Field Marshal Baimungi Marete was the deputy leader of Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi who died in 1956 during the war against colonialists.
The story that has never been told is of the hero who took over the leadership of the Mau Mau from Kimathi and led the war veterans to victory, earning the country independence in 1963.
The unsung hero was born in 1924 at Mwereru Village, Katheri location of Meru Central District.
In 1939 Baimungi married Evangeline Muthoni and then left to fight as a British soldier in Burma during the Second World War.
As a British soldier, he leanred how to make guns and driving.
After the war, when Field Marshal Baimungi arrived in Mombasa, he took the oath of allegiance to the Mau Mau.
When he moved to the forest with fellow Mau Mau fighters, he used the skills he had learnt in making guns from the British Army and made some for his colleagues.
As second in command, Baimungi led many operations in the larger Meru region and Mt Kenya, which scared the British colonialists, says Ms Margaret Wanjuru, a surviving Mau Mau soldier.
After the death of Field Marshal Kimathi, Baimungi became the leader of Mau Mau in Mt Kenya Forest until independence in 1963. Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta ordered all Mau Mau fighters to leave the forest because the country had attained independence.
According to Baimungi’s wife, Muthoni, the Field Marshal and his soldiers heeded the call and left the forest with their firearms.
They were welcomed at Kinoru Stadium in Meru Town by then Lands minister Jackson Angaine and fellow Cabinet minister Mbiyu Koinange.
President Kenyatta later invited Field Marshal Baimungi to his Gatundu home and rewarded him with 10,000 acres of land at Timau in Meru.
Baimungi in turn gave his whip made of rhino skin to the President. In exchange the President gave him a pistol and six bullets, claiming “a man should not be empty handed”.
He also gave him a Land Rover KFF 660 and seven national flags, one for his vehicle, another for himself and others for his five generals.
On leaving Gatundu, Muthoni says, Baimungi and his soldiers camped at a farm in Nthimbiri waiting to be given land as promised by the President.
Later they moved to Nkando ya Nkoma Forest where they stayed for six months, but still, the president’s order was not fulfilled, according to Ms Muthoni and Ms Wanjuru.
They say instead, Mr Angaine demanded back flags given by the President from Baimungi, but he declined. Mr Angaine alleged that the flags were being misused.
On January 26, 1965, Baimungi was killed allegedly by government agents, alongside two of his soldiers.
“They killed Baimungi and his fellow soldiers, saying they had ignored Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s order to move out of the forest,” laments Ms Muthoni.
“Those were false allegations since he had surrendered his firearms at Kinoru Stadium on December 27, 1963,” she insists.
They were buried in a mass grave and a fourth soldier was buried alive at a Meru cemetery.
“When General Mwariama requested for the body of Baimungi for a decent burial, he was threatened with death,” says Ms Jacinta Kabika, the wife of Field Marshal Mwariama.
Other soldiers were detained for eight years without trial at the Kamiti Prison. Baimungi’s second wife was detained with a three-month-old infant at Lang’ata Women’s Prison for three years.
When they came back from detention, Ms Muthoni says, their land had been taken away.
The family members allege that Mr Angaine, who has since died, gave part of the farm to his cronies. They claim a flower company owned by the Angaine family was constructed on the land.
But a son to the former minister, Mr Mutuma Angaine, has dismissed the claim as untrue. He said his father and the former freedom hero were friends.
“The records are there for you to check in whose name the land is registered,” he said.
He asked why the issue was being brought forward now yet “it happened a long time ago.”
The Baimungi family now lives on a quarter-acre land at Katheri Village in Meru Central District.
The family claims it has written to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, but the injustice they feel has not been resolved.