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Footsteps

John Cato Nottigham - The Final Journey of A Good Man

Volume 15, Issue 1  | 
Published 13/07/2018
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For the millions of Kenyans who were living under the sweltering yoke of British Colonial rule, Mr. John Cato Nottingham was simply known as ‘Wamwega’, a Gikuyu synonym for ‘the Good Man’. And you see, there were many reasons why Kenyan Africans would call Mr. Nottingham a good man. Mr. Nottingham had come to Kenya as a young colonial officer, eager to carry on with Britain’s great mission of ‘civilizing’ other parts of the world ,which were not occupied by white people, ostensibly because it was the ‘White Man’s Burden’ to ‘develop’ these so-called backward quarters of the globe. But Mr. Nottingham’s believe in the benevolence of the British Colonial rule would soon be thrown into serious doubt after landing in Kenya shortly before the declaration of a State of Emergency by Governor Evlyne Barring in 1953.

The State of Emergency in Kenya was truly a bloody era. The Mau Mau Freedom fighters, led by Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi, taken up arms to fight against British Colonial domination. Official estimates indicate that by the time the Emergency was coming to an end in the 1960, 11,000 Kenyan Africans and 32 White Settlers had lost their lives. What shook Mr. Nottingham’s confidence in the British Colonial rule were the methods that the Colonial Administration adopted in suppressing the Mau Mau uprising. Although the British were in the forefront in calling themselves custodians of the rule of law, democracy and human rights in the world, the Mau Mau uprising exposed the soft underbelly of British Colonial rule in Kenya. In complete disregard of the basic tenets of democracy, the rule of law and human rights, thousands of Kenyans were subjected to many years of detentions without trial while thousands others were confined to and held in highly restricted places under the so-called ‘’villagization” programme.  Sheer horror was visited upon Kenyans in the detention centres or in the villages. For instance, in the detention centres, the Colonial Administration devised what they called ‘the pipeline’ where they deployed ‘the dilution technique’ to break down the Mau Mau detainees with the sole goal of making them confess that they had taken the Mau Mau Oath. Torture, Cruel inhumane and degrading treatment and punishment were routine in the detention centres. Some of the extreme acts of human rights violations from the British Colonial Government included the castration of men and the rape of women. The Hola Massacre of 1959 further exposed how low the British Colonial rule in Kenya had sunk.   

A firm believer in the dignity of all men and women as guaranteed by universal principles of democracy, rule of law and human rights, Mr. John Nottingham, a Colonial District Officer, said no to the excesses of British Colonial rule in Kenya. He categorically refused to be an accomplice or take part in perpetuating the gross human rights violations that were being meted out on the Kenyans. Soon, word spread out among the mostly Kenya African population that Mr. Nottingham, even though he was British and in the employ of Her Majesty’s Government, was different from the other British Colonial Officers. That he was firmly opposed to all the ills that some of the British Colonial Officers and their African collaborators were committing against the Kenyan Africans.  And as Mr. Nottingham increasingly distinguished himself among the oppressed Kenyan people, he befittingly earned his moniker, ‘Wamwega’, a Good Man.

When Kenya became independent in 1963, Mr. John Cato Nottingham elected to remain in Kenya as a Kenyan Citizen; He was keen on continuing his work, that of being a Good Man to continue. Apart from remaining in Kenya, marrying his beautiful Wife Muthoni and raising a great family, John embarked on a new journey of commitment in Independent Kenya: that of pursuing justice for all those who suffered unspeakable acts of violation at the hands of the British Colonial administration in Kenya, the Mau Mau.           

Good people don’t die. They simply get transformed and while leaving behind a better world—courtesy of their good work—take a flight to the heavenly world.. John, in your journey to the heavenly world, please remember to take a brief stop to dance among the stars, for you were a bright and shining star while you lived amongst us..And I know, that as you finally enter the gates of heaven, the angels will be at hand, to welcome another good man, into the company of the good heavenly men.

Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2018 16:42

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