Down memory lane
By Odongo Odoyo
My friend and colleague for the best part of our career building, Irungu Ndirangu who we always prefer to call “mwalimu”, a teacher, came in my mind yesterday with something unique called “Genocide” I managed to analyzed his thought as he was putting it for readership but l would want you to compare the same. It clearly tells you what many African people went through.
First it was the British prime minister who went to the Commons to apologize to Mau Mau veterans, survivors and Gikuyu, Embu, Meru and other peoples for the terror and atrocities committed against them during the holocaust commonly referred to as emergency in the dying years of Kenya colony.
Lately, the French president travelled to Rwanda to offer apologies for their role in the genocide there in 1994. This genocide left one million Rwandese dead. We do not know how many Kenyans died in our holocaust and concentration villages. The British government has hidden all information on it from us.
The week before the German government offered apologies for genocide and crimes against humanity they committed in Namibia.
Is all this an accident? I do not think so. It is too well coordinated and choreographed. There is a message being passed around here and perhaps another likely to be unveiled.
This is a matter close to my heart. I went through the horror as a kid and saw, experienced my mother, father, grandparents and other relatives especially women brutalized in the most awful manner. This experience has clearly scarred my life.
In a twist of fate, years later while working for Nation Newspaper Limited (NNL), I met the late John Nottingham of TransAfrica publishers of Kimathi Street, Nairobi. Perhaps the greatest authority on this holocaust and genocide. I write this post in his honour.
I think the late Nottingham was more than met the eye. It was through him that I met Prof Caroline Elkins of NYU- New York University-and other British academics here to investigate and I guess to assess the lingering depth of feeling against the British government.
We had several meetings and one trip to Murang’a to meet survivors of the holocaust. Elkins is the foremost authority on Operation Anvil. She has written a pioneering work on this era of Kenya’s history.
She was shocked by the biting bitterness against the British government. That same week, the British Prime Minister read his apologies to the people of Kenya. He also invited Kenyans to seek compensation from the British government. But the survivors are now too old and sickly to make any meaningful claim against Britain.
Talking to her I felt she may have had something to do with that apology.
John Nottingham was a very, very likeable figure. As a young man he worked as a British colonial officer in Nyeri where he met his future beautiful wife. The daughter of a senior chief. Who really made him his adopted son.
John was also the son of the Commissioner of Police in Nigeria. He was horrified by the violence he witnessed throughout Gikuyu, Embu and Meru territories.
Towards independence, he worked for a major Nairobi book publishing firm. That published works by the leading politicians of the day. He was the editor and deputy CEO of that mysterious publishing firm whose unspoken mandate was to take out air out indigenous publishing houses and newspapers especially those backed by Dir. Julius Gikonyo Kiano and Gakaara Wanjau of Karatina, which the colonial government considered radical, left-wing, nationalist and dangerous.
That publishing house had interesting foreign sources of funding. He never told me so, but my many discussions with him left me with no doubt that, that publishing house may have been part and parcel of the world wide CIA, Mossad and MI6 operation against communism during the cold war, set up to counter radicalism and Marxist tendencies. We all have read its political and economic tomes.
It had no known board of directors. After independence, it simply became the private property of its CEO. I am not sure it ever published its accounts or paid any royalties to its authors even though its books were in demand throughout the world. All its books were in the shelves of university libraries throughout the commonwealth. These books were ghost written by trusted assistants, writers and editors.