Othaya hall that houses Mau Mau history

Sunday October 06 2019

Mau Mau Memorial Hall in Othaya, Nyeri County, on October 6, 2019. Mau Mau veterans meet there on Mondays. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


About a kilometre outside the precincts of Othaya business centre is an imposing building.

It is located down a narrow road from the old colonial court, this tiny court is where the fate of captured Mau Mau freedom fighters was gavelled. The grim house is inaccessible and under guard.

The building was opened in 2012. And until its re-baptism, it was known simply as Othaya CDF (Constituency Development Fund) hall. It hosted — and still does — political and social meetings.

But all along, the hall hid a dark, macabre history.

When workers began work in 1976 on what was initially a community hall, earthmovers discovered tens of human skeletons dismembered and bleached by the passing of time.



According to veteran Mau Mau fighter Ndiritu Wambugu, the bones were the remains of freedom fighters who were shot wantonly and buried in a mass grave at the site between 1953 and 1956.

Some bones were carted away for disposal while others were left in the cavernous foundation, Mr Ndiritu said. They have since been removed.

The construction of the hall stalled in the 1980s and resumed after President Mwai Kibaki's administration took over in 2002.

After the Mau Mau War Veterans-Nyeri Chapter petitioned the government for years to rename the building in honour of the fallen, the CDF hall was finally gazetted as Mau Mau Memorial Hall, and in 2018 a room was allocated to serve the purpose of a museum.

It has photographs, files and artefacts such as guns. Visitors can also listen to oral narrations by veterans.

Perhaps the most outstanding item is a home-made gun allegedly used by the Mau Mau in the 1950s as they fought the colonial interlopers.


Stored there too are a few files detailing activities from that grim period. “We are still sourcing for material and artefacts,” says Mr Peter Githaiga, a former Mau Mau detainee and retired teacher. “We are appealing to the public to donate material. There is a lot to learn.”

It is managed by the National Museums of Kenya, though it does not have a resident curator.

Mr Githaiga says that he and other veterans meet in the hall every Monday to discuss how to get reparations.

The christening of the hall was done in November 2018. It was graced by former fighters and their relatives.

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