pro-establishment. You can always count on enemies of the people to be paraded on our oppressors’ media outlets – thus Jomo Kenyatta being “the hero of independence.” That’s why I am grateful my comrades organized Kimathi Day, which had a wonderful turnout and centered poor working class Kenyans. Because no matter what imperialism says, we are still organizing against its domination. We aren’t content with its boot on our neck. Whether it be in Kenya, Azania (South Africa), Palestine, or anywhere in the Third World. Truth as Malcolm X said, is on the side of the oppressed.