Unsung Heroes of This Nation

By Larry Asego

Asked who their hero is, a certain class 4 child said superman, another said Spiderman and yet another said ironman. Every day I meet people I consider heroes and yet nobody bothers to introduce these people to our kids. This country needs to shift focus on who we call heroes. We are in urgent need of heroes for our kids to emulate. The only issue is that the heroes are there, but we have refused to see.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of meeting such heroes who were more of celebrating than mourning the life of one of the greatest women this country will ever have.

At the age of 92, Mama Esther Nduta Kore passed on and she is to lie to rest on this Wednesday morning at her home in banana. This might sound like just another name to most of us but it shouldn’t. She is one of the country’s unsung heroes of our time and it will take a long time before we find another as humble and as patriotic as her.

Mama Nduta, as she is so fondly referred to by those close to her, was among those who one night in 1952 said, “tomorrow we go to war against the mzungu.” Being part of the mau mau war council, she was in the storm centre of the revolution that ensured we got independence. She played a key role in the revolution. She played a central role in the acquisition of arms and dissemination of information as well as inducting followers to the course. She was involved in inducting the likes of Dedan Kimathi and Stanley Mathenge who both took  the mau mau oath in her hut.  Kimathi and Mathenge were also given their first pistols in that same hut.  This is a woman who was involved in a high speed car chase after they successfully purchased arms near the current Jamhuri race course. How many of us knew that.

According to Gitu Wa Kahengeri, the chairman of the mau mau veterans association, “the role of women was equal to that of men. She and other women were right up there with us in the forest, fighting, cooking for men, carrying guns for us. So when people say women should get a third of the seats in power, they don’t know what they are talking about, women should get 50% of seats because they did half the work.”

Mama Nduta led from the front as a pioneer member of the Kikuyu Central Association and after this was banned by the colonialists, she later on, together with James Gichuru and others, set up KAU.

For her troubles Mama Nduta was arrested and detained together with her husband, who also deserves recognition for the work he did for this country. In fact so feared was Mr. Kore by the white man that he was detained in the then remote Manda Island with other top mau mau leaders.  He unfortunately died soon after he was released – paying the ultimate price for our freedom.

Sharing a prison cell with Mama Ngina Kenyatta, she kept her spirits up and continued to fight for freedom. She was detained in Kamiti prison then later moved to Hola and was there during the infamous Hola massacre and was to later show Kenyatta where the victims were buried. She was condemned to hang but only survived after the UK ordered that women should not be executed. All this didn’t dampen her spirit and she continued fighting for this country. She went ahead to be elected KANU chairperson of Kiambu; the days when KANU was the party representing freedom from the white man. She was nominated councilor of Kiambaa County council and she served in this position for 10 years, always in the fore front of development projects; water, health, bursary funds, land settlement. Together with the likes of Jane Kiano, they set up the Maendeleo ya wanawake movement and represented Kenyan women in Beijing.

Cucu, as all the kids in her home area call her, was heavily involved in the demarcation of our country’s borders travelling to all corners of the country and earning the respect and recognition of both President Kenyatta and President Moi.

She loved kids; anybody at her door step was never turned away. Her humble home has hosted from the very poor and destitute to the high and mighty in society. She never demanded attention or gains for all she did for this country, but hers was a life of selflessness

“She’s a true Shujaa. It’s because of her that we are here” says the Chairperson of the Mau mau association Gitu Wa Kahengeri who is scheduled to present the mau mau case in the UK on the 10th January  2011.

Gitu Wa Kahengeri, speaking on behalf of all the veterans present, says that contrary to popular belief the mau mau was not just a Kikuyu movement. Every single Kenyan shared the same fate and grief and had their own “mau mau” movement where they were; Mekatilili, Koitalel just to mention a few. “Among the 11 who died in Hola, was a Turkana and maasai freedom fighter. “Mama Nduta didn’t fight for the Kikuyus, she fought for Kenya.”

Mr. Wamuti, who was also detained in Manda Island says that Mama Nduta has done so much that if we were to say it all it would take a week to recount, but all we ask as veterans is that the story be told for the benefit of our children and their children. What we enjoy today is greatly thanks to people like Mama Esther Nduta Kore and all the veterans who have been ignored for so long. Even if we don’t get the recognition, then let our kids hear the story so that they don’t forget where they have come from.

“If the likes of Mama Nduta hadn’t decided to go to war on that morning of 1952, then who knows, maybe the white man would still be walking on us like tarmac on the roads. From Namanga to Moyale, from Indian Ocean to Busia, we opted to die for you and it’s a pity that everybody is narrowing it down to a kikuyu outfit,” says Kahengeri.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mama Nduta a few months ago before she passed on and one thing that I remember to date is her saying, “we gave you this country in one piece, what will you do with it?” I’ve never before felt so challenged and without response like I felt that day.

During public celebrations you will spot the veterans wearing their medals given a back seat while politicians whose contribution to this nation is empty talk. Never once have I seen Mama Nduta been invited to the podium for Kenyans to celebrate her, but in her own words, “let our children not forget.”

So the next time you spot an old man bent over a cane, walking in the streets proudly displaying medals on his coat and eager to share his experiences, know that if it wasn’t for such people then it would have been up to us, and if you look around you, do you honestly believe that the person next to you would be up to the task?

This time around, I hope we will all start celebrating the great works our heroes have done. I would personally like to say “Thank you,” to Mama Esther Nduta Kore for what she has done for me, for this country and for Kenyans. I challenge you to do the same.

May the Almighty God rest her soul in peace.

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One Response to Unsung Heroes of This Nation

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