Dedan Kimathi Waciuri
(truly, Kimathi wa Waciuri), (31 October 1920 – 18 February 1957)
was a Kenyan rebel leader
who fought against British colonization in Kenya in the
1950s. He was convicted and executed by the British colonial government.
government that ruled Kenya at the time considered him a terrorist,
as did "loyalist" Kenyans who supported the British occupation and
seizure of Kikuyu lands and opposed the Mau Mau Uprising.
Statue of Dedan Kimathi in Nairobi
According to some
sources, under his leadership, the Mau Mau killed at least two
thousand Kenyan civilians. The Mau Mau rebels killed only 32
European settlers, and fewer than 200 British soldiers in the eight
year uprising. The British in turn killed 20,000 Mau Mau rebels in
combat, hanged over 1000 suspected Mau Mau supporters, and interned
more than 70,000 Kikuyu civilians for years in brutal detention
camps on suspicion of providing material support for the Uprising.
In her Pulitzer Prize
Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya
Harvard historian Caroline Elkins
claimed that during the uprising the British detained over one
million Kikuyu in what essentially were concentration camps,
exposing them to untold suffering, torture and death. Non-loyalist
Kenyans, particularly of the Kikuyu
viewed Kimathi as a freedom fighter
although many on the Kikuyu reserve viewed him as a terrorist, due
to the predations of the Mau-Mau on those living on the reserve and
to the atrocities committed by the Mau Mau upon them. A
particularly good source of turned agents for the Government forces
were those former Mau Mau escaping from summary justice handed out
by Kimathi, which was followed by death by strangulation. As
Kimathi's own band became fewer in number and the government forces
became more adept at limiting his movement, Kimathi became more and
more paranoid and would execute members of his own band for almost
random reasons, usually suspicion of 'spying'. In the end the main
force against the remaining Mau Mau led by Kimathi consisted
entirely of former Mau
who were now working for the Government. The capture of
Kimathi would have been nearly impossible without their knowledge
and skills because of the vast areas of rough terrain which hid the
Mau Mau and Kimathi. His capture was beyond the ability of the
regular forces in this region and he had a legendary and almost
supernatural ability to evade capture.
reputation as the leading fighter for Kenyan freedom remains today,
and a bronze statue of "Freedom Fighter Dedan Kimathi" on a
graphite plinth has been erected in central Nairobi.
was born in Thenge Village Tetu
the age of fifteen, he joined the local primary school, Karuna-ini,
where he perfected his English skills. He would later use those
language skills to write extensively before and during the
uprising. He was a Debate Club member in his school. He was deeply
religious and carried a Bible
worked for the forest department collecting tree seeds to help him
foot his school bill. He later joined Tumutumu CMS School for his
secondary learning, but dropped out for lack of funds.
He dabbled with several jobs but never felt fully settled. Notable
was his enlisting with the army to fight in the Second World War
in 1941. However, in 1944,
he was expelled for misconduct. In 1946, he became a member of the
Kenya African Union
. In 1949, he
started teaching at his old school Tumutumu, but left the job
within two years.
Mau Mau movement
Nevertheless, he managed to be very influential to whomever he met
through the string of jobs he was able to obtain. He became
radically political in 1950. He involved himself with the Mau Mau
, and later that year administered the
of the Mau Mau, making him a marked man to
the colonial government. He joined Forty
, the militant wing of the defunct Kikuyu Central Association
1951. He was elected as a local branch secretary of KAU in Ol'
Kalou and Thomson's Falls area in 1952. He was briefly arrested in
that same year, but escaped with the help of local police. This
marked the beginning of his violent uprising. He formed Kenya
Defence Council to co-ordinate all forest fighters in 1953.
In 1956, he was finally arrested with one of his wives, Wambui.
sentenced to death by a court presided by Chief Justice Sir Kenneth O'Connor, while he was in a
hospital bed at the General Hospital Nyeri.
the early morning of 18 February 1957 he was executed by the
colonial government. The hanging
at the Kamiti Maximum
. He was buried in an unmarked grave
, and his burial site remains
Kimathi is viewed by many Kenyans as a national hero. Many towns in
Kenya have a building or street named after him. On 18 February
2007, on the anniversary of the day he was executed, a bronze
statue of Kimathi was unveiled in Nairobi city centre. Kimathi,
clad in military regalia, holds a rifle on the right hand and a
dagger on the other, symbolizing the last weapons he held in his
The Dedan Kimathi Stadium in Nyeri was renamed after him, it was
formerly known as Kamukunji Grounds .
Kimathi was married to Mukami Kimathi. Among their children are
sons Wachiuri and Maina and daughters Nyawira and Wanjugu .