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Dedan Kimathi: Criminal or Heroic Pioneer Essay

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Updated: Jan 15th, 2021

Kimathi was viewed as a criminal in Britain, as well as among the British settlers in Kenya since he interfered with the colonial rule by demanding for the representation of Africans in the legislative council. Later on, his demands were unbearable since he wanted the immediate release of other freedom fighters, including Onecko and Kenyatta, something that the colonial government never wanted to hear. With time, Kimathi pressurized the colonial administration in Kenya to grant independence to the locals, and this was something that forced the government to institute fake charges against him. The British settlers wanted to invest in Kenya for several years since their country was insufficient, given the soaring number of factories and flooded markets. In Kenya, they had cheap access to labour, sufficient supply of raw materials, and uncompetitive markets. All these combined to term any form of a resistance criminal.

They had to accuse Kimathi of handling a gun without permission from the government, but this was not the real reason why they wanted him jailed. His continued interaction with members of the public was a threat to the existence of colonialists in the country. For instance, the play and the writings suggest that colonialists had invested heavily in the cash crops, and this was one of the backbones of the country’s economy (Thiong’o and Mugo 67). Kimathi wanted the government to surrender the land that previously belonged to the locals and redistribute it without giving it to any foreigner. The British government believed in private ownership of property, and Africans were expected to respect this policy, but it is surprising that no African was provided with an opportunity to develop financially. This was what Kimathi was against being a strong advocate of social justice where each individual was to be provided with an opportunity to excel either politically or economically.

While the British viewed him as a traitor with the aim of impeaching on their rights, Africans in Kenya, as well as other parts of the continent hailed the activities of Kimathi, and some offered him financial, moral, and psychological support. The aim of Kimathi was to liberate society in any way since the socially accepted means were inapplicable. All freedom fighters were considered political dissidents who were supposed to operate outside the state territory, but the country belonged to blacks. In views of many Africans, the British were illegally controlling the country and any authority was never respected since it was against the wishes of the Africans. Africans existed as slaves in their own land while foreigners were given maximum protection. In fact, there was no way any criminal activities would be condemned, especially if the act was committed against a white. Depending on the viewpoint of the analyst, Kimathi could be considered a criminal, as well as a hero. The view extending the claim that he was a hero seems valid because Africans were never incorporated into the economy and their representatives in the legislative council were never given an opportunity to air their views. In fact, the colonialists dictated the method through which African leaders were elected.

Works Cited

Thiong’o, Ngugi and Micere G. Mugo. Drama, law, and justice: the making of the trial of Dedan Kimathi. The international studies public forum, 2.1 (2013): 1-15. Print.

Thiong’o, Ngugi and Micere G. Mugo. The trial of Dedan Kimathi. Nairobi: Waveland Press, 2013. Print.

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