Mau-Mau War Rituals and Women Rebels in Kirinyaga County of Kenya (1952–1960): Retrieving Women Participation in Kenya’s Struggle for Independence

Julius M. Gathogo


The Mau-Mau war of independence in Kenya was fought after the returnees of the First and Second World Wars (1919–1945), who were mainly Christians, succeeded in politicising the black majority in the then Kenyan colony (1920–1963) to demand justice across the colour divides, as a religio-ritual duty which climaxed in oaths. The first stage of the war was seen in the change of contents in the African ritualistic dances that young men and women had gotten used to. In time, the love songs became political and/or patriotic songs that prepared people for a major war that was in the offing. The second stage was the secretive binding oaths. The third stage was the repositioning of the rebels in terms of forest fighters, the combatants, who were to engage the British government in guerrilla warfare. The third stage also saw some rebels positioned as spies, oath administrators, resource mobilisers, food suppliers to the forest fighters, among other offices. In all these duty allocations within the rank-and-file of society, it is critically important to ask: Were these ritualistic oaths a poor imitation and/or mockery of ecclesiastical Eucharist? Were men and women fighters acting from a just war theory? What role did women play in this all-important war that inspired other liberation movements in Africa and beyond? In Kirinyaga County of Kenya, were there women combatants and/or supporters of Mau-Mau rebellion (1952–1960)? The materials in this article are primarily gathered through archival sources and through interviewing some of the participants.


Women rebels; women Mau-Mau freedom fighters; ritualistic oaths; Kirinyaga County of Kenya

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INTERVIEWS (alphabetic)

Maceru, Samuel Gakuo: 31/01/2014.

Major Judge (real name, Milton Munene Gachau): 17/01/2014.

Matene, General: 01/02/2014.

Munene, Wambura Gladys: 03/05/2015.

Wanjiku, Lydiah: 03/05/2015.


CMS: G3AS/1923/9, Constitution of the African Church Council as revised by Delegates in Nairobi, 17 November 1922.



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