THE NAME BEHIND THE ROAD: ARGWINGS KODHEK ROAD, NAIROBI.
CMG Argwings Kodhek (1923-1969) was the Kenya’s first African lawyer. He is fondly remembered for providing legal defense to freedom fighters during the fight for independence; mostly for free and in the harsh conditions of remote detention camps. Since most of his clients were mainly those accused of Mau Mau-related activities, the colonialists nicknamed him the ‘Mau Mau’ lawyer.
After independence, he went on to become an assistant minister, then Minister for Natural Resources (1966) and Minister for Foreign Affairs (1968).
Sadly his life was cut short in 1969 in what has been described a mysterious road accident along this road now named after him. Wikipedia – French. (Category: History Asides)
The fight for Kenyan Independence and freedom was an all-hands-on-deck affair that started almost immediately after the British arrived and at every corner of Kenya.
Mekatilili wa Menza (born sometime in the 1860s – died in 1824) led the Giriama people between 1913-1914 in resisting British occupation and the disruption to their cultural heritage including worship. Through her eloquent arguments against colonial rule, she marshaled and organized the Giriama people to form a parallel government to the local colonial government.
She took issue with young Giriama men being forced to provide labor for the colonial government along the Kenyan coastal region which brought back memories of Arab slave traders who lured young men with promises of work only for the young men never to come back. Similarly, she brought to task Giriama headmen recruited by the British accusing them of receiving payments to encourage their people to work for the British.  These were just but a few of the grievances that led Mekatilili to take on the colonial government.
To galvanize her followers to the cause, she encouraged them to travel to their Kayas (Kayas are sacred dwellings among the Mijikenda located in forests and are today designated as UNESCO heritage sites) as part of returning to their Giriama traditions and religion. Mekatilili had also installed Wanje wa Mwadori, a mediceneman, as the Chief Judge to lead the parallel government. Mwadori was on hand at the Kaya to hear people’s grievances and most importantly administer the mukushekushe (women) and fisi (men) oaths resisting British occupation. (These oaths were taken very seriously by the Giriama people and the mere mention of them was enough to keep people on the straight-and-narrow path.)
For leading this resistance, she was exiled to Gusiiland by the colonialists. A famous account among her people says she escaped, freed her fellow detainees and walked all the way back to her home to continue the resistance.
To discredit her, the British branded Mekatilili a ‘witch’ and a ‘mad woman’; they were especially befuddled by her performance of the “Kifudu” funeral dance which was her way of attracting large crowds to listen to her. But judging the success of the resistance, one can only conclude that Mekatilili was a brilliant charismatic leader and strategist who united her people against the colonialists by appealing to what they valued most; their religion and traditional values. Wikipedia
Read More About Mekatilili wa Menza.
The Giriama and Colonial Resistance in Kenya, 1800-1920. Cynthia Brantley. ISBN: 978-0520042162
Rethinking the Mau Mau in Colonial Kenya. 2007 By S. Alam.
Mekatilili wa Menza (c.1860-c.1925). The widow who beat the British through ecstatic dance. Read here.
Mekatili wa Menza Facebook tribute page.
Photocourtesy: Feature photo – Art by Zarina Patel. Read more about the artist.
JEAN-MARIE SERONEY (1927-1982), was the first Kenyan to obtain an undergraduate degree in law (LLB). A brilliant lawyer and politician by all accounts, he was an ardent and steadfast defender of the sovereignty of the Kalenjin community and their land during both the colonial era and post-independent Kenya.
For this and his many honest views including the checking of executive power, he paid a heavy price. He spent 3 years in detention between October 1975 and December 1978 alongside fellow agitators Martin Shikuku, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Koigi wa Wamwere among many others.
He had been elected Deputy Speaker of the Parliament in February 1975, just a couple months before detention. He died in Dec. 1982 but his legacy lives on.Wikipedia
Read More about Seroney:
Detailed Facebook article that was used for Wikipedia page.
Just for Today: The Life and Times of Jean-Marie Seroney. By Godfrey K Sang ISBN:978-1909204799. Google books.
PHOTO-COURTESY: By Godfreysang – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.
FIELD MARSHAL MUTHONI WA KIRIMA (b. 1931;also known as Nyina wa Thonjo) was a close confidante of Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi and one of the highest ranking women in the command structure of the Mau Mau movement. Considered by many of her fellow fighters to be a master tactician and a great marksman, she inflicted immense pain on the colonial government and only left the forest right after Kenya’s Independence ceremony.
She received her nickname “Nyina wa Thonjo” (Nyina is Mother-of and Thonjo is weaver bird in Kikuyu) from Dedan Kimathi for her ability to “weave” intricate and brilliant plans on how to fight the British forces.
Field Marshal Muthoni represents the many women and mothers who made great sacrifices and suffered immensely during Kenya’s fight for freedom. Her name is truly worthy of being etched into our history books alongside the greatest of our heroes.
War and Women across Continents: Autobiographical and Biographical Experiences edited by Shirley Ardener, Fiona Armitage-Woodward, Lidia D. Sciama. Chapter 4 “Mau Mau Women” by Tabitha Kanogo. ISBN 978-1-78533-013-1
Field Marshal Muthoni-Kirima, Warrior Woman. Read PDF here.
LUKAS PKECH (d. 1950) was a Pokot spiritual leader and one of the early heroes of Kenya’s struggle for independence. On the Afternoon of April 24th 1950, at Kolloa (Present Baringo District), Pkech and his followers made their last and courageous stand during a stand-off with the colonial authorities led by a British District Officer named Alan Stevens.
When it was all over, Pkech and 28 of his followers had been shot dead in what is today remembered as the “Kolloa Affray”, “Kolloa Rising” or the “Kolloa Massacre”. District Officer Stevens and 3 other police officers were also killed during the confrontation.
Pkech had earlier escaped from prison In July 1949 where he had been serving a 30 month prison term for belonging to an illegal movement (Dini Ya Msambwa). Dini ya Msambwa whose leader was Elijah Masinde had been declared illegal in February 1948.
The Kolloa Affray was certainly a prelude to the bloodletting that occurred in Kenya’s fight for independence between 1950 and 1960.
Read more about Lukas Pkech:
- Elijah Masinde: A Biography (Makers of Kenya’s History). May 1998 by Vincent G. Simiyu
- Mau Mau & Nationhood: Arms, Authority & Narration. edited by E. S. Atieno Odhiambo, John Lonsdale. 2003. ISBN-13: 978-0821414842
- A History of the Quaker Movement in Africa. by Ane Marie Bak Rasmussen.1995.
- THE KOLLOA AFFRAY, KENYA, 1950 District Officer Alan Stevens, Colonial Service. http://www.britainssmallwars.co.uk/the-kolloa-affray-kenya-1950.html