Africa-Press – Kenya. Most tales about Mau Mau fighters, post-independence mostly celebrate the male fighters. Lurking in the shadows of glory, are gallant women fighters who stood out for their bravery in the war.
The women were a critical cog in the wheel of the struggle. Today, we celebrate them.
The women would take the oath alongside their husbands. The men fled to the forest, but the women were not allowed. In time, the rebels realised that women were valuable allies goal. They’d first allow single and widowed women – presumed to be secretive, and trustworthy.
They’d became skilled forest fighters – so much that they got inducted into the Inner Secret Council, formerly an exclusively Men-Only outfit.
Wambui wa Kanyari aka Matron
Matron hailed from Ngerwe village, Ngariama location. In the Mau-Mau administrative structure, she was in the Department of Medicine. She was a sister to Major King Kong, whose real name was Elijah wa Kanyari.
She was a skilled nurse, attending to the Mau-Mau rebels in the forest. She handled women who fled to the forest while pregnant. Sometimes, the woman would get pregnant after a rpe ordeal while in detention.
Despite harsh living conditions in the forest, Matron would successfully mid-wife the births of the children. She’d nurse gun shots, with herbal concotions when medicines were in short supply.
Within Embu-Kirinyaga side, there was a platoon called Haraka. And, it had a formidable woman combatant named Haraka. Perhaps, she had inspired that name. Like Matron the Nurse, she also hailed from Ngariama, Kirinyaga East.
Haraka was General Kassam’s side-kick for most of the war. She acted as one of the General’s trusted bodyguard, served food and handled sensitive errands on behaof of the General.
Bandi wa Kamau
Bandi was a crucial Mau Mau rebel. She handled several pivotal roles. In 1953, a volatile time for the uprising, she was instrumental in guarding the Mau Mau oath. She formed a team that scouted and lured mature girls to oathing sessions.
She was cognizant of the African (Kikuyu) traditions that barred women from administering ritualistic oaths. These traditions also barred uncircumcised boys from the oath.
Mary Wangari Mararo
Mary was a woman in the Mau-Mau ranks, from Mutira Location – Kirinyaga County. She was a third-born daughter of Mzee Mararo wa Matumbi. General Chui was the first born. It’s interesting, that while she had a brother as a General, she also had a rebel spy brother – her younger brother Joseph Murage. He spied for the Mau Mau.
When Mary joined the fighters in the forest, she landed in the ‘Catering Department’. She had a band of girls, whom she trained to cook for the fighter. They’d follow the combatants wherever duty took them.
Mary, also went one better. She had a secretary who’d record events as they unfolded. Later on, she’d be arrested and detained at Kagumo, at a building that had been rented to lock up women rebels.
Wanjiru had a reputation as a ‘hard core’ rebel. She comanded respect from by all rebels – men and women. She was incharge of the distribution of food, replenishing supplies – which means, organising re-supply at government posts, or vehicles in transit.
She was pivotal in the wheels of intelligence gathering. She was amongst the first women rebels, and changed the perception on how other rebels viewed women and their roles in the revolutionary movement.
Credits: Author Tabitha Kanogo