Martyrdom calls for Mau Mau victims


Catholics in the Archdiocese of Nyeri are hoping that Pope Francis will declare as martyrs, some 75 faithful who were murdered by Mau Mau.

Calls for declaring them martyrs intensified following the May 23 beatification of Sister Irene Stefani Nyaatha who baptised many of them during her missionary work in the region.

The Pope will not visit Nyeri during his three-day tour but his trip to Uganda, after Kenya’s, will come at a time when the church is marking the Golden Jubilee of the Uganda Martyrs.

The process of the declaration of the Nyeri 75 as martyrs has begun.

Rome has declared in principle their case as genuine in terms of dying because of their faith, according to the Rev Father Peter Githinji, the Nyeri Archdiocesan Postulator.

Fr Githinji filed the case in Rome when delivering the report on the Beatification of Blessed Sister Irene.

Debate has been raging as to whether or not the 75 Catholics who were killed by the Mau Mau fighters during the 1950s State of Emergency, should be declared martyrs or not.

The Mau Mau considered them traitors.

However, the Nyeri church argues that they were recent converts into the Catholic community, after being evangelised and even baptised by Sister Irene Stefani.

It is hoped that Pope Francis will make an apostolic declaration regarding these faithful effectively consecrating them martyrs to belong to the same league with the Uganda Martyrs, whose feast day is June 3, each year.

The Vatican has approved the case presented in Rome by Father Peter.

The tribunal of the Nyeri Archdiocese granted permission to compile a comprehensive report.

Fr Peter says the report will be ready by the time the Pope lands in Kenya on Wednesday.


A martyr is someone who suffered or was killed because of his/her religious belief.

The Mau Mau oath ordered those who took it to denounce their Christian faith.

It said: “I swear that I will renounce Christianity and take up once more my name of Kikuyu. I swear that I will never again approach missionaries, go to Church or participate in the Sacraments. I swear that I will combat the government in every possible way.”

The martyrs met a slow, agonising and painful death after refusing to denounce their faith.

One of them is Fakunda Nyandia who was murdered on March 16, 1954.

Her story is told by her daughter Teresia Wangui, 75, who witnessed the murder in their homestead in Mukurweini.

Teresia was home when a group of strangers entered the compound and asked where her mother was.

She was ordered to go and call her when she told them she was in the farm.

The young girl was sent away when she returned with her mother and it was after she left, that these strangers begun torturing Nyandia, ordering her to denounce her Catholicism and take the Mau Mau oath.

When she refused, she was beaten and buried alive in a pit latrine.


A few kilometres from her home in Karuthi village, a catechist Mariano Wachira, was killed together with two of his kinsmen.

Wachira was lured by the Mau Mau using a fake letter supposedly from the area district commissioner.

The letter had said that Wachira, along with Dominic Nyota, 46, and Joseph Gacheru, 60, should report to the Othaya DC’s office early in the morning of December 9, 1952.

When they reached the DC’s office, they learned that he had not summoned them, and as they returned home, they were ambushed on the banks of River Gikira.

Their bodies were thrown into the river.

A year later, the same group beheaded Wachira’s wife, Natalina Wangui, 58, when she also refused to renounce her faith.

According to many witnesses, Wachira, who founded Karuthi Catholic Church, was most wanted by the Mau Mau fighters, because he converted many local people to Catholicism.

The Mau Mau also believed he was betraying them by giving the colonial administration information on their whereabouts