Retelling the Mau Mau Past from the Mbeere Perspective
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Retelling the Mau Mau Past from the Mbeere Perspective


This article analyzes the contested historical narrative behind the Mbeere’s role in the Mau Mau movement. Specifically, it explores the role of memorialization and marginalization in reconfiguring this past. With respect to the latter, the Mbeere were ostracized from the Mau Mau movement after the Kenyan Parliament, headed by Dedan Kimathi, sought to consolidate support by encouraging local officials to lobby bordering ethnic groups. As a result, the Mbeere, who were suspected to be pro-government and anti-Mau Mau, faced brutal reprisals from the Kikuyu and the Embu, key players in the movement. Although the physical violence may have ended, the symbolic violence of denial and ostracism persists as the Mau Mau movement’s memory is popularized and commodified through the British government’s acknowledgement of their abuse against Kenyans in the Mau Mau struggle. The dominant history of the Mau Mau rebellion is harrowing for the Mbeere Mau Mau veterans, who in fact existed and fought tenaciously against the British but were subsequently omitted from these narratives. This article draws on oral testimonies and archival sources to explore this history and potential avenues for official recognition and memorialization.

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