The capture, trial and execution of Dedan Kimathi

The capture, trial and execution of Dedan Kimathi

On 18 February, 1957, at Nairobi’s Kamiti Prison, Kenya’s colonial government put to death by hanging Dedan Kimathi Waciuri. With his death, his legend begun. The adoring masses of his African people lionized him as an inspirational military leader and in decades to come did all they could to keep his memory alive. They named schools, roads and a university after him. A towering statue of him stands at the head of the street that bears his name in downtown Nairobi.

Songs were composed to praise him and lament his martyrdom. He has inspired books, such as Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s powerful play The Trial of Dedan Kimathi and Ian Henderson’s The Hunt for Dedan Kimathi. His career has been subject to widespread academic inquiry and publishing. To the colonial government and its supporters, Kimathi was, of course, just a notorious terrorist.

To mark 60 years since his execution, I combed archives in search of first hand reportage of his death. I was primarily interested in the reporters’ dispatches from the field and courtrooms although the feature stories and editorial commentaries were important for context.

At that time, there was only one national newspaper, the East African Standard. Though independently owned, it had an editorial policy that reflected the views of the colonial establishment. But it is the only one that could provide an exhaustive account of the skirmish that led to Kimathi’s capture, the physical and mental condition he was in, a blow by blow report of his trial including the historically important statements he made in his defence, and finally his execution.

Journalism, we’re often reminded, is the first draft of history. I was keen to read the first draft of the ending of the life of so famous a man without the myths and legends that would follow. I knew of the biases of the paper and read the reports with a healthy detachment. Still, I found them compelling. Here is the full reproduction; no abridgment, additions or commentary:


PART ONE: Capture and aftermath

Monday, October 22, 1956


Princess told of dawn success near forest


Dedan Kimathi was shot and captured yesterday. A Kikuyu tribal police ambush saw him making a dawn attempt to cross into the Nyeri Reserve from the Aberdare forest and shot him in the leg. He is detained in a Nyeri hospital.

Kimathi was taken almost four years to the day from the declaration of the Emergency. News of the capture of the leader of Mau Mau forces since the early days was given to Princess Margaret by the Governor, Sir Evelyn Baring, as she left Government House to attend Divine Service at All Saints’ Cathedral, Nairobi.

Jubilant, cheering Africans gathered outside the Native Hospital, where Kimathi is detained, as news of his capture spread through the Nyeri district. The gang commander was given first-aid for his wound at Ihururu police station, a few miles from the forests where his power waxed and waned.

Kimathi fell to the waiting tribal policemen near Kahigaini village of South Tetu Location. He was moving through thick scrub when seen. The former milk clerk and teacher, who in a fit of megalomania, styled himself a knight and promoted himself to filed-marshal, was reported to have been carrying a revolver and ammunition.

Kimathi’s capture was a result of Special Branch operations under the control of Supt. Ian Henderson of the Kenya Police who has won the George Medal twice for gallantry in the Emergency. He was presented to Princess Margaret at the Government House Garden Party on Saturday only hours after leaving the forests.

The capture was announced by the Commander-in-Chief (East Africa), Lt.-Gen. Sir Gerald Lathbury, a few minutes after Princess Margaret had ended her visit to the British Military Hospital in Nairobi yesterday.

The C-in-C said that Kimathi’s capture would have a great psychological effect on the country. “Kimathi has always been known as the chief terrorist leader and as a man of great resource and considerable courage,” he said. His capture would do a great deal to raise the moral of all people in Kenya.

Gen. Lathbury revealed that virtually all operations against Kimathi in recent months had been carried out by ex-Mau Mau terrorists working under Supt. Henderson.

A police statement yesterday disclosed that pseudo-gangs had concentrated operations in the Aberdare forest for several weeks with the object of getting Kimathi. The most recent of several contacts was early last Tuesday morning, near the forest edge of North Tetu Location when a pseudo-gang contacted three of his remaining five followers whilst they were foraging for food.

One of the terrorists was shot and captured in the skirmish and he later led a pseudo-gang 15 miles inside the forest, about 20 miles west of Nyeri, where Kimathi and a woman terrorist were seen. The security men opened fire and the woman was captured after a running fight. Kimathi escaped, abandoning all his food and equipment.

After this contact, coordinated ambushes in the area in which Kimathi was thought likely to move were laid. They included covering the forest fringe bordering on Tetu.

One of these parties, consisting of six tribal policemen from Tetu Location, shot and took Kimathi yesterday. He was alone when the policemen saw him at dawn. Kimathi’s capture ends many months of outstanding operations. The full story of them will soon be released.

Kimathi is believed to be aged about 34. He went to the Kagumo School at Nyeri, in 1939, and was described as an English literate when he left three years later. For the next seven years he worked as a milk clerk on several up-country estates. After teaching for two years, he became a clerk again in 1951, and working at Nyeri and Thomson’s Falls.

In the same year, he became secretary of the Thomson’s Falls branch of the Kenya African Union, and collector of funds in the Nyeri, Ol Kalou and Thomson’s Falls area.

His Mau Mau activities are believed to have begun long before the Emergency started. His name was on the list of those wanted in the Jock Scott operation but he fled to the forest in time.


East African Standard Editorial

Comment on Kimathi’s capture

Monday, October 22, 1956



Kimathi knew the end was near. Harried by security forces, deserted by most of his personal associates, he was left as a miserable leader without authority over the scattered and tattered remnants of his gangs in the forest. His reign of terror petered out four years and a day after the declaration of Emergency.

By one of the ironies of Fate, the man who brought immeasurable suffering on his own people was eventually rounded up by those he had duped. His capture was the culminating success in the exploits of pseudo-gangs composed of former terrorists under courageous European leadership. For months, he had been marked down as their No. 1 target. For Supt. Ian Henderson, the hunt became a grim and relentless purpose. Supt. Henderson’s exploits have been nothing if not romantic, and there was a touch of the story-book about his last. Did he not go straight from the forest to be presented to Princess Margaret on Saturday, with scarcely time to shave off four days’ growth of beard? His men loyally carried out the plan in his absence, co-operating with Tribal police.

One day, the intimate diary of his services must be published, with the equally fantastic adventures of his colleagues in the Special Branch and the Kenya Regt. These are not only epics in the history of Kenya but their telling will grip the imagination of the world as real-life stories far stranger than fiction. Credit for the coup de grace must go to a patrol of six Tribal police-men who manned the ambush where Kimathi was wounded and captured. His elimination may make little impact on the operational conduct of the campaign, because he was out of touch with the fugitive gangsters and exercised scant control, but it will have an electrifying psychological effect.

Months ago, when the game was plainly up, he implacably opposed surrender, getting his way against Mathenge. By a strange quirk, Mathenge lingers on in the forest after Kimathi. He is the only remaining major leader of the erstwhile quite formidable gangs; in the C.-in-C’s opinion, however, the small fry do not offer much of a threat to security, providing the security forces maintain the initiative in pursuit. There are something like 300 terrorists living a sub-human existence, many of whom may be expected to surrender as the news spreads about Kimathi’s end.

His removal will hasten the day when the state of Emergency can be declared over. Certainly, there can be no objection to a complete hand-over to the police, in the very near future, of responsibility for maintaining law and order. If the Parliamentary Delegation talked about some time ago does come from Britain – and it is welcome – the M.P’s will find Kenya emerging from the night of anguish into a tomorrow of great expectations.




Gangster leader operated on


(Monday, October 22, 1956 – Ed.)


A Kikuyu tribal police reservist may qualify for the reward of 500 pounds which was placed on the head of Dedan Kimathi many months ago. He is Ndirangu s/o Mau, of Ujiru, Tetu Location, South Nyeri. He told me outside Nyeri police station yesterday that he was member of one of several ambushes placed at the forest edge at first light yesterday morning.

Ndirango said he had two companions with him. They saw a man and Ndirango opened fire. “The man fell flat on his face, he offered no resistance,” Ndirangu said. A tribal police corporal was in overall command of the ambushes.


‘Dressed for cold’

Kimathi was unconscious for part of yesterday afternoon. He had undergone an operation after an X-ray examination.

When he was captured he was wearing a leopard skin peaked cap, a leopard skin jacket, a long-sleeved garment of brown buckskin with a monkey collar, short trousers of deer skin, a leather jerkin, a military-type denim jacket with a green patch, an Army-type singlet and Army shorts. A police officer commented: “He was obviously well-dressed for the cold weather.”

On his way to hospital at Nyeri, Kimathi spoke in English. At the hospital, where he was put in a separate ward under guard, he called the doctor “sir.” The doctor is Adml. Twigg.

Two officers from C.I.D headquarters, Nairobi arrived in Nyeri yesterday afternoon to begin preliminary inquiries. They are Sen. Supt. J. H Baker, in charge of the C.I.D., and Supt. H. Baker.


Fractured Leg

Sen. Supt. Baker told me: “This operation was not specially mounted to coincide with the Princess’s visit. It is the culmination of a long series of operations but it is true that a special effort was made to ‘pull it off’ during the Princess’s stay.”

Police officers who saw Kimathi said he appeared to be well-fed. The intention is to institute proceedings against him as quickly as possible, but preliminary reports from the hospital suggested that Kimathi had fractured a femur and that it might be as long as four weeks before he would be fit to answer a charge.

Supt. Ian Henderson, who has played a major role in the operations against Kimathi, was expected to arrive in Nyeri last night.

News of Kimathi’s capture spread like wildfire through the Nyeri area. Thousands of excited Africans gathered outside Ihururu police station, in the South Nyeri Division, where he was taken into custody, and there was a large crowd outside the native hospital in Nyeri. African constables, when told of Kimathi’s arrest, began dancing.

The authorities in Nyeri intend to give the fullest publicity of the news today. There will be special broadcasts, barazas and distribution of pamphlets.

Kimathi was photographed in his bed by overseas cameramen yesterday afternoon. Cine pictures of him were also taken. He seemed bewildered and a little terrified by the battery of cameras facing him.




Distribution of 100,000 leaflets which describe in Kikuyu how Dedan Kimathi was captured begins today in the Kikuyu and Rift Valley areas.

A further 20,000 leaflets in Swahili will be delivered in small bundles to bomas in other provinces.

The leaflet is not intended specifically as an inducement to other terrorists to surrender, but as a factual news-sheet which will make it absolutely clear that he is in police hands.

Under the heading, “Dedan Kimathi is captured,” there is a large photograph. It shows Kimathi lying on a stretcher, his hands manacled. The text tells in detail how a tribal police patrol shot a lone terrorist early on Sunday morning, and how the man was immediately identified as Kimathi.


Special broadcasts

The leaflets have been produced at the request of administrative officers. Special broadcasts were continued yesterday from A.B.S. transmitters to make sure that news of Kimathi’s capture reaches even the most remote and isolated villages in the Emergency areas.

In the past four years, Mau Mau has been directly responsible for the death of almost 13,000 people, according to official figures issued yesterday. Since the Emergency was declared on October 20, 1952, 10,519 Mau Mau, 590 members of the security forces and 1,880 civilians have been killed. In addition, 2,619 terrorists have been captured, and 2,795 have surrendered.



Part played by ex-terrorists

(Wednesday, October 24, 1956 – Ed.)

Dedan Kimathi’s capture on Sunday was the culmination of a plan for the elimination of leading terrorists in the Aberdare Forest that was devised and introduced by the Special Branch last January. So successful was the plan that Kimathi was lucky to escape “by the skin of his teeth” in eight contacts with security forces during the past six months.

These contacts, all made by teams of ex-terrorists, are described in an official statement. Of the engagement which brought Kimathi’s career to a close, the statement makes this comment: “That he was finally captured by Kikuyu Tribal Police of his own district is most satisfactory. It emphasizes the great part the loyal Kikuyu have played in the defeat of Mau Mau.”


First success

The Special Branch plan entailed the setting-up of an intricate system of ambushes by ex-terrorists in the forests. It was hoped to make contact with members of foraging parties who might be willing to lead Special Branch teams back to their leaders, or return to their gangs and subsequently provide information regarding their composition and whereabouts.

The first success was achieved on January 23, when two comparatively important terrorists were contacted by these forces in the Kipipiri area of the Aberdares. They were persuaded to return and merge with their gangs and from them to ascertain the whereabouts of the main leaders.


Teams built up

During the following few weeks some 16 further terrorists were “snatched” in different parts of the forests and were used in a similar way.

In this manner it was possible gradually to build up teams of ex-terrorists of the standing and mentality required for penetration into the groups controlled by leaders such as Dedan Kimathi and his immediate subordinates.

It was therefore some considerable time before any direct offensive move was made against any of the main leaders.

Some of these pseudo-gangs were able to attend a large meeting of terrorists on Mount Kipipiri on February 24, 1956. At this meeting – of no fewer than 55 active terrorists – the pseudo-gangs aroused no suspicion, and it was therefore decided that it was now possible to attempt to make direct contact with the main leaders by this means.


Reducing strength

In the ensuing weeks, it was established that, because of the large number of terrorists guarding the main leaders, it was necessary to reduce their numbers before successful contact with the leaders themselves could be made.

This process of whittling down the strength of the various gangs continued so successfully that, by October, 1956, 198 terrorists were accounted for. These included certain prominent terrorists, among whom were Kahiu Itina, Kinyua Waweru, Ndungu Gicheru, Wambararia, brother of Dedan Kimathi, Jeriko, Theuri Makua, alias “Kimbo” and Kimani Kimarua.

Kinyua Waweru and Ndungu Gicheru were immediate subordinates of Dedan Kimathi, and Kimbo was a member of Dedan Kimathi’s “Council” at the beginning of the Emergency.

In the course of these operations a considerable number of other minor terrorists were dispersed and rendered leaderless, and surrendered to or were captured by security forces outside the forest.


Tracked to hide

By the latter half of April, it had become possible to launch direct operations against the Dedan Kimathi group which, at that time, was 33 strong.

The first contact with this group occurred on April 23 in the Ihwa area of the Aberdares, when Dedan Kimathi and his group were tracked to a hide.

In the ensuing encounter, which lasted for two hours and covered several miles of forest, Dedan Kimathi himself succeeded in escaping but certain other members of his group were accounted for.

The second contact with the Dedan Kimathi group occurred on May 9, in the Muirs’ massif area of the Aberdares, when five of its members were taken while on a foraging expedition away from the main group.

It was largely due to these five that Kimathi’s intended movements were ascertained, and the next contact was made possible.


Night raid

This occurred on June 4, 1956, when his position in the Treetops salient was raided at night. Four members of the group were accounted for, one of them being Dedan Kimathi’s brother. It was later found that Dedan Kimathi himself had been away from the hide at the time of the raid but, hearing of it, did not subsequently return.

The fourth contact occurred on June 22, when a party of members of Dedan Kimathi’s group was followed from a food store in the forest back to the remainder.

Contact with it was established shortly before dark, and three terrorists were taken. Dedan Kimathi and the remainder of his group got away in the darkness, having abandoned large quantities of food, equipment, documents and some ammunition.

The fifth contact occurred on July 4, when one of the teams located Dedan Kimathi’s hide in the Treetops salient and accounted for seven terrorists. It was, however, found that Dedan Kimathi himself had departed four days earlier for the Aberdare moorlands.

He was pursued there and contacted early on the morning of July 5, when two additional members of his group were accounted for. Dedan Kimathi himself succeeded in escaping.

The sixth contact took place on the night of July 22, again in the Treetops area, but on this occasion Dedan Kimathi himself was absent at a prayer point several miles away. Two members of the gang were taken.


Female companion

The seventh contact occurred on August 21, in the Zaina Valley of the Aberdares, when two members of Dedan Kimathi’s group were taken in extremely dense bamboo forest. Dedan Kimathi and the female terrorist who had been his companion since the early days of the Emergency narrowly escaped with another terrorist.

Soon after this contact, information was received of a meeting which Dedan Kimathi had convened for September 27.

Accordingly, active operations were called off against his group so as to avoid jeopardizing his attendance at the meeting and, with it, a good chance of accounting for him there.


Kimathi suspicious

The meeting did not in fact take place.

It was later ascertained that Kimathi’s absence was due to the fact that three members of his group, who had been sent foraging some days before the meeting was due to take place, had failed to return, with the result that Dedan Kimathi suspected that the meeting might have been compromised.

A full-scale operation was then launched on October 7. On October 15 one team discovered the tracks of one terrorist in the Treetops salient and followed them to a tree where they found a letter, written by Dedan Kimathi and addressed to three other members of his group.


All-night ambush

The discovery of this letter led to the supposition that Dedan Kimathi was somewhere in this area and the team split up to ambush the “letter box” and to carry out a search of the surrounding forest.

On the following day, a small section of the team made contact with three members of Dedan Kimathi’s group and captured one of them, while two others escaped in the dense forest.

From this capture it was ascertained that Dedan Kimathi and his female companion were alone in the forest some 14 miles away. By the evening his hide was discovered but was found to be empty.

After a further search another hide was found containing certain items of his personal property which pointed to his early return.

Throughout the night the position was ambushed without result and on the following morning, some members of the team were detached to search the surrounding forest.

During this search, in extremely dense forest, a small team was challenged by Dedan Kimathi. It at once gave chase and later captured the female terrorist who had collapsed exhausted.


Without food

Dedan Kimathi himself finally got away. He was now alone and without food and as it was expected that he would be forced to search for companions and food, all likely points both in the forest and on the fringes of the adjoining reserve were ambushed.

Units of the police, the Army and the Administration took part in the ambushes outside the forest edge. As a result, Dedan Kimathi was finally captured by a Tribal Police patrol as he was leaving the forest.

It is believed that rather fewer than 20 terrorists remain at large throughout the whole forest area of the Aberdares. These operations will continue until these men have been accounted for.





Rewards totaling 500 pounds for the capture of Dedan Kimathi were distributed yesterday at a ceremony in front of the Provincial Office at Nyeri. They were presented by the Special Commissioner, Central Province, Mr. C. M. Johnston.

The rewards, in the form of Post Office Saving Bank books, were divided between the nine members of the patrol which was responsible for the terrorist leader’s capture. Six received 25 pounds each. Ndirangu Mau, who shot and captured Kimathi, received 150 pounds, and Njugi Ngati, who was present and helped Ndirangu, received 75 pounds. Cpl. Wanjohi Wanjau, who was in charge, was awarded 50 pounds.

The remaining 75 pounds was allocated for a big feast for all the Tribal Police and Tribal Police Reservists in the North Tetu Location of the South Nyeri Reserve.

Addressing about 300 Tribal Police, who had marched into position led by their own band, Mr. Johnston said the gathering had been called to congratulate the men of the Tribal Police and Tribal Police Reserve who had captured the terrorist leader.


Mathenge capture

From the day Dedan Kimathi ran into the forest to the day he was captured, four years had elapsed, and they had brought great loss and trouble to the Kikuyu tribe, he said.

“Peace and comfort cannot come back to the Central Province until all the remaining gangsters have been captured, especially Stanley Mathenge. Until then, we cannot say that our task is ended.”

Mr. Johnston praised the work of the Tribal Police, the Tribal Police Reserve and Kikuyu Guard. Some of them had been murdered and others wounded, but all had loyally helped the Government and had killed a great many terrorists, assisted by the police.

He also praised the work of the loyal Kikuyu who had refused to take the Mau Mau oath, knowing that they might be killed or tortured. Since the beginning of the Emergency, the Guard, although they had not enough weapons, had also fought the terrorists and killed many of them.


March through town

“We remember the women and children who have been murdered by the Mau Mau terrorists,” he said. ‘We also remember what sorrow and trouble were brought about by the gangsters, bringing us poverty. The gangsters have spoiled our trade and farming and have interfered with out education by burning a number of schools and killing many teachers.”

The Mau Mau would not be allowed to come back. Everyone would have to try to regain the good name of the Central Province through progress and civilization.

Several hundred people of all races watched the ceremony. Afterwards, the Tribal Police and Reservists, led by the band, marched through the township and back to the reserve. 


Part Two: The Trial of Dedan Kimathi

(Tuesday, October 23, 1956 – Ed)





Three charges, including the alleged murder of a forest guard four years ago, were brought against Dedan Kimathi yesterday.

They were read out to him by the Resident Magistrate, Mr. J. E. Carthew, who held his court at Kimathi’s bedside in the Provincial General Hospital, Nyeri.

Throughout the afternoon a crowd of more than 50 waited outside Nyeri courthouse in the expectation that Kimathi would be brought from hospital to be charged.


Too ill

The Provincial Surgeon, Mr. D. W. Hamilton-Hurley, decided, however, that he was too ill to be moved, and Mr. Carthew was asked by police to go to the hospital.

The first count alleged the murder of a forest guard, Mwai Itufanwa, in the Kabage Location of South Nyeri Reserve in 1952. Other charges alleged that he was unlawfully in possession of a firearm and six rounds of ammunition when he was wounded and captured by a patrol of Tribal Police early on Sunday morning.

Kimathi made no reply to any of the charges. They were translated to him by a Kikuyu interpreter, although he is known to speak English fluently.


Other charges

Mr. Carthew told him he would be remanded in prison custody until November 5. Kimathi was later transferred to the prison hospital at Nyeri.

Yesterday afternoon, a police officer left for Nairobi to deliver papers to the Attorney-General, Mr. E. N. Griffith-Jones, Q.C. After studying these and other documents, the Attorney-General will decide if Kimathi should stand trial on the charges. He will also consider the possibility of other charges.


Trial procedure

It is possible that Kimathi will go straight before a Supreme Court judge sitting in Emergency Assize with no preliminary inquiry before a magistrate to determine whether the prosecution has a prima facie case.

This procedure has been adopted for the trial of many other Mau Mau leaders – including the self-styled “Field Marshal” Kaleba.




‘On way to surrender when shot’ claim

“Standard” Staff Reporter, Nyeri

Dedan Kimathi told the Supreme Court at Nyeri that he was going to surrender when he was wounded and captured by Kikuyu Tribal Police a month ago.

Kimathi is charged with unlawful possession of a revolver and six rounds of ammunition. He admitted that he had them and said: “I did not leave the revolver and ammunition behind because the Government’s instructions were that anyone who intended to surrender should not leave his arms behind.” The Chief Justice, Sir Kenneth O’Connor, said he would interpret this as a plea of lawful authority and would enter pleas of not guilty to both charges.


Ambush near ditch

Nyeri’s small courtroom was crowded when the trial opened. Police had set up road blocks and sealed the approaches to prevent tribesmen flocking into the town, but hundreds gathered outside the court to try to catch a glimpse of Kimathi.

Kimathi arrived at the courtroom in an ambulance, escorted by European police officers and an African hospital orderly. He was wheeled into the court in an invalid chair equipped with a special stand on which to rest his injured leg. He was dressed in a white shirt and shorts with a red hospital blanket on top. He wore a beard and moustache and his long hair was secured in pigtail form by rubber bands.

The Solicitor-General, Mr. D.W. Conroy, assisted by Mr. J.K Havers, Crown Counsel prosecuted. Kimathi was defended by Mr. F. Miller.

In his opening address, Mr. Conroy said that if the Crown proved that Kimathi was in possession of the revolver and the ammunition he would be guilty on both counts unless he could prove he had a lawful excuse for being in possession of them.

Mr. Conroy explained that a wide ditch separated the South Tetu Location and the forest. An ambush was set along the ditch on the night of October 20. At daybreak two members of the ambush party saw a man in the ditch or near its edge.


Three shots fired

One tribal constable, Ndirangu s/o Mau, shouted first in English and then in Kikuyu for the man to halt. The man ran along the ditch, attempted to climb out on two occasions and on the third scrambled out on the reserve side. The constable fired three shots and on the last one the man fell down and disappeared into the bush.

A search began and after some time members of the ambush party say what at first they took to be a leopard lying under an overhanging bush. On moving closer they say it was a man clothed in leopard-skin coat and hat. The man was wounded in the thigh. His wounds were dressed and he was carried on an improvised stretcher to the police station.

Witnesses would tell the court that at no time was the man ill-treated after his capture, nor did he at any time say he wished to surrender, Mr. Conroy went on.


Shouted in English

The next day he was charged with the two offences and said: “I would like to say that I never knew there was such a law.”

Mr. Conroy said one might have thought that if Kimathi had intended to surrender he would have said so to the police officer who charged him.

If, at the end of the prosecution evidence, the court believed that Kimathi was in possession of a revolver, then unless it was satisfied that he had a lawful excuse he was guilty of the offence. Further, if the court was satisfied that the six rounds of ammunition were in the revolver, presumably it would be satisfied he was guilty on the second count.

Ndirangu told the court that at daybreak on October 21 he saw something climb out of the ditch on the forest side. He shouted: “Who goes there?” in English. The figure dropped back into the ditch and ran along it.


Searched for hour

Ndirangu said he gave chase. He repeatedly shouted “Stop” in Kikuyu. He then became aware of the fact the figure was a man. He fired three shots and after the third shot the man, who was then on the reserve side of the ditch, fell down. He disappeared into the ditch.

Members of the ambush party searched for about an hour before seeing a “thing” like a leopard, lying under a castor-oil tree.

“When we were close we saw it was a man wearing a leopard-skin cap and coat,” he went on “I said, ‘Who are you?’ and the man replied, ‘It is I, Kimathi son of Waciuri.”

Ndirangu said he then asked, “What about the other name?” The man replied, “I am called Dedan Kimathi.” He mentioned another name. Ndirangu said he did not understand it properly, but it sounded something like “Field-Marshal.”


Wearing revolver

The man was the accused, Ndirangu said. Under his leopard skin coat he was wearing a leather jacket. Under the jacket Kimathi was wearing a revolver and a simi. Later he saw that there were six rounds in the revolver.

On no occasion that morning did Kimathi say anything about wishing to surrender, Ndirangu said.

Just before the court adjourned for lunch, the Chief Justice told Kimathi that if he felt unwell he should say so.

After the adjournment Kimathi complained of feeling unwell. He was examined by three doctors. One of them, Dr. P.P. Turner, Provincial Physician, gave evidence. Dr. Turner said Kimathi had told him that he was suffering from abnormal noises in his ears. In his opinion, Kimathi had a headache, but he and his colleagues thought he would be fit enough for the trial to continue today.

The hearing was adjourned until 10 a.m. today. Before it starts Kimathi will be medically examined.


Statements by Kimathi denied – November 21, 1956


“Standard” Staff Reporter, Nyeri

A defense suggestion that Dedan Kimathi was shot when he was offering to surrender was denied by a prosecution witness when Kimathi’s trial on charges of being unlawfully in possession of a revolver and six rounds of ammunition continued before the Chief Justice, Sir Kenneth O’Connor, at Nyeri yesterday.

Ndirangu s/o Mau, the tribal policeman who stated he shot Kimathi while he was trying to escape from an ambush in South Tetu location on October 21, was cross-examined by Mr. F. Miller, defending counsel.

Mr. Miller said: “I put it to you that Kimathi called attention to himself by saying ‘I am Dedan Kimathi. I have come in to surrender. I have a pistol’.”


Policeman’s denial

Ndirangu replied: “That is not so.” Mr. Miller: I also put it to you that after Kimathi had said that you raised your rifle and said to him “You have caused us enough trouble” and when he was squatting on his haunches on the ground, you fired your rifle and hit him on the inner part of the thigh.”

Answering the Chief Justice, Ndirangu said that on no occasion from first to last on October 21 had Kimathi mentioned anything about wishing to surrender.


No reply heard

Another tribal policeman, Njogi s/o Ngatia, said the ambush party called on Kimathi to surrender, but received no reply. He too had not heard Kimathi say anything that morning about wishing to surrender.

The trial resumed at the appointed time after Kimathi had been examined by three doctors.

Mr. D.W.H Hurley, the Provincial surgeon, said that Kimathi had complained of pain in the hip and he thought he was telling the truth. Kimathi had stated that it might interfere with his concentration, but had added he wished the trial to proceed.

Kimathi’s general condition was excellent and he was getting progressively better from his thigh wound. His pulse and temperature were both normal and the doctor considered Kimathi was fit enough to carry on.


Jumped ditch

The Chief Justice told Kimathi that the trial would proceed, but that if he found himself unable to concentrate he should inform his counsel.

Njogi said that when Ndirangu fired the first shot, he saw the man they were pursuing jump from the ditch on to the Kikuyu Reserve side and then disappear.

Cross-examined, he admitted that he had not seen this happen as his view of Kimathi was obscured by bushes. He had been told by Ndirangu that the man had fallen over on the Reserve side of the trench. He himself had not seen Kimathi from the time of the firing of the second shot until Ndirangu pointed him out lying wounded under the tree.

Asked if he had looked for bloodstains at the place indicated by Ndirangu, Njogi said he had not done so for they had been on watch in case the man escaped. He was able to see Ndirangu when he fired his first shot and after that there had been no shoot.

Mwangi Kanduro, another tribal policeman, said he heard three shots and assisted in the search for the wounded man. He did not hear Kimathi say he wished to surrender. He searched the wounded man and found a pistol and a simi underneath his leopard-skin coat.

In answer to the Chief Justice, Mwangi said that neither he nor any other member of the ambush party had a pistol or pistol ammunition in his possession before Kimathi was searched.

The trial continues today.


Kimathi at school with one of captors – November 22, 1956


“Standard” Correspondent, Nyeri

Two members of the ambush party which captured Dedan Kimathi said at the third day of his trial at Nyeri yesterday that they knew him personally. One tribal policeman said he had been at school with Kimathi and another that he had known him as a clerk at a dairy office.

Kimathi is charged with being in possession of a revolver and six rounds of ammunition when he was shot and captured on October 21. He admits carrying them but says he was obeying Government instructions in bringing them with him.


Became teacher

Tribal policeman Njeru Karundo said yesterday that he knew Kimathi well as he had attended the same school. Kimathi was older and later became a teacher.

The other policeman, Mwangi Kahagi, said he used to see Kimathi at the Tetu Dairy Co-operative Association office where Kimathi worked as a clerk.

Another witness said that Kimathi’s thigh wound was bound up with strips torn from the undershirt of the corporal in charge of the ambush. Kimathi was later carried to a nearby Home Guard post on a stretcher made from forest poles and creepers.


Good English

Members of the ambush party all denied that Kimathi had mentioned anything about wishing to surrender.

Kimathi has given no information of value to security investigators. Ass. Sup. C.E. Vidler said Kimathi had said nothing whatever to him about having wished to surrender on the day he was captured. On every occasion he had seen Kimathi, he had spoken in very good English, Mr. Vidler said.

Both Mr. Vidler and another European police officer, Insp. J.R Blackman, stated that the .38 revolver found on Kimathi would cause death if the bullet hit a vital organ.


Hiding place

Among the articles found on Kimathi were three snare wires, a wrist watch and a partly consumed maize cob. Mr. Vidler also said that the place at which Kimathi was found lying wounded had been pointed out to him. He had unsuccessfully searched the area in the hope of finding documents.

The place did not provide a good hiding place, Mr. Vidler said. In reply to the defense counsel, Mr. F. Miller he said there were better ones in the vicinity, buy only on the other side of the trench.

The trial continues today and the Crown case is expected to close by lunch-time.


Court told of Kimathi’s mind – November 23, 1956


“Standard” Staff Reporter, Nyeri

Dedan Kimathi’s counsel, Mr. F. Miller, submitted at Nyeri yesterday that his client’s mind was affected by epilepsy. This might have some bearing on why Kimathi did not say when he was captured that he had been coming in to surrender.

Mr. Miller put this forward when applying for a letter written by Kimathi to the District Commissioner, Nyeri, in February last year, to be admitted as evidence.

Kimathi is charged with possessing a revolver and six rounds of ammunition when he was captured. He admits this but claims he was going to surrender and was obeying Government instructions to bring them in with him.

The Solicitor-General, Mr. D.W. Conroy, objected to the introduction of the letter on the grounds that it was irrelevant. A letter written nearly two years ago could have no bearing on whether Kimathi was in possession of a fire-arm on October 21 this year, when he was captured.


Subsequent action

In Mr. Conroy’s submission, the document could only be admissible if it were relevant to the issues before the Court and secondly, if it assisted in assessing the credibility of a witness.

The Chief Justice, Sir Kenneth O’Connor asked defense counsel if he wished to raise any issue of insanity. Mr. Miller replied that he would not do so but the issue of a mental condition which might have influenced Kimathi’s actions at the time he was arrested would be raised.

The Chief Justice asked if he was submitting that Kimathi’s mental condition prevented him from appreciating that he should not carry a fire-arm. Mr. Miller replied that that was not so. His contention was that it influenced him in his action subsequent to his arrest.

The Solicitor-General contended that it was difficult to see how defense counsel could bring in a letter written by Kimathi himself to support his own story. Secondly, the proper time to attempt to introduce the document was during the defense case.

The Chief Justice ruled that the letter was not relevant at present but that it might be if his defense took a certain line.


No actual refusal

Insp. J.R. Blackman said that Kimathi did not actually refuse to give him any information on security matters but his manner was obstinate. The impression he gained was that Kimathi could assist but would not do so.

Dr. D.W.H Hurley, Provincial surgeon, said that when Kimathi was admitted to Nyeri Hospital, his appearance was good and his standard of nutrition excellent.

The rifle bullet had gone through his right thigh, missing the bone, and he would have been able to crawl only with difficulty. He had stood up to his operation extremely well.


‘Mentally clear’

Physically, Kimathi was reasonably comfortable. Mentally, he was clear and normal and his condition had not deteriorated when he examined him again after the police interviewed him.

At the request of the Chief Justice, Dr. Hurley visited the spot where Kimathi was said to have been shot. On his return, he stated that from a distance of 10 or 12 yards from the tree under which Kimathi was found, it would have been possible to have a conversation with a man squatting by the tree and to shoot him to produce a wound such as that suffered by Kimathi.

Dr. Hurley said it might be another two months before Kimathi fully recovered from his wound.


Higher ground

Tribal Policeman Ndirangu s/o Mau, who shot Kimathi, was recalled by the Chief Justice. He reiterated that Kimathi was on the top of a trench, on ground higher than that on which he knelt firing the shot which he thought struck Kimathi.

The Chief Justice adjourned the hearing until today to enable a police draftsman, Insp. D.R. Crew, who had earlier produced a plan of the area, to make a more detailed examination of heights of places involved.



Hid in forest because of price on head

“Standard” Staff Reporter, Nyeri

Dedan Kimathi denied yesterday that he had ever engaged in Mau Mau activities. After taking the oath on the Bible, he said he had lived in the forest for almost four years but parted from most of his companions early in 1954.

Except for three leaders who were friendly to him, Kimathi told his advocate, Mr. Frederick Miller, in court at Nyeri, others – there were very many of them – objected to a letter he had written offering to negotiate with Government leaders.

The three who were friendly told him his life was in danger. With five other people he left in February, 1954, and went to his own forest hide-out “far away.”

Mr. Miller: “Since then have you carried out any anti-Government, anti-British, anti-African or any other Mau Mau activities?”

Kimathi: “Not even previous to that.”

Kimathi said the pistol which was found on him was given him in April last year by a man named Macharia Kimemia to defend himself against Mau Mau in the forest who intended to kill him. Macharia told him that the enemies had grown enormously.


Shooting fear

“I have never used that pistol or any other,” Kimathi added. The six rounds of ammunition Macharia gave him were still in the pistol when he was arrested.

He had seen a pamphlet telling people to surrender and saying they should not leave their arms behind in the forest, he said. On October 20 he decided to follow these instructions.

Mr. Miller: “You were a long time in the forest. Why did you not come down and surrender earlier since you had parted with your associates and your life was in danger?”

“Because there was a 500 pound reward on my head and I knew that if I came out either police or home guard would kill me to get the money. I have been writing secretly to the Government to meet them because I knew that if I met them and came out from the forest with them I would not be shot.”


Alone and ill

The Solicitor-General, Mr. D.W. Conroy prosecuting: “The Government denies that any letters offering to surrender were written. If Mr. Miller wants letters in evidence he can call for them.”

Mr. Conroy said it was wrong to give the court an impression about letters which could speak for themselves if examined.

After a whispered consultation with Kimathi, Mr. Miller said he would not ask for the letters.

Kimathi said he had finally resolved to leave the forest and surrender because he had been there a very long time with Mau Mau and security forces hunting him.

“I was left all alone and I was ill and said to myself, ‘It is better to come out either to be killed or to get before Government.’”


School rendezvous

The Solicitor-General produced letters written by Kimathi after February, 1954, in which he (Kimathi) negotiated with the Government on behalf of “my followers.”

Mr. Conroy asked Kimathi if he did not call that Mau Mau activity. “Were you not negotiating for peace with the Government on behalf of Mau Mau?”

Kimathi replied that the letter was written after the split with Mau Mau leaders and when he was a fugitive from them.

Mr. Conroy also produced a letter written by the District Commissioner of Nyeri which Kimathi admitted he had received. The letter told Kimathi that he and his gang were at liberty at any time to surrender.

Kimathi said he replied to the letter saying he was to be met at a forest school. “I sent people there and they were murdered. After that I was afraid to surrender.” He admitted that he had not notified anyone of his intention to surrender last month.

Dr. P.P Turner, Provincial Physician, Nyeri, told the court that he was quite satisfied that Kimathi was an ideopathic epileptic. If he had a fit during his operation he could have suffered from headache and mental blurring for as long as 48 hours.

The court adjourned until 9.30 a.m. on Monday. The defense counsel, Mr. Miller, is to call two more witnesses – Kimathi’s mother and another Kikuyu called Joseph Wakaba, said to be from Manyani Camp.


Kimathi’s Judgment Due Today – November 27, 1956

Assessors give their opinion as ‘guilty’

“Standard” Staff Reporter, Nyeri

After retiring for five minutes, three Kikuyu assessors at Nyeri yesterday said they were of the opinion that Dedan Kimathi was guilty of being in unlawful possession of a revolver and six rounds of ammunition when he was shot and arrested on October 21.

The Chief Justice, Sir Kenneth O’Connor, will give judgment today. The assessors, who had heard a summing-up lasting nearly three hours, said that in their view Kimathi had no intention of surrendering to the authorities. Kimathi had earlier admitted to being in possession of both revolver and ammunition, but claimed he was coming in to surrender with them when he was shot at close range by a tribal policeman.

The evidence of the last two defense witnesses took only about 20 minutes. The Solicitor-General, Mr. D.W. Conroy, did not cross-examine.

Kimathi’s mother, a very old Kikuyu, said her son had his first epileptic fit when he was old enough to herd goats. He had experienced others since. Her daughter had also been subject to fits since her circumcision.

Joseph Wakaba said he saw Kimathi fall suddenly once in 1945. He did not know whether it was due to illness, but Kimathi was semi-conscious for 15 minutes.

Kimathi’s counsel, Mr. F. Miller, submitted that he had a “lawful excuse” for being in possession of the revolver and the ammunition, resulting from his intention to surrender to the authorities.


Little Food

“My submission is that Kimathi accepted the invitation of a pamphlet which called on terrorists to surrender and said: “If possible come with your arms.”

“He brought his revolver with him, but was prevented by a sequence of events from surrendering.”

Mr. Miller said that if Kimathi had intended to return to the forest, he would have collected a good supply of food to take with him, whereas all he had was little sugar cane. His nearness to the road also showed his intention to surrender.

Kimathi had heard shots about 40 yards way and, naturally and sensibly, ran away. Ndirangu s/o Mau had said he thought he hit Kimathi with his third shot form some distance away, as Kimathi was running on top of a trench. Kimathi denied this, and said he was wounded while he was squatting underneath a small tree after he had said to Ndirangu: “I am Dedan Kimathi. I wish to surrender. I have a pistol.”


Mentally ‘blurred’

If the assessors concluded that Kimathi was shot in the way he described, they would also have to conclude that the whole of Ndirangu’s evidence was unreliable.

The court might wonder why Kimathi had not specifically said when charged by a senior police officer that he had wished to surrender but it must be remembered that the statement to the police was recorded within 24 hours of an operation on a serious wound, that Kimathi was an epileptic, and that his mental capacity might have been blurred by shock.

“I am not suggesting for one moment that the accused is insane. If his mind had been clear, surely he would at once have said I came in to surrender.’”

Mr. Miller suggested that Kimathi was justified in taking reasonable means of self-defense against Mau Mau leaders who wished to murder him.


‘Unfortunate man’

He submitted that Kimathi was an unfortunate man, who had seen that he had made a grievous mistake, made futile attempts to come to terms with the Government, and finally decided to surrender with his revolver, only to meet with the tragic circumstances of his arrest before he could do so.

He contended that if the court believed that Kimathi seriously intended to surrender with his firearm- and he could easily have thrown it away into the forest – then he must be acquitted.

The Solicitor-General said it was not sufficient for Kimathi to say he changed his mind and wished to surrender. There must be definite acts to show that intention. Nor would it be sufficient for Kimathi to say he retained the revolver to protect himself from terrorists.

If the assessors believed Ndirangu and his companion, they must find Kimathi guilty; if they believed his story, they must acquit him.


In the forest

“But if you are unable to make up your minds which is more probably true, then because it is for Kimathi to prove the lawful excuse, you must convict him.”

Mr. Conroy asked the assessors to consider whether Kimathi struck them as a man who was telling the truth, or as a very foxy and suspicious individual.

“He admits he was in the forest for four years, called himself ‘Supreme Commander-in-Chief,’ ‘President of the Kenya Parliament,’ and you may also think he called himself ‘Head of Mau Mau.’”

He asked the assessors to use their experience to decide whether Ndirangu or Kimathi was telling the truth. They would remember that Kimathi had said he had no dealing with Mau Mau after February, 1954. Yet eight months later, he wrote on behalf of the ‘Kenya Parliament’ asking the Government to allow ‘us’ to meet and speak words of peace.


Letter quoted

“By ‘us’, he could only have meant Mau Mau. He signed the letter, and the name of Field Marshal Sir Dedan Kimathi headed a list of leaders named in the document.

“He says he had the revolver to defend himself against Mau Mau. Do you believe that, or do you believe he had it to use to kill innocent men? This self-styled Commander-in-Chief, did not have a pistol and ammunition to force his will on decent law-abiding people?”

The Solicitor-General said the 1953 surrender pamphlet urged terrorists to surrender “now.” Did the assessors really think that the pamphlet has caused Kimathi to try to surrender more than three years later?

He submitted that the wound suffered by Kimathi was consistent with Ndirangu’s evidence. Would a tribal policeman who shot a terrorist he saw trying to surrender, shoot him only through the thigh, thus allowing the terrorist to give evidence against him? If Kimathi’s story was true, Ndirangu would have put a bullet through his head.

If his story was true, surely the first thing Kimathi would have done would have been to make a most vigorous protest to the first European police officer he met, Mr. Conroy said.


Summing up

Summing up, the Chief Justice said the assessors must put out of their minds any feeling of sympathy for a man on a capital charge, or prejudice against him because of his past activities.

The prosecution had to prove that Kimathi had in his possession a lethal firearm. If it succeeded to prove he had lawful authority, or lawful excuse.

If Kimathi proved he intended to surrender, then, in law, that would be a lawful excuse. It would not be a lawful excuse to carry a firearm as a protection against other terrorists.

The defense had brought forward the question of epilepsy to show that Kimathi’s mind might have been blurred, thus accounting for the fact that in answer to the police charge he did not say he had come to surrender.


Main issue

The main issue in the case, the Chief Justice said, was whether Kimathi was coming in with his revolver and ammunition to surrender.

The assessors would have to make up their minds whether they believed Ndirangu, according to whom Kimathi was going towards the forest when he saw him. “If you believe that evidence, you may think it gives some indication of the intentions of the accused that day.” The assessors might think it important that Kimathi did not complain vehemently to the first European police officer he met that he had been shot while coming in to surrender.

SENTENCED TO DIE – November 28, 1956

“Standard” Staff Reporter, Nyeri

Dedan Kimathi, the Mau Mau terrorist leader, was sentenced to death yesterday at Nyeri.

He had been found guilty by the Chief Justice of Kenya, Sir Kenneth O’Connor, of having been in unlawful possession of .38 revolver in the South Tetu Reserve on October 21.

He was also found guilty on a second count – unlawful possession of six rounds of ammunition – and for this was sentenced to seven years’ hard labor. Kimathi was informed that he had seven days in which to appeal.


In invalid’s chair

Replying to the formal question – “Have you anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon you according to law?” Kimathi said: “The prosecution witnesses have not told the whole truth. They have given that evidence on account of the reward they expected to receive. I have nothing else to say.”

Kimathi, still in his invalid’s chair, heard the sentence impassively.

The small courtroom was packed during the delivery of the judgment, which lasted one and a half hours. A large crowd gathered in the street outside to await the verdict. Strict security precautions were maintained, and all Kikuyu allowed in the court were screened at the entrance.


Judge dubious

The Chief Justice said he considered that Ndirangu and Njogi, who were the first two in the tribal police patrol to see Kimathi on October 21, had been clearly telling the truth about pursuing him.

He (the Chief Justice) was dubious, however, about Ndirangu’s account of wounding Kimathi on the side of the trench which divided the reserve from the forest. If Ndirangu’s story was true, it meant that Kimathi must have been circling back to the trench which he had just left and which contained his pursuers.

The Chief Justice said he thought it was possible that Ndirangu, coming on Kimathi, hearing who he was and thinking he might be armed, shot him through the leg to make sure he would not run away again.


Chase in trench

The Chief Justice said he unhesitatingly accepted the evidence of Ndirangu about the circumstances in which Kimathi was first encountered and the chase along the trench. He also accepted the evidence of the finding of the revolver and ammunition on Kimathi.

“I do not consider Kimathi to be a witness of truth. I thought, in view of the letters which he wrote subsequent to February, 1954, that his story that he had ceased his terrorist activities was untrue,” Sir Kenneth said.

“I believe little of his evidence. In particular, I do not believe that he was coming in to surrender. I find as a fact that he was returning to the forest when he was challenged, that he made off as fast as he could and did his best to escape.”

It was incredible that Kimathi had not made a protest to the authorities if he had, in fact, been shot when attempting to surrender.

“I find that Kimathi was a member of the terrorist organization, Mau Mau. I do not believe his surrender story. I think it was an afterthought and a fabrication. I agree with the unanimous opinion of the assessors and convict the accused on both counts.”

The Chief Justice, who reviewed the evidence at length, said he regretted the necessity of holding the trial before Kimathi had fully recovered from his wound, but added that he considered that Kimathi had not been prejudiced in his defense in any way.

Application for Kimathi to appeal – February 8, 1957

Dedan Kimathi’s application to the Privy Council for leave to appeal against conviction and sentence of death imposed on him at Nyeri two months ago will be presented in London on Wednesday.

The application will be submitted by Mr. Dingle Foot, Q.C. If it is granted, Mr. Foot will represent Kimathi at the subsequent appeal.

Costs of proceeding in Britain are being met by the Movement for Colonial Freedom, of which Mr. Fenner Brockway, MP. is a member.

Kimathi was sentenced to death after being found “Guilty” of the illegal possession of a firearm.



The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council yesterday refused a petition by Dedan Kimathi, the former Mau Mau leader, for special leave to appeal against the death sentence.

Kimathi was convicted by the Kenya Supreme Court on November 27 last year for illegal possession of a pistol, contrary to Emergency regulations. At the same time he was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment with hard labor for unlawful possession of ammunition.

His appeal to the East African Court of Appeal was summarily dismissed in December.

Mr. Dingle Foot, for Kimathi, contended yesterday that the man was not allowed to avail himself of a possible defense that he had a lawful excuse for carrying the pistol. Kimathi admitted he had a pistol and ammunition but said these were given to him in February, 1954, to defend himself against Mau Mau terrorists who wished to kill him.



Part Three: Dedan Kimathi is executed

KIMATHI HANGED AT DAWN – February 19, 1957

Visits by padre

Dedan Kimathi, the Mau Mau leader, was hanged at Nairobi Prison at 6 a.m. yesterday.

Kimathi was captured in an ambush by Kikuyu tribal policemen on October 21. He was wounded in the action, but recovered in hospital.

The next day he was charged on three counts – the alleged murder of an African forest guard in 1952, illegal possession of a firearm and possession of six rounds of ammunition.

His trial by the Supreme Court at Nyeri opened on November 19, and concerned only the charges of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition. It continued until November 27, when the Chief Justice, Sir Kenneth O’Connor, sentenced him to death for the unlawful possession of a revolver.


Appeal dismissed

Kimathi had been previously found “guilty” by a panel of Kikuyu assessors sitting at the trial.

His appeal to the Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa was summarily dismissed on December 27, and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council refused his petition to appeal to the Council on February 14.

Father Joseph Whelan, acting Catholic padre at Nairobi Prison, said yesterday that he had visited Kimathi several times in his cell.


The East African Standard recap of

Kimathi’s career after his hanging

(February 19, 1957 – Ed.)






Dedan Kimathi, the former milk clerk on Kenya farms who became the main leader and rallying point of Mau Mau terrorism, yesterday paid the penalty for his brutal career. He was working actively for Mau Mau long before the Emergency was declared and he escaped the net of “Operation Jock Scott”, in which many other leaders of the movement were captured.

In the forests Kimathi organized Mau Mau into gangs. He was notorious for his ruthless methods as leader in the Aberdare area. Stanley Mathenge, his counterpart in the Mount Kenya sector is still at large. It was chiefly Kimathi’s influence that prevented the success of negotiations for the large –scale surrender of terrorists.

As the security forces gained the initiative in their operations, meetings of the “Mount Kenya Parliament” were broken up and the two main leaders were confined to their respective sections of the forest. This is the official story of the relentless hunt for Kimathi, during which his gang was gradually whittled down until, finally, he was alone. Appropriately, it was the Tribal Police of his own district – the men who had rejected his cause – who captured him.


Obsession about men who speeded his end

During the last months of his life, while security forces tightened their grip around him, Kimathi’s fear of the pseudo gangsters who made such a vital contribution to his downfall turned into a morbid obsession which led him to the commission of many vicious crimes.

The investigations of Senior Supt. Ian Henderson showed that it was Kimathi’s practice to order the killing of any lone terrorist who encountered him and his few remaining henchmen. He took no chances. Whatever the extent of fatigue, hunger and emaciation – however plausible his story – any terrorist who attempted to join up with Kimathi was immediately shot or strangled.

These executions were usually carried out by Kimathi’s followers, but it is known that on several occasions, Kimathi himself was executioner. He preferred to use his bare hands.

But for these wanton killings, it is possible that Kimathi might have remained at large much longer. His gang dwindled rapidly – but he made no effort to report his losses. When he was shot and captured, four months ago, he was alone.


Personal animosities

From the early stages of the Emergency, Kimathi became increasingly unpopular with other personalities in the Mau Mau movement.  His self-exaltation, which verged on megalomania, caused him to describe himself as “Field Marshal Sir Dedan Kimathi, leader of all men and all armies”.

Besides personal animosities and jealousies, the main cause of Kimathi’s unpopularity was his habit of making major decisions on his own initiative and his generally dictatorial attitude. The ill-feeling was engendered by his habit of writing to Press and the Government without first consulting the other leaders.

Before the Emergency, Kimathi was a close friend of Stanley Mathenge. Both men carried out political propaganda in the Nyeri area and were prominent in the pre-Emergency spread of Mau Mau in the Reserves. In the months before Kimathi’s capture, their relationship deteriorated. Mathenge disliked Kimathi as heartily as the bulk of the major leaders.


Prolific Writer

At a Press conference last October, Supt. Henderson was asked how he thought the news of Kimathi’s capture would have been received by Mathenge. He replied: “I should imagine he is highly delighted.”

Kimathi was a prolific writer and a keeper of records. When security forces raided his hideout in the Aberdares, early in 1955, they came away with a mass of papers and documents.

The task of translation from Kikuyu and Swahili took several months. The documents were digested by the Special Branch of the Kenya Police, cross-checked and indexed and collated into 14 volumes, each of about 30 pages of foolscap typewriting. A team of 16 officers was engaged on the work.


Warped mentality

All the documents were handwritten. In the case of Kimathi’s letters, he had kept elaborate notebooks with carbon copies. The contents of the personal papers – emphasized the warped mentality and acute megalomania of the man.

The ledgers contained the names of many people listed as militant members of the Mau Mau “armies” in the Aberdares. Entries of the names were duplicated many times and a large proportion of those listed had never been in the forest.

These lists, in which about 40 percent of the names were of women, had obviously been compiled by Kimathi to impress his followers with the numerical support he claimed.

In a paper in which he appointed himself “prime minister,” he set up a body which he called “the Kenya Parliament.” Although one paper described this so-called parliament as “democratic” body, other documents made it clear that it operated completely as a totalitarian body under Kimathi’s dictatorship. There was evidence, too, of much friction among the members.


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