Anti-colonial war and the art of necromancy

Gray 'Murungaru' Leakey paid the price for his naivete after he was slain by Mau Mau

In Summary

• The line between good and evil was blurred in the fight for Independence

The grave of the Leakeys
The grave of the Leakeys

From Githurai, you travel for 99 minutes towards Mount Kenya in a straight line. The road ahead symbolises the single file of thoughts in your heart. Your ears are full of two things. One is Rumba. Two is the phone call of grief. 

You have two missions. One is to bury Mzee Constantino Kiriungi (1928 – 2023), the last sibling of our grandmother Muthoni wa Wanjohi. The other, as a scout, is to salute the Scouts founder Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941). Years back, the bloody fifties, both their folks stood on opposite banks of the rivers of here. They did not share peace but rather that which it is not.

Finally, the long linear ride comes to an abrupt stop. You take the corner to your right. It places you squarely on Temple Road. Here, several schools exist in staircase formation. Not far from them, gods of India exist in perpetual silence. The air is so crisp and crystal here; it makes you feel their tranquility.

Not far from here, on the other side, is the main bus station. Vehicles plying various routes around the old, cold mountain and its emerald ridges are here. Kikuyu of here are darker, taller than in Githurai; they speak to each other with interestingly restrained body movements. 

You proceed up the main road through the stage. You know you are going uphill because soon enough, the past behind you is a valley. At the very top of the steep slope are two things. One is a cemetery. Two is a church. They are two in one. The churches. 


Let us start with the new one. It is a massive affair. It looks like the ark of the Bible. The old cleaner-cum-keeper smiles with his wise eyes. He is holy. He accepts your attempt to see God. You peep into the ark. Half of it has seats and is near the empty altar. Half of it is empty stairs. He concludes your unspoken curiosity with information.

“We only fill the stairs with seats when the bigger men of God are here. We use half of the mall of a church. Often. It is still new.” Ark. It smells African.

The diminutive one is more of a chapel. Its inverted V-roof imitates heaven. Inside it are benches of history. Each has a name. A description. Groups of holies donated this or the other for the other reason or this. It is an British affair. Names.

Time was when it housed only whites. It was built small and comfy for the tiny foreign community of this hill a century ago. Here, after services, they would see Kenya in clear times. North.

Today, it is overcast. You see it not. But something silent and watching here makes you feel it is there. It is like the gods of Temple Road. You feel them in the air. Mount Kenya with its white peak may be invisible, but the crisp and fridge air makes you aware of it.

The English church has a plaque. It announces that Elizabeth the princess of Wales received news of her father’s demise and her promotion to the throne in this parish. Special. The church is built atop the rock of a rocky hill. It is aptly named after Peter. You feel the presence of the people of the late Elizabeth here even when you can’t see them anymore, any longer, here.

Or can you?


The cemetery. It, too, exists in two. One carries the remains of the British farmers who settled here among people of the land. Some lay in rest as couples. Others solo. Doting spouses inscribed their emotional epitaph in English; one in German exists, too.

It is in this hectare of silences that you find the grave-home of the soldier that boys respect worldwide. You and I were scouts; our wives, too. The Baden-Powells rest here on top of each other. They, like the rest, face Mount Kenya. Skies are grey today. You can’t see it, but one can tell always where it is by where the dead here stare.

The other graveyard is smaller. It is military. It is the Commonwealth War Cemetery. A man with a grey smile tends it. He is wise with the world. He knows each of the underground tenants well. He tends them.

He sits daily near the fence with the churches, monitoring the petite grey gate. He welcomes you. He says war is not a relative. It eats the young first. He shows the three graves. Those in it were killer cops. They got killed in action.

Near them are teenage imperial soldiers, who met death miles from home, in a forest. It ate them. A grave exists among the military ones. It is the smallest. The alien in it died at a tender age. War or no war. Nothing on earth is uglier than the grave of a toddler.


One square grave excites the constant gardener here. He fondles it with his broken palms. His own father died in the forest. His grave is unknown. You wonder why he tends this place of sorrow that houses people who killed him.

The man smiles. You see Christianity in his stained Kikuyu teeth. He says: 'War is what it is.'

He shows you the name of an English couple, the Leakeys, in that grey grave. 

His bones came from the great forest. The man was a good man. He helped people. He treated Nyerians well. Murungaru, they called him. A man of straight character.

Mau Mau came for him. Sixty. Ten carried him. His bloodcurdling screams still exist in echoes. In the silent air. Listen.

They came with the midnight. They had to do it. “He is pure,” Seer, said.

The medicine of war is not meant for the bowels of kids. They mangled his bowel. He was alive.

They had to do it. He groaned guttural. Enormous trees still stand there like age that saw it all. History. Alive. Bury. War. Sacrifice.

With entrails hanging out, his eyes huge from shock, they made him eat himself. They stuffed his bowels in his mouth. They dug where his blood soaked the earth. It was soft. Soft loam. They pushed him in. Alive. Head first. Necromancy.

Today, his remains are here. Next to his wife, who got killed that night, too.  

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