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General Kubu Kubu was the most venerated freedom hero within the Embu country (in Kenya, East Africa). His name means "heavy thud" and was coined out of the thud his feet made because of his heavy build. Kubu Kubu was born Njagi wa Ikutha late 1920s in a heavily forested area in Mukuuri next to the current site of the Kubu Kubu Memorial Boarding Primary School, Embu County. Like many families from the pre-independence Mukuuri Native Reserve, Njagi's family later settled in Kianjokoma area after independence.
The heavily forested hill has an elevation of 1520 meters above sea level. In the case of an attack by the colonialists, fighters could light a fire and smoke would be seen bellowing on top of the hill to act as a warning that the enemy was within.
Kubu Kubu (or Kubukubu) was the de facto leader of the Mau Mau Uprising battalion within the Embu country. He was also one of the key leaders of Mau Mau in Kenya, alongside Dedan Kimathi, Musa Mwariama, and Waruhiu Itote, alias General China. Itote widely mentions Kubu Kubu in his 1967 autobiography, "Mau Mau" General (East African Publishing House).
Kubu Kubu was revered by people across Embu and feared by colonialists. He successfully led the community for more than 10 years in defending their land, and families from colonial aggression. In fact, while colonial settlers carved out African lands across Kenyan highlands for themselves, they were repulsed in Embu.
Embu women were also feared and many were spared colonial indignities like rape from homeguards and British colonial officers.
He also successfully raided colonial outposts in Embu and collected guns that were carefully distributed to the fighters.
Kubukubu, however, allowed schools to operate. Thus many old schools in Embu, including Kangaru, Kigari, and Muragari still operated as the freedom war was fought.
Around 1955, a breakaway group of Kikuyu and Meru Mau Mau fighters betrayed their Embu counterparts and stole many of their guns. The Embu fighters were forced to use the few remaining guns, and pangas and other crude weapons.
In his book, "Mau Mau" General (East African Publishing House), General Itote writes how Kubu Kubu ruled that traitors must be dealt with ruthlessly. Kubu Kubu told Kimathi, Itote and other key leaders that not even women and children would be spared, if they were found to be colonial collaborators. At this point, a trap was then set to arrest the general.
A colonial informer offered to assist the Embu fighters get pangas and other weapons. Kubu Kubu, as the leader, led a team to pick the weapons at a place called Itundu near Runyenjes town, where the colonialists shot in the leg and arrested him.
He was frog-marched through Mukuuri and Kathande villages where all women were ordered to collect firewood, which would be used to burn him. Colonialists lynched him near Muragari Primary School in Mukuuri. He was not interred conventionally. Colonialists made a huge pyre and set his body on fire, against Embu customs. They forced the women and children to watch the body go up in flames. They also humiliated women by forcing them to clap as the body turned into ashes.
A street and a shopping centre in Embu Town has also been named after him. A road in Nyeri Town has also been named after Kubu Kubu. Kirimiri forest is still there, and a vibrant market centre called Mukuuri has developed near its base. The forest is a popular rendezvous for revellers and also as a retreat centre.
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