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Family pays glowing tributes to Mau Mau veteran at burial

He risked his life to provide food and supplies to the Mau Mau fighters and was imprisoned several times for his role in supporting the independence struggle.

In 1952, when he was living in Muranga, Jeremiah Mucheru, who was buried at his Wanyororo Farm within Bahati Sub-County in Nakuru on Thursday, joined Mau-Mau freedom fighters’ movement.

Mucheru, who passed away aged 102 years had embraced Christianity during his childhood and learned about the new faith at missionaries’ tents alongside other children.

According to the veteran’s 62-year-old son, Mr Charles Mukurura, distressing encounters at settlers’ farms, marked by racist altercations that included verbal and physical violence against Kikuyu men and sexual violence against Kikuyu women, changed his father’s path.

This experience strengthened his determination to enter the forest and join the fight for his kinsmen’s liberation where he fought alongside notable freedom fighters like Field Marshall Mbaria Kaniu and General Muraya Mbuthia in Aberdare Forest.

Mukurura lauded his father’s bravery and explained that he too became courageous enough to stand up to the oppressors when he got a chance.

The Freedom Fighter’s son recalled an incident where his father in company of other Mau-Mau fighters, laid an ambush on a prison in Naivasha and managed to free over 20 inmates who had been locked up in connection with Mau-Mau activities.

88-year-old James Kago also a Mau Mau war veteran, confirmed Mucheru’s involvement with the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA), which led to the Mau Mau uprising in the Aberdare Forest.

Kago described Mucheru as a fearless fighter with exceptional forest navigation skills and marksmanship.

“In Mucheru’s demise, I have lost a close friend, colleague and confidante,” Kago said.

He recalled their incidents of forest escapades, including leading night raids, stealing supplies, and gathering intelligence.

Kago said Mucheru was a valiant warrior who was part of the struggle from the front.

Against the background of copious tributes, Mucheru’s death reignited the touchy debate on the fate of Kenya’s freedom fighters and other national achievers.

Kago was forthright in his displeasure with how the country treats its special class of citizens. He took the moment to tell off individuals who, in his words, masqueraded as men and women who did wonders for the nation.

Some, he said, are seeking undeserved credit for work done by others in the seminal stages of the republic.

Sixty-one years after independence, the veteran regretted that the few surviving freedom fighters and their descendants were fighting in their own way to feel appreciated.

Most politicians he added, were stuck on sweet declarations without much action.

The Kenya Heroes Act was enacted in 2014 to provide a framework for recognising, identifying, and honouring heroes.

“The state needs to map out Mau Mau families to find out their situation. Has this group and their families been shunned? Besides loss of lives and land, support for the Mau Mau kin has been given out selectively. The country yearns for a status update from the National Heroes Assistance Fund,” he observed.

Kago indicated that most neglected heroes and heroines have since died a poor lot but added that the country can do’something’ even if it’s too little, too late, to salvage the freedom fighters and their families from their plight.

“There have been positives, such as setting aside Mashujaa Day on October 20. Dedan Kimathi has also been immortalized on Kimathi Street, Nairobi. It was equally a big relief for the 5,000 Mau Mau fighters who successfully sued the British government for torture in detention camps in 1952. It is refreshing that justice can be within reach however long it takes,” said the veteran.

Mr Kago indicated that freedom fighters and their families need a structured, transparent, well-resourced and legally binding support system devoid of political interference and that the welfare of the heroes should not be used for political expediency.

He also called for proper documentation. The National Heroes Council added Mr Kago should consistently tell Kenyans who these heroes are or were, the obstacles they overcame, their character strengths and how, as a nation, we can share their qualities.

He said some of the freedom fighters left young children and their wives could not take them to school due to poverty and stress. Their children need support.

John Mukurura, also the deceased veteran’s son, noted that some fighters took a long time to fight and their families suffered.

“They should be recognised alongside those who have contributed in various fields to improve the lives of people,” John said.

He expressed disappointment that while accolades are being heaped on the famous and prosperous freedom fighters who were jailed, there was little mention of the more than 40,000 men who took up arms and confronted the British colonialists head-on.

Very few of my father’s surviving colleagues have received the Head of State commendation, even though they are still poor and sickly,” said John, while reaching out to President William Ruto to intervene.

He added that most freedom fighters are languishing in abject poverty because their livelihood base was destroyed by colonialists during the independence struggle.

John appealed to the state to set up a financial kitty within government expenditures that will take care of the welfare of freedom fighters and their families.

“The greatest honour our freedom fighters can be given is to be supported financially by the government to live with dignity,” said John.

He urged the government to also consider the plight of surviving families of the fallen heroes who died in the course of fighting for independence so that the blood they shed would not have been spilt in vain.

“It is regrettable that our freedom heroes shed their blood and some of them even died at the hands of our former colonizers. Some of them have been neglected by their families due to pressing demands of old age,” said John, adding that this will increase their lifespan.

After independence, Mucheru led an active life, both in entrepreneurship and social work.

In 1969 after consultation with Kenya’s founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta the veteran Mucheru teamed up with others and formed Wanyororo Farmers Company Limited.

In 1970 the company acquired Wanyororo ‘B’ Farm, with Kiamunyeki ‘A’ and Mugwathe farms being bought in 1971 and 1972 respectively.

Mucheru was instrumental in the establishment of Bavuni Secondary School whose board he chaired for 16 years from 1973 to 1989.

By Anne Mwale and Dennis Rasto 

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