Waiyaki wa Hinga

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When the British colonial administrator, Captain Frederick Lugard, acting on behalf of the Imperial British East African Company (IBEA) arrived in Dagoretti, in Kenya’s hinterland on October 10, 1890, on his way to Uganda, Chief Waiyaki wa Hinga was already an influential leader and landlord, with more than ten wives.

Lugard made a treaty with Waiyaki and was granted a piece of land at Kihumo, in Kikuyuland, where he constructed a fort.

This new-found friendship, however, was tested to the limit after Lugard departed for Uganda on November 1, 1890. IBEA workers stationed at the port started invading locals’ farms looting food and molesting women, which infuriated the villagers.

During one attack in 1891, five people in the garrison were killed and George Wilson, who had been left in charge, fled under the cover of darkness after running out of ammunition.

British officials, Major Eric Smith, assisted by Captain Purkiss and local Chief Kinyanjui Gathirimu returned to Dagoretti in April 1891. But the animus that persisted forced then to build another fort, which they named Fort Smith.

Shortly afterwards, a group of 15 railway surveyors were misled by a local collaborator, Kamau Wangamata, to go and assist him collect a debt owed to him by his in-law, Kiarii Gathura.

The railway workers, among them Purkiss’s headman Makhtub, were killed as they tried to take the goats by force. In retaliation, Purkiss led a caravan armed with 200 rifles, to raid Waiyaki’s place, where he killed 30 villagers, destroyed crops and impounded 50 goats.

Waiyaki stormed Fort Smith and confronted Purkiss as he was having a bath. He was overwhelmed, disarmed and mortally wounded on his scalp. He succumbed to the injury at Kibwezi on August 17, 1891 as he was being taken to Mombasa for trial.

After his death, tension persisted. The situation was so bad that Europeans dared not venture beyond 200 yards from Fort Smith. The fort still exists to this day.

Waiyaki is immortalised in the major city road, Waiyaki Way, which runs along the route that he took in that final journey. His family have been pushing for the exhumation of his remains so as to give him a proper burial.