The Ameru people had a common destiny with the Kikuyu people, as a result of their shared experience particularly under the British colonial administration. Although there were instances of hostility towards the Kikuyu in the earlier years, the situation gradually changed in the 1940s.
Traditionally, the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru communities interacted with each other even during the pre-colonial period. The introduction and spread of both the colonial rule and Christianity came through Kikuyu land, Embu and eventually into Meru land. Being of the same Bantu stock, the three communities share a lot in common historically and socio- culturally and politically.
The period immediately preceding the Declaration of the State of Emergency in Kenya on 20th October 1952 witnessed an increased movement of the Kikuyu people into the Meru land. They can be grouped into various categories. There were those early Christian converts who accompanied the pioneer missionaries from the Presbyterian Church, through Chuka, Mwimbi and eventually into South Imenti.
Some eventually settled in those areas, and became part of the Meru community. There were those who came in as small traders and settled in urban centers particularly Meru Town.
An example of this group includes the Macharia, Muru-wa- Kagimbi and James Muita families who had settled in Kibirichia in Central Imenti and Meru Town, respectively. Macharia and Muuru-wa-Kagimbi allocated themselves huge chunks of land in Kibirichia.
Macharia settled on a hill to the west of Kibirichia Market and re-named it “Kirima kia Macharia” (Macharia’s Hill). Muuru-wa Kagimbi settled on another hill to the east of the Market, between Muriinya and Ntharagwene and renamed it “Kirima-kia Muuru-wa-Kagimbi” (son of Kagimbi’s Hill).
However, usage of those names in late 1950s when the land was re-allocated to new owners during the land consolidation programme under Chief Stanley M’Muriithi wa Mbarabari of Kibirichia Location.
In the road transport sector, there was another Kikuyu pioneer called Mugo who owned a bus that operated between Meru and Nyeri towns through Nanyuki in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
It was popularly known as “Bus ya Mugo” (Mugo’s Bus). Other Kikuyus had come in at different times, mainly from Nyeri, and leased land in such areas as, Kiirua,Naari, Ruirii and even some parts of Nyambene.
Others had come to participate in the shifting cultivation programme allowed in some parts of Mt. Kenya Forest, in particular Thege, Muchiene and Mutwaru schemes. Some Kikuyus participated in these schemes alongside the Meru people, while others had come into Meru land through intermarriage between the two communities.
However, Kikuyu influence was felt more in South Imenti where Christianity was introduced by the PCEA Church with mission work, including education and health services, being conducted in the Kikuyu language.
Another factor that facilitated very close inter-relationship between the Meru, Embu and Kikuyu communities was their interaction while working together in the White settlers farms in the White Highlands and in urban centers particularly Nairobi and other urban centers.
Others fought together in foreign lands during the Second World War (1939-1945). Upon their return, they continued that special comradeship as ex-soldiers and got involved together in the radical politics of the post-war period leading to the Mau Mau war of liberation.
The above-cited factors provided the Kikuyu and Meru people with strong bond based on shared experience under colonial rule. It was, therefore, natural and logical for the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru, to stick together and fight for their rights against a common enemy during the Mau Mau struggle.
Adapted from Kaburu Ndūbai
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