While February 18th each year brings back the memories of independence in The Gambia, it does the opposite for the families of Didan Kimathi who was executed on this day by the British colonialists in Kenya. Kimathi’s only crime was his strive to fight for his country’s independence. As we celebrate the joy of independence, we also need to reflect on the likes of Didan Kimathi who died in their fight to secure freedom for their people.
Below is a statement that is written side by side with Kimathi’s statue.
Although he was hanged 59 years ago and buried in a secret grave by the colonial government to avoid making him a martyr, Dedan Kimathi remains one of the most enduring figures of Kenya’s freedom struggle.
Kimathi sacrificed his youth his wife and children for the sake of his country when took up arms against the British colonialists, and paid the ultimate price, when he was hanged on February 18, 1956.
In the forest, Kimathi distinguished himself as a fierce fighter. His capture and eventual hanging was the climax of a complex conspiracy and betrayal by treacherous locals.
The spot where he was shot at Karuna-ini, at the edge of the Aberdare has reportedly remained bare as no grass grows there. A bronze statue of Kimathi striking a defiant pose was erected in 2006 to mark 50 years of his hanging, and now towers above the road intersection that also bears his name.
A secondary school and a technical university in Nyeri also memorialise the man, a slow but steady rehabilitation of the rebel to a true hero of our liberation. Today at 10am there shall be a celebration of Kimathi’s life, along Kimathi Street where his statute stands defiantly.