General China

Waruhiu Itote (1922 – 30 April 1993) also known as General China, was one of the key leaders of the Mau Mau rebellion alongside Dedan Kimathi, Stanley Mathenge and Musa Mwariama.

Early life

He was born into a prosperous farming family in Kaheti village, Mukurwe-ini division, Nyeri District in 1922. He received minimal education at a local Church of Scotland mission, before moving to Nairobi as a teenager. Itote enlisted in the British army in 1942, serving in the King's African Rifles throughout Asia, firstly at Ceylon and then in the Burma Campaign.[1] Whilst in Burma he was promoted to the rank of Corporal.

Returning to Kenya, he became disillusioned with the lack of opportunities and became involved in urban politics and joined the Kenya African Union in 1946.[1] In the company of fellow ex-army comrades he dabbled in the criminal underworld as part of Nairobi's Forty Group, to supplement his wages as a fireman.[1]

Mau Mau

In 1950, Itote took the Mau Mau oath, and subsequently became responsible for oathing and was an executioner of traitors.[1] As the police began clamping down on Mau Mau activities in 1952, Itote moved to the forests of Mount Kenya with a band of followers to begin his insurgency. From here Itote began a wave of attacks on white settler farms in Nyeri and targeted loyalists to nearby villages. He soon gained a reputation as a skilled commander with an ability to organise.[2]

Itote was captured by British troops on 15 January 1954. He was represented at his trial by the prominent Asian lawyer A.R. Kapila.[3] Itote was founded guilty and sentenced to hang. However following a deal instigated by Ian Henderson, Itote agreed to cooperate with the government and negotiate an end to the uprising in return for his life. The cooperation of Itote led General Erskine to bring Operation Anvil to a close.

Detention and Later Life

Itote was unable to bring about the surrender of his Mau Mau comrades, and so was placed in a detention camp in Lokitaung. Here he stayed with his former opponent, Jomo Kenyatta who taught him how to speak and write in English.[4] Itote stayed in detention for the next nine years, until Kenya achieved independence. He was then taken under the wing of Kenyatta in his new government. In 1967 he published his autobiography, "Mau Mau" General (East African Publishing House), and in 1979 wrote Mau Mau in Action (Transafrica Books). He served as the top officer of Kenya National Youth service with his headquarters at Ruaraka, Nairobi.

He died of a stroke in 1993 at the age of 71. At the time of his death he was running a farm near Ol Kalou in Kenya.


External links

  • External biography
  • David Blumenkrantz "He Deserved a State Burial"
  • Magnum Photos

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