The Fallacy of ‘Uthamaki’ and Past Lessons for Kikuyu Community

By Tony Kimani

Professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o missed the Nobel Prize for Literature for a second time! That is no big deal. Already, he has left unmatched footprints in the world of literature. He has, clearly bequeathed posterity with books, which everyone can flip through.

One can acquire the tenets of critical thinking from these books thereby understanding:

  • how history predicts the future behavior of people and societies,
  • how culture can inculcate individualism, yet enhance living together in harmony.

That is what matters.

Heinemann published A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o after Kenya achieved internal self-rule. Like any literary work from a liberal-minded author in any young African nation, many expected it to ruffle feathers.

The book came against the backdrop of “Uhuru na Kazi” (Freedom and Work), and “forgive and forget” charade of Jomo Kenyatta and Co.

Anybody who agitated for equal compensation and issuing back land to original owners without hindrance, and without any conditions, was a man under the System’s radar; a pariah, an ‘enemy’ of development.

The “Wiyathi” (self-rule) ideology had essentially become, just a fallacy, a hot potato gaffe.

Gikuyu people suffered under colonialism

The Agikuyu Community which had endured 8 years of random murder, gruesome torture, rape, maiming, death by treatable infectious diseases, malnutrition, family break-ups, psychological trauma and wanton human rights abuses, was now holding the end of the stick.

Men had to make a choice.

Either go into the forest and take up arms or remain in the villages and face the wrath of the brutish colonial policemen who would readily brand one a Mau Mau sympathizer or a soul indemnified by oath-taking. You could not sift through both.

One only escaped the dungeons of death if you became a snitch, a colonial collaborator, a loyalist. This option too, was not that easy. The Mau Mau would kill in cold blood, and at the drop of a hat, any Kikuyu person who sided with the Colonialist. The price for anyone who became a traitor was death.

Gikuyu women suffered too under colonialist brutality

The colonialists did not leave out the women either in this scheme of things. To make them confess to anything about the Mau Mau, the unlucky women had a different set of torturous protocols they had to endure.

Mean cops, sometimes using all sorts of accessories like sticks, gun barrels, and bottles, raped some repeatedly. In other instances, if the victim refused to give in, or confess to having taken oaths and thus being a Mau Mau by default, another method was always up the sleeve of the murderous cops.

They boiled chicken eggs in extremely hot water. After the eggs reached the temperature they wanted, they would tie the victim firmly on the torture raft. They would then insert the hog eggs slowly into the vagina, one by one. This would break even the most hardened of victims. In some cases, they just confessed to anything just to get out of the torture chambers alive. Some, unfortunately, died after the ordeal.

Men who went through the pipeline spoke of how the colonialists and their sympathizers crushed their nuts if they failed to give up any useful information.

They endured all this because they were merely standing for what belonged to them, their land rights. Unbeknownst to them, the worst was yet to come.

The fallacy of ‘wiyathi’

After independence, many Kikuyu people thought that they would now get their land back and the White Man would leave everything to them. Thy thought the fertile white lands would revert to them, the descendants of Gikuyu and Mumbi, who were the rightful owners.

How wrong they were.

Jomo Kenyatta, after his release from detention had metamorphosed from a dye-in-the-wool land liberator to a duplicitous, cunning, and shrewd politician. The people came to this realization when it was too late. His government urged the freedom fighters who were still in the forest to come out and ‘build the country.’ Tacit threats prevailed and any Mau Mau fighter who was still in the forest became an ‘enemy of the state.’

How times had changed.

Thereafter, the clarion calls of “Hakuna cha bure” (Nothing is free) arose. The locals would have to buy their land back within the lopsided outlines of Swynnerton Plan of “Africanizing agriculture,” whatever that meant. People who had spent nearly a decade in detention and living in squalid conditions were to ‘buy’ back their land!

Nothing has changed 54 years later

54 years later, nothing much has changed. The oligarchy is asking the Kikuyu community to protect “wiyathi” and secure the ‘kingdom’ (Uthamaki). The message is spreading like wildfire, thanks to inordinate propaganda from mainstream vernacular media. Yet, majority of these Kikuyu people are descendants of men and women who endured hell fire in detention camps and worked like slaves.

Which “wiyathi” are we talking about here? Many Kikuyu people are not different from the rest of Kenyans. Most of them are still landless, go to bed hungry, and they do not have jobs. Even for those who have jobs, their services go for a song. Many of them, like majority of other Kenyans, cannot afford quality healthcare.

Sadly, and most inhumane of all, most of them cannot afford three square meals in a day for their families. The economic despond and plunder of public resources has had an effect across the board. It has spared no one.

If there is anything that comes close to fighting for “wiyathi,” in the Mau Mau context, it should be:

  • a persistent clamor for good governance,
  • transparent utilization of taxes,
  • an efficient public service,
  • extensive application of the rule of law, and
  • respect for human rights, which the Constitution entrenches expressly.

The convoluted understanding of “wiyathi” that vernacular media stations propagate is just hatred, detestation, vitriol, and incessant odium. It is just a fallacy on stilts.


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George Githinji
George Githinji
Githinji is passionate about devolved governance and public finance. He also comments on topical issues in Kenyan politics and society. In addition, he manages the @UgatuziKenya platform.


  1. Must you revisit to detail the torturers of Mau mau? How does the graphic paintings help the Kikuyu’s present day cause? This is alarmist incitement

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