Downtown Nairobi, away from the skyscrapers, expressways, and high-rise apartments. Far from the seat of power and government offices lies an old nondescript building.
Unknown to many, this unremarkable building is of great historical consequence to Kenya.
This is the building where Mau Mau was planned. If the Mau Mau had its headquarters, this would be it. This building was also the newsroom for nationalist publications like Bildad Kaggia’s Afrika Mpya, and Achieng Oneko’s Ramogi Press.
It is here that KAU summoned young Kenyans and told them point blank that a decision had been reached to fight the white man and that the hour had come for their greatest sacrifice.
”All the organisations concerning the struggle were in Kiburi House. Even the office of Jomo Kenyatta was in Kiburi House. Therefore, everything was coming from there,” Mau Mau veteran General Gitu Wa Kahengeri says, adding that it was here that he first met Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi.
Kiburi House was the first building owned by natives.
Originally owned by Colonel Ewart Grogan, a Kenyan settler who is remembered as the first recorded human to walk the entire length of Africa from Cape to Cairo, Kiburi House was purchased in 1950 by the Kenya Fuel and Bark Supplying Company for 80,000 shillings.
Richard Macharia, Magoto Wa Kimani, Kiburi Thumbi, Nathaniel Gabatha, and Edward Kabui established the company in 1946 to sell charcoal and wood across the country. Being the group Chairman, the building was named after Kiburi Thumbi.
In 1950, KAU offices along government road were closed and the political organization had to look for new premises for their operations, prompting it to join hands with the Kenya Fuel and Bark Suppling Company.
On 10th June 1951, KAU demanded an end to British colonial rule in Kenya and independence in three years.
Five months later, in November 1951, the party issued another demand for self-rule in a document ‘Land Hunger in Kenya’, presented to the UN Conference in Paris, France by KAU delegates. The document called for an urgent solution to the land question in Kenya with regard to the natives and is believed to have been drafted at Kiburi House.
The same year (1951), radical members of the Kenya African Union (KAU) formed a Central Committee known as Muhimu which began to plot for more militant ways to achieve independence for Kenya.
Eliud Mutonyi (Chairman), Isaac Kathanji (Secretary), Bildad Kaggia, Paul Ngei, and Fred Kubai, as members of the Central Committee, started the oathing ceremonies and urged Kenyans to take up arms against the colonialists.
The Kapenguria Six had regular meetings at Kiburi House, and fundraising to pay their lawyers when they were detained after Operation Jock Scott in 1952 was done here.
However, today, Kiburi House is a forgotten relic. An abandoned memory as far as official history is concerned.