In Summary
  • Prof Kariuki, a former dean of the Faculty of Commerce at the University of Nairobi, was one of the brains behind Mwakenya, and says he has no apologies over what he believed were efforts to free Kenyans from the stranglehold of dictatorship and parochialism.
  • Prof Kariuki says they were driven individually to State House where they met Moi as a group. ‘‘Mr Odinga read a statement on behalf of the group in which we repeated our message that we want the opening up of democratic space.’’

The Kanu regime launched another round of detentions targeting mostly university lecturers alleged to be members of a clandestine organisation called Mwakenya.

The first round came soon after the 1982 coup, which followed the outlawing of political pluralism.

Mwakenya was the Kiswahili acronym for Patriotic Union of Nationalists to Liberate Kenya.

Moi saw it as a Marxist movement seeking to topple him, with the support of Communist countries.

Those detained were Prof Ngotho Kariuki, Maina Kinyatti, and Prof Katama Mkangi. Within one month, 48 people had been detained.

Others included leading historian Atieno Odhiambo, Mukaru Ng’ang’a, and Wanderi Muthigani, lawyers Mirugi Kariuki, Paddy Onyango, and Wanyiri Kihoro.

Prof Kariuki, a former dean of the Faculty of Commerce at the University of Nairobi, was one of the brains behind Mwakenya, and says he has no apologies over what he believed were efforts to free Kenyans from the stranglehold of dictatorship and parochialism.

“Our movement was not clandestine. It was a public movement where we gave open lectures and distributed literature to tell Kenyans what was wrong with the society and what we wanted changed,” said Prof Kariuki, an expert in taxation who was detained twice from 1986 to 1988 and again from 1990 to 1992.

OPEN MOVEMENT

“It was a tool for democratic struggle, a progressive lobby group, and open forum that was only forced underground by unnecessary crackdown. We could distribute leaflets to explain to the people our position, mostly on multi-party and democratic process,” he adds.

The group distributed publications like Mpatanishi (The Reconciler) and Mzalendo (Patriot).

The government responded with a heavy hand, where spies would raid the University of Nairobi library and confiscate any book to do with Marxism, Leninism, and socialism. Lecturers were arrested within the precincts of the university or in their homes.

Their crimes were possession of Mwakenya documents or failing to report their Mwakenya contacts to the authorities. But most of them were given prepared statements to sign, implicating themselves.

Those who refused were tortured and detained, while those who signed under duress were sentenced to jail for admitting their crimes.

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