By Henry Munene
Lawyer Njoroge Regeru is known more for representing clients in high-profile cases than for any literary pursuits. But, in the preface to his book, Muthamaki Waiyaki wa Hinga: The Untold Story, the Nairobi-based lawyer says his interest to dig into the history of the Kikuyu was triggered more by the urging of his family than any other considerations.
Regeru is a third-generation descendant of Waiyaki wa Hinga. He says the need to celebrate the heroic deeds of Waiyaki, the first known fighter for freedom in the history of the Southern Kikuyu District, is the reason the book had to be written.
The book also seeks to expose the unfair treatment the warrior, who had risen to the rank of paramount chief (Muthamaki), was subjected to by the colonial operatives he had warmly welcomed and defended when his people were of a mind to chase the foreigners out of the country. That, and the need to help his children and the future members of the family understand and be proud of their roots, is his motivation.
Waiyaki wa Hinga is said in many history books to have been killed by the colonial government officers at Kibwezi in 1892. The muthamaki had been arrested and sentenced to detention in Kibwezi after a scuffle between him and an officer of the colonial government called Purkiss at Fort Smith in present-day Kiambu County. Some accounts have it that Waiyaki was buried alive, in an upside-down position, in revenge after Mau Mau subjected a settler to similar treatment in Nyeri.
This book comes with some fresh, interesting revelations.
For starters, while Waiyaki is thought to have hailed from the Kikuyu community, the book traces the warrior-king’s roots to the Masai of Laikipia.
The author reveals for the first time that Waiyaki’s real name was Koiyaki and that his father’s name was Kumale ole Lemotaka, from Laikipia.
The author says through oral tradition, the history of Kumale was preserved for generations within the family and that a researcher and journalist, Andrew Kuria, was engaged to interview old family members and piece together the details of the family tree to its Maa roots. The claim will definitely force historians to reconsider their theories, either to dismiss them or update their works.
The author says that Kumale emigrated from Laikipia with his mother and they were accommodated and later adopted by the family of Gathecha in Fort Hall, present-day Murang’a County. After adoption, Kumale was given the names Thiani and Hinga (double agent).
The name Hinga seems to corroborate the claim that Waiyaki’s father was a Maasai, for historians such as Godfrey Muriuki claim in their works that Hinga was a name that the kikuyus gave to ‘foreigners’, mainly from the Maasai community, who lived in their midst. Loosely translated, Hinga means ‘hypocrite’, or one who could be spying for either side. Historians also concur that there were many raids between the Maasai and the Kikuyu, especially in the area between Ngong Hills and Kikuyu.
Whenever their cows were decimated by some disease, the Maasai would raid the Kikuyu for food. Conversely, whenever their crops failed, the Kikuyu would raid the manyattas and make away with livestock – and all the beautiful women. This led to the widely held view that inter-marriage between the two communities has over the years blurred the tribal blood lines.
Many years after Kumale was adopted into the Gathecha Family and the Aceera Clan through a ritual, his son Waiyaki welcomed Fredrick Lugard, through whom the Imperial British East Africa Company set up base in the Southern Kikuyu District. The base became, among other things, a crucial supply centre for the builders of the Kenya-Uganda railway.
The book comes with maps and geographical details of the large swathes of land that the Hinga family went on to own – stretching from Karura to Ngong hills. The author laments that much of this land was taken away without any regard or reward to the family. On page 99, a letter by Rev Dr John Arthur from Glasgow, who arrived in Kikuyuland in 1907 and set up the Church of Scotland Mission there, seems to acknowledge that the missionaries and the colonial government alienated Hinga’s land.
The book details the Waiyaki family’s futile efforts attempt to track down the remains of their patriarch at Kibwezi in order to give the hero a decent send-off.
Regeru’s book is likely to ruffle many a historical feather, considering that the Maa community has not featured quite prominently in the history of Kenya’s liberation struggle. (