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Field Marshal Kimathi wa Waciuri
Born31 October 1920
Thegenge Village, Kenya
Died18 February 1957 (aged 36)
AllegianceKenya Kenya
Service/branchKLFA Army
Battles/warsKenya Land and Freedom Uprising

Dedan Kimathi (19201957) was a Kenyan revolutionary who fought for and led in the Kenya Land and Freedom Army(KFLA). Kimathi was eventually tried, convicted and executed for terrorism by the imperialist British colonial government that ruled Kenya at the time. Many Kikuyu, and East Afrikans in general however, viewed him as a freedom fighter. He was born on October 31, 1920 in Thenge Village Tetu division, Nyeri district and killed on February 18, 1957.

Early life

At the age of fifteen, he joined the local primary school, Karuna-ini, where he perfected his English skills. He would later use those language skills to write extensively before and during the uprising. He was a Debate Club member in his school. He was deeply religious and carried a Bible regularly. He worked for the forest department collecting tree seeds to help him foot his school bill. He later joined Tumutumu CSM School for his secondary learning, but dropped out for lack of funds.

He worked several jobs but never felt fully settled. Notable was his enlisting with the army to fight in the Second World War in 1941. However, in 1944, he was expelled for misconduct. In 1946, he became a member of the Kenya African Union.

Later life

Nevertheless, he managed to be very influential to whomever he met through the string of jobs he was able to obtain. He became radically political in 1950. He involved himself with the KFLA, and later that year administered the oath of the organization, making him a very high priority target. He joined Forty Group, the militant wing of the Kikuyu Central Association in 1951. He was elected as a local branch secretary of KAU in Ol' Kalou and Thomson's Falls area in 1952. He was briefly arrested in that same year, but escaped with the help of local police. This marked the beginning of his involvement with the movement to liberate Kenya. He formed Kenya Defense Council to co-ordinate all guerrilla fighters in 1953.

In 1956, he was finally arrested with one of his wives, Wambui. He was sentenced to death by a court presided by Chief Justice Kenneth O'Connor, while he was in a hospital bed at the General Hospital Nyeri. In the early morning of February 18, 1957 he was executed by the colonial government.


Kimathi was buried in a mass grave and to this day the British government objects to his reburial as it felt (and continues to feel) that he was a terrorist. He is, however, viewed by many Kenyans as a national hero. This is supported by the fact that many towns in Kenya have a building or street named after him.

Statue of Dedan Kimathi Nairobi, Kenya.jpg

The play "Trial of Dedan Kimathi" was written by Ngugi wa Thiong'o (the brother of a KPLA member) and provides a detailed account of Kimathi.

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