Original Research - Special Collection: Social Memory Studies

A brave one-legged general: The story of Mau Mau General, Kassam Gichimu Njogu

Julius M. Gathogo
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 4 | a6155 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i4.6155 | © 2020 Julius M. Gathogo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 May 2020 | Published: 10 December 2020

About the author(s)

Julius M. Gathogo, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya; and, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


This article sets out to demonstrate the role of the ‘one-legged devil’ (as the colonialists called Patrick Gichimu Njogu), also called General Kassam. Kassam was one of the pioneer generals of the Mau Mau, a guerrilla movement that operated from the central Kenya forests as they participated in the war of liberation from the early 1950s to the early 1960s. Was Kassam a one-legged general from the word go? Methodologically speaking, the article is partially based on interviews conducted with the general before his death at the age of 89 in 2011. Being an insider, Kassam helped to give an in-depth understanding of the Mau Mau war of independence by relating the role of the Kavirondo people of western Kenya in Mau Mau historiography. Were they enticed by the colonial government to abandon the idea of the armed struggle as a way of writing off colonialism? Or did the Kavirondo (western Kenya) embrace the theology of non-violence (and pacifism) and eventually left the central Kenya group to battle it alone? Or were the people of western Kenya dissuaded to take part in the struggle by the Christian ‘gospel of love’ that abhorred violence, leading to abandoning their colleagues from central Kenya at the last minute? Theoretically speaking, the article is largely informed by John Walton’s theory of reluctant rebels. Walton argues that rebels are always incited by the leading elites in a society that undergoes war or civil war at any given time in history.

Contribution: The article contributes to growing knowledge by discussing the Mau-Mau Movement in Kenya’s quest for freedom, from the 1950s to early 1960s, to demonstrate the religious role of armed conflicts in Africa. In this case, General Kassam, a baptised Anglican Christian, whose loyalty to the ancestral pantheons drove him to the quasi-religious war of independence, is the key subject in this article. In this war of independence in Kenya, a seeming conflict between African religion and Christian religion appears as a key emerging issue. The article is relevant to the HTS Journal and the world of scholarship because it is a theo-anthropocentric piece of work which deals with God, creation, and inevitable human conflicts – all of which have answers before God.


General Kassam; Mau Mau war; Kavirondo; Colonialism in Kenya; Mau Mau history in Kirinyaga


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