Report on Kimathi Day held on February 18th 2021 at Cheche Hall.

Published: Ochievara Olunga

This was a historic day to commemorate a great revolutionary who fought and bled for the liberation of the Mau mau. The British colonial government found him guilty and hanged him. He was considered a militant by the British colonial government that controlled Kenya at the time, but many Kenyans saw him as a freedom fighter during the Mau Mau Uprising. Despite this, he was able to exert a significant amount of influence on those he encountered as a result of the many jobs he was able to secure. In 1950, he became a fervently political figure. He became involved with the Mau Mau and later that year took the Mau Mau oath, marking him as a signed individual. In 1951, he became a member of the Forty Party, the radical wing of the disbanded Kikuyu Central Association. In 1952, he was elected to serve as the local branch secretary of the KAU in the Ol' Kalou and Thomson's Falls district. In the same year, he was briefly captured but managed to flee with the assistance of local cops. This was the start of his bloody rebellion. In 1953, he founded the Kenya Defense Council to coordinate all forest combatants.

He was subsequently apprehended in 1956, along with one of his wives, Wambui. Also in a sick bed at the General Hospital Nyeri, he was sentenced to death by a court presided over by Chief Justice Sir Kenneth O'Connor. The colonial government hanged him in the early morning of February 18, 1957. The execution was carried out at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.

To commemorate his legacy, Comrades from the Revolutionary Socialist League, Ukombozi Library and social justice movement came together to hold this event themed ‘Organizing for action: Looking back to go forward’.

A number of issues were discussed during the plenary session. The resistance to IMF-imposed Structural Adjustment Policies, the masses’ backlash against rightwing governments in Brazil and Colombia and the global Boycott Divest Sanctions (BDS) movement. Progressive organizations were called upon to join the Black Alliance for Peace and work with them in a campaign aiming to get the United States military out of Africa. Attendees of the event were alerted about the control of Kenya’s national parks by Israeli, American and British forces. It was said that these powers were extracting Kenya’s natural resources – Israel was specifically said to be taking Kenya’s water which had earlier been said to be a source that would last for more than seventy years but was suspiciously later said to be unfit for human consumption. It was alleged that Kenya was ordered by Israel to reserve the water for Israel. One of the pioneers of the African Liberation Day in Kenya – the first of its kind was held in 1994 in Kenya – closed the plenary session by encouraging attendees of the event and asking them to oppose Zionism.

The Event Comrades started streaming in at around 1: 00PM. At around 2:00PM, a comrade made introductory remarks welcoming comrades and giving a brief background. It was then followed by a documentary about the life of Dedan, and the Mau Mau after which comrades deliberated on it.

It was a film from his historic trial, long thought destroyed or hidden,which unearths a piece of the British colonial archive at a critical point in the Mau Mau Rebellion. Its discovery unsettles an already contentious Kenyan history and its reverberations in the postcolonial present.

The film showed how Kimathi personified many of the contradictions that the Mau Mau Rebellion represented: rebel statesman, literate peasant, modern traditionalist. His capture and trial in 1956, and subsequent execution, for many marked the end of the rebellion and turned Kimathi into a patriotic martyr.

There were lessons learnt by comrades on how courage can inspire generations. The Mau Mau might not have had the success they wanted but they left a legacy that all leftists and revolutionaries worldwide can emulate.

Then there was an introductory presentation about the event and insights into the life of Dedan Kimathi. This was abouthis early education. He joined Tumu Tumu School in 1942, where he became a prefect and went on to change things he did not like. He would later be recruited into Mau Mau in 1951 by Paul Njeru, who had seen great leadership qualities in him.He was soon elected secretary of Thomson Fall’s Mau Mau Branch. Kimathi took into Mau Mau activities with fervor and became a fierce oath administrator. These were among some of the deliberations by the moderator.

The next segment was panel presentations. There were three panelists, Lewis Maghanga, Sobukwe Shukura and Maureen Kasuku. Comrade Maghanga was to talk about how the left can unite and organize against a Neo colonial state. Kasuku talked about Law and resources and if things have changed. Comrade Sobukwe then talked about imperialism today and how it is manifesting itself today. Sobukwe’s submissions were:Neo-colonialism is characterized as former colonial masters' indirect control of African countries' economic, political, and socio-cultural lives. In contrast to colonialism, which was based on direct rule, neo-colonialism is based on indirect and covert control.

Neo-colonialism is a strategy used by European colonial masters to keep control of their former colonies after they gained independence. The Europeans had a steady supply of raw materials from their African colonies during the colonial period, as well as a demand for their finished goods. When Africans began to demand freedom, Europeans realized it was only a matter of time before they had to give the colonies independence.

In terms of politics. Africa has been ravaged with coups, which have resulted in the removal of many African leaders who implemented policies that were unfavorable to former colonial masters. Between the 1960s and the 1990s, this was the case. The Congo crises of the 1960s, which culminated in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, are an example.

In Africa, there is also what is known as the dependence syndrome, which is a type of neocolonialism. For security and financial assistance, African countries continue to depend on their former colonial rulers. The colonial masters also used aids as a way of managing their former colonies by financial institutions such as the IMF and the Bretton Woods institutions. The inferiority complex or dominance of the white race is another manifestation of neo-colonialism. Africans claim that their culture's ideas and way of life are inferior to those of Europeans, and that anything made in the West is superior than anything made in Africa, which is why they eat more goods labeled "made in the UK" or "made in France" than products labeled "made in Africa."

Another manifestation of neo-colonialism that he mentioned is the economic disparity between African and Western countries. African countries manufacture raw materials, which they export to Europeans, who convert them and then ship the finished goods back to Africa.

Comrade Kasuku started by saying The object of neo-colonialism is to change the alignment of independence forces in favor of imperialism, to place power in the hands of those who will forsake the national interest to advance themselves. Industry in Kenya is still controlled by the west just as it was in the actual colonial times. Laws like the stringent Covid lockdown rules are more or less the same as colonial rules declared in the 1952 state of emergency. Police brutality and forced disappearance are also on a high. Basically, her point was that the difference between a colonial and a neocolonial state is nothing, just indirect rule. On Comrade Maghanga’s submissions, he talked about the unity of the left and how we can unite our forces to achieve a revolution. He talked about how Left unity does not have to come all at once. It begins with baby steps. The coming together of all – the self-declared socialists would be a good start. To reflect on our struggles, broad areas of synergies, set out the agenda for the left, among other stances. Even if only a few are committed to this unity, no worry, it’s still a start, a spark, “cheche”. Left unity needs to start from somewhere.

The unity of the Left needs to start by bringing together all those believing in the leftist agenda; no matter how basic or rudimentary they may be as individuals, organized groups, parties, etcetera. We shall grow from here. The left will remain divided if we continue sieving and second-guessing ourselves. It’s been the tragedy of the left globally. The relevance and possibilities of united front of the left at the present times need to be focused on key issues on which attempts and unity in action must be concentrated. After the presentations, there was a plenary session where the audience asked Questions and they were answered by panelists.

CONCLUSION Not much has changed since the assassination of Dedan Kimathi. Neo-colonialism is a regime that is much stronger than the European colonialism. It exists in the dark, but its implications are more obvious, and it has had disastrous repercussions for African nations, obstructing their socioeconomic growth. It is a more heinous crime than slavery. In order for African countries to thrive, they must find a way to end neocolonialism. The debate about the left's solidarity in Kenya is still ongoing. They're starting to catch up. Meetings of the left on a regular basis would contribute to this solidarity. Aggressive participation from the left in democratic people's movements would have the same impact. As is the fronting and canvassing for progressive and revolutionary positions on the country's most pressing issues. Is it a dream or a reality? We will be judged by time. The meeting ended at around 6:00PM where comrades had refreshments and left at their own pleasure.