Nairobi News


Man starts 150km trek to return Mzee Kenyatta’s ‘misery’ helmet to Uhuru – PHOTOS

A man has embarked on a 150 kilometer walk to State House, Nairobi, to return Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s gift to his grandparents that has become a “relic of misery”.

Mr James Ndei from Gitunduti village in Mathira, Nyeri County started the journey on Wednesday evening and hopes to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta.

He wants to hand over the pith helmet ‘given’ to his grandparents by Mzee Kenyatta 75 years ago.

A pith helmet, still used by provincial administrators, was a symbol of colonial rule across Africa.

They were worn by European explorers and imperial administrators in Africa, parts of Asia and the Middle East before being adopted by military officers.

The man claims Mzee Kenyatta gave the helmet to his grandparents, Shadrack Gathuni and Deborah Mumbi, in 1944 when he visited their home to drum up support for the struggle of Kenya’s independence.

James Ndei’s grandparents, Mr Shadrack Gathuni and Deborah Mumbi. PHOTO | COURTESY


Both have since died but their grandson says it was their wish that the helmet be returned to the Kenyatta family because the aspirations of Kenya’s freedom fighters were never fulfilled.

“My grandparents used to tell me Kenyatta was a regular visitor to their home and even spent several nights with them as he established the African Independent church. My grandfather was a church leader and was very close to Mzee.

“However despite the fact that Kenyatta later become the president, there is nothing to show for that association. My grandparents died poor and I feel they were betrayed hence my decision to return the helmet,” he told the Nation.

Mzee Zakaria Mbogo Ributhi, who turned 100 this year, corroborated Mr Ndei’s account.

Mzee Ributhi said he first met the Mzee Kenyatta in 1942 when he came to visit the couple at their Gitunduti home and later became a frequent visitor in the village.

Mzee Zakaria Mbogo Ributhi (right, holding helmet) who claims to have witnessed Mzee Kenyatta present the helmet gift 75 years ago. PHOTO | STEPHEN MUNYIRI


He says he witnessed Mzee Kenyatta give out helmets to some six church elders as a symbol of authority.

“He was a good man and he interacted with people very well, he used to sensitize us on the need to join the struggle for independence. But we are disappointed because most of us never benefited from the struggle.

“I support the return of the helmet because it is of little meaning for aspiration of those who fought for independence” he said.