UK must end agony over Kimathi grave

Sunday March 20 2016

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Fifty nine years after the British executed freedom war hero Dedan Kimathi, the time has come for authorities in London to end the agony of his family and to reveal where they interred him.

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga was spot on in his comments during the handing over of documents related to the trial of the freedom fighter to his family.

The British were famously meticulous record keepers. They noted down in great detail all their activities, something which has made the lives of researchers, including those who have looked into the suffering of those who were summarily killed or detained, much easier.

Indeed, it is precisely because the British kept such excellent records that they lost the case for reparations brought to London by lawyers for surviving Mau Mau fighters and their families.

When it became clear that the plaintiffs would demand access to thousands of files relating to the British campaign in Kenya, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office quickly backed down and decided to settle the matter.

There is no question that London knows precisely where Kimathi was buried or what became of his remains if it is true he was cremated.

The man was a larger-than-life figure, the leader of a movement which rattled the empire and threatened its hold on what had become one of its most prized occupied territories.

British media reportage when Kimathi was caught trumpeted the capture of a “dangerous terrorist”, reflecting his stature.

A large reward was offered to the homeguards who arrested him and a sham trial soon resulted in an order for his execution. There is little doubt that the colonial administration must have taken an interest in how his body was disposed of.

The British have in recent years tried to make some amends for their cruel atrocities against a people who were merely pressing their claim to land that had been taken away through brutish force.

Statues are not enough. Mrs Kimathi, in particular, is ageing and she has reported that she is losing her sight.

She deserves little more than to know the truth about what happened to her husband and to pay her respects.

More broadly, as Kenyans, the time has come to properly appreciate the sacrifices made by the freedom fighters and more importantly, to honour their vision of a more just and prosperous Kenya.