In 2015, University of Toronto professor Julie MacArthur
decided to follow a couple more leads in the search for the long-missing, feared-lost transcript of the trial of legendary Mau Mau leader Dedan KImathi. She found herself amidst the papers of an anti-colonial London lawyer Ralph Millner who assisted the august barrister Dingle Foot in defending Kimathi before the Court of Appeals in colonial Kenya. There she found the full file of not only the appellate case, but the original trial as well, transcripts, exhibits, and police reports.
The file showed that a dubious file of the trial transcript in the Kenyan National Archives to be a forgery, but its discovery prompted the release of further files in Kenya. This momentous discovery not only sheds light on this key figure in Kenyan history, and the trauma and the Mau Mau rebellion, but also unstable nature of archives and historical memory. Dedan Kimathi on Trial: Colonial Justice and Popular Memory in Kenya’s Mau Mau Rebellion
(Ohio University Press, 2017) not only reproduces the entire trial transcript, in all its original discordant glory, but a set of insightful essays by major scholars of Kenyan history and literary culture, including David Anderson, John Lonsdale, Nicholas Kariuki Githuku, Simon Gikandi, and Lotte Hughes. Her own introduction and a forward by Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Micere Githae Mugo provide a helpful framework for considering the meaning of this important artifact of Africa’s colonial interlude. For anyone in Kenya in February 2020, you can catch the launch of her book at the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology in Nyeri on February 18 and at the United States International Univeristy of Africa in Nairobi on February 21.