Freedom hero’s family wallow in poverty

Kung’u Karumba’s family members at their home in Karai Mbuyu, Nyandarua, yesterday
Kung’u Karumba’s family members at their home in Karai Mbuyu, Nyandarua, yesterday

The family of freedom fighter Kung’u Karumba yesterday accused the government of neglecting them despite the role their father played in the attainment of Kenya’s Independence.

Peter Muchai, Karumba’s third born, said his father’s heroism is only mentioned during Mashujaa Day celebrations and it ends there.

He said Karumba’ estate was handed over to a trustee who refused to allow them access and the government has not been willing to help.

“It’s almost 40 years now. We’ve never been handed over our father’s property. Our plea is to claim it. The hero died and we are the generation to inherit it,” Muchai said during an interview with KNA.

“Our mothers died in total poverty. We’re also going through hardship. We don’t even have the title deed for this land. There is need for us to be compensated and handed back the property.”

Forty-four years on, Karumba’s disappearance remains a mystery.

He had been among the Kapenguria Six who were detained by the colonial government after a state of emergecny was imposed. The others were the late President Jomo Kenyatta, the late minister Achieng’ Oneko, Paul Ngei, Bildad kagia and Fred Kubai.

They were arrested in 1952, tried in Kapenguria in 1952–53, and jailed thereafter. They were released in 1961 and went on to form a critical component of Kenya’s first post-independence government.

Karumba disappeared on June 15, 1974, leaving family and friends confounded. He was on a business trip to Uganda. Karumba imported raw materials from the neighbouring country. He had left for Uganda on June 13, 1974, but never returned.

The Ugandan authorities gave no explanations on what might have happened to him. Seven years after he disappeared, he was legally declared dead.

His family has yet to come to terms with what befell him. They live in Kung’u Farm, Karai village, Mbuyu sublocation, Nyandarua. This is two kilometres from Gwa Kung’u town along the Nyahururu-Nyeri highway. The town and the farm bear the hero’s name.

“I was born on April 23, 1953. My mother was pregnant with me when my dad was arrested so I had no knowledge of him,” Michael Njoroge, the eighth son, said during the interview.

He said Karumba had a transport business before he was detained and formed a sacco called ‘Wananchi’ after he was released. He sat his Form 4 exam in 1973 — a year before his father went missing.

Njoroge, 65,said the government had promised to investigate but no report has been forthcoming. His father had been embroiled in a land dispute before he disappeared.

Members of a sacco he formed wrangled over unequal sharing of shares. Karumba had brought together elderly men from Ndeiya, Githunguri, Gitaru and Zambezi to form a society called Karai Farmers. He then sought permission from Kenyatta to find land to be sold to them through shares, he said.

“After a tiresome search, my father found 70 acres at Karai, which was owned by a British. He was told to vacate,” Njoroge recalled.

Karumba was the group’s chairman. He was replaced following a falling out with other officials. The dispute led to new land surveillance.

“If only the government considers our plea to legalise the land for us as initial owners, we’d be happy,” Njoroge said.

“My dad bought five shares, but they divided it into equal shares. He moved to court to claim his other shares. An arbitrator said he be given back his shares, but, to date, the case is still in court.”