When the colonial governor, Robert Brooke Popham, announced a destocking policy in 1938, which prohibited ownership of more than four cows in Ukambani, there was unease across the land.
Despite the people’s opposition, the government went ahead with the plan and 2,500 animals confiscated, touching off a revolt. The angry owners demanded that the governor visit Machakos to address their plight.
The government planned to take animals to Athi River, where the Kenya Meat Commission had been established.
However, governor Popham found it beneath him to travel to Machakos to rescind his orders.
The desperate villagers approached Muindi Mbingu, a local policeman who had mastered the English language, and so could speak on their behalf.
Mbingu, like many of his contemporaries in the army and the police, was unhappy with the government’s decision as it had impoverished his people.
Mbingu wrote his way into history books when he agreed to lead 5,000 people in a protest march to Kariokor Market, in Nairobi, to petition the Governor to halt the animal auctions.
Mbingu’s victory, however, was short lived. He was relieved of his duties and arrested alongside Elijah Kavulu, Isaac Mwalonzi and Simon Kioko .They were all and detained for seven years in Lamu.
Upon his release, Mbingu was instrumental in the founding of Ukamba Members Association, and had close ties with the Kenya African Union leadership, like Jomo Kenyatta.
Mbingu is immortalised in a city street bearing his name.