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Mijikenda community honours war heroine Mekatilili wa Menza despite Covid-19

The  Malindi District Cultural Association (MADICA) Secretary General, Joseph Mwarandu (left) and members of the association stand next to the statue of independence heroine, Mekatilili wa Menza  on Wednesday August 12, 2020. Photo by Emmanuel Masha/KNA.

Members  of the Mijikenda community in Malindi on Wednesday kicked off celebrations to mark the annual commemoration of celebrated freedom fighter Mekatilili wa Menza despite Covid-19.

They used the occasion to thank Google Kenya for bestowing the heroine the honour of using her doodle (image) on its search engine to signify her contribution to Kenya’s independence.

The  Malindi District Cultural Association (MADICA), which holds elaborate celebrations to commemorate the heroine every August, led its members to celebrate Mekatilili at Malindi town’s Uhuru Garden, where the freedom fighter’s statue stands.

They offered oblations and prayers and sang traditional songs and dirges to honour the Mijikenda woman reputed for slapping a white man for demeaning Africans, an action that is believed to have ignited the agitation for freedom in the country.

The  Mau Mau Veterans Association Chairman, Gitu wa Kahengeri in a speech read on his behalf by the
MADICA Secretary General, Joseph Karisa Mwarandu, said the association recognised Mekatilili as one of the freedom fighters.

“We cannot forget that she is the initiator of Kenya’s independence struggle when she slapped the white
man at Skakahola village of Chakama in Malindi Sub County,” Dr. Kahengeri said. “Her action inspired
the Mau Mau to continue what she had started and eventually the colonialists left.”

Mwarandu  said the honour bestowed on the freedom fighter at the weekend coincided with the annual
commemoration ceremony of Mekatilili and called on Kenyan leaders to take that as an example and honour
the country’s heroes.

“A country that does not honour its heroes and heroines will one day look for them and fail to get them,” Mwarandu said.

Mwarandu  said the community would not be deterred by the coronavirus pandemic to honour the heroine, but pledged to follow all the Covid-19 containment measures.

“We have been allowed to carry on with the celebrations but with restrictions to have a maximum of 100 participants and we are going to do exactly that,” Mwarandu said, adding that they would follow the guidelines of washing hands, sanitising and keeping social distance.

The  MADICA founder member, Stan Kiraga  said the celebrations had been held since 2004 and that the association would not fail to remember the heroine because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mekatilili, als o known  as  Mnyazi  wa Menza, was born at Mtsara wa Tsatsu in Kaloleni Sub County in the
mid-19th century is said to have travelled from village to village, rallying the Giriama people to fight against the oppression meted on blacks by British settlers.

Every  year, Mijikenda (Kaya) elders in Malindi and Magarini sub counties, lead hundreds of residents to commemorate the heroine.

By  Emmanuel Masha

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