Last week I was in Kapenguria attending the 11th edition of the Tegla Loroupe Peace Race. The annual race takes place through an initiative by the three-time world half-marathon champion, Tegla Loroupe, to foster peace in the region through sports.
While there, I visited the Kapenguria Museum, just near the venue of the peace race. When you enter the museum, you quickly notice the clearly marked cells belonging to the famous independence heroes, the Kapenguria 6, (Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Kungu Karumba, Fred Kubai, Paul Ngei, Bildad Kaggia and Ramogi Achieng Oneko).
Then you notice the unmarked cell! It did not bear the name of its occupant like the others did. I decided to explore further and find out the reason behind what I now called ‘the mystery of the unknown hero cell’. What I found out was quite interesting;
The cell actually belonged to Ramogi Achieng Oneko. Born in 1920 in Uyoma in Rarieda, Achieng was arrested on 20th October 1952 on the grounds of being associated with Mau Mau activities while still serving as Secretary-General of the Kenya African Union (KAU).
Being himself a Luo, with little knowledge of the Kikuyu language, the colonial masters realised Oneko could not have participated in the Mau Mau movement which was predominantly Kikuyu. There was no way he could have been aware of the intricate Mau Mau rituals and ceremonies.
It was therefore impossible to link him to the Mau Mau so they put him in a separate cell. The later destruction of this cell created a gap in history only recently filled. Oneko, in his old age, was able to show the museum where his original cell had been. It sat separate from those of the other political prisoners linked to the Mau Mau.
The museum later confirmed this when it discovered a floor slab fitting Oneko’s location description.
With Oneko’s help, the museum was able to reconstruct the cell. It sits a metre or two from the block housing the cells of the other five.
Ochieng Aneko died of a heart attack n June 9, 2007, at his home in Kunya village, Rarieda, Bondo district. He was 87. Now you know!
If you are in Kapenguria, pass by the Kapenguria Museum. Spend some time there to learn all the colonial and post-colonial history of Kenya’s intriguing politics. Much of it, you will realise, focuses on the Kapenguria 6.