Bildad Kaggia embodied the true meaning of his name

If Jomo Kenyatta had been the president in 1922, some people believe he would have banished the use of certain names.

Such names would have included Kaggia or Mwaganu. Of course, he had no such powers. Kenyatta himself was in the process of creating a mysterious persona and a distinct name that would elevate him beyond his home in Ichaweri and conceal his true identity.

While Kenyatta was reading water meters in Nairobi, as he changed from a simple Johnstone Kamau Ngengi, his future critic, Bildad Kaggia was struggling through school where he would later drop out for lack of school fees. His father’s name, Mwaganu was equally symbolic for it means one who is naughty or rogue.

True to his name, Kaggia, denoting a diminutive, stubborn character who never gives up then moved to Nairobi and started off as a clerk and was later enlisted in the colonial army to fight for the British in the Second World War.

He returned radicalised, ready to fight for what he believed was just. Besides joining the ranks of Mau Mau, Kaggia also started his own religion, “Dini Ya Kaggia“.

When the colonial government started cracking down on the most influential Mau Mau leaders in October 1952, Kaggia and Kenyatta, were among those arrested, they were among the famous Kapenguria Six. The other detainees were Kung’u Karumba, Paul Ngei, Kaggia, Achieng’ Oneko and Fred Kubai.

Even after Kenya got independence, Kaggia believed that his people were not truly free and he continued challenging the Kenyatta administration’s policies, especially on land redistribution.

So angry was Kenyatta with Kaggia’s perceived betrayal that he at one point held a rally at General Gitau Matenjagwo Stadium in Kaggia’s constituency, Kandara where he denigrated his fellow prisoner as an ingrate who had failed to liberate himself and his people from poverty.

On account of Kenyatta’s influence, Kaggia lost his seat because he had affiliated himself with socialist-leaning Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Kenya People’s Union. Predictably, Kaggia was arrested and jailed for holding an illegal meeting. In this vintage picture, Kaggia with his trademark beard is being led to prison.

There is no monument in honour of this freedom fighter but a five-kilometre road branching off from Thika-Murang’a Road at Kariguini and terminating at Kamunyaka has been named after him.

True to the freedom fighter’s nature, Kaggia Road, which is tarmacked, has been so bothersome to motorists that locals have erected temporary bumps using soil. Kaggia died in 2005.

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