Wambui Otieno Mbugua has been described by Ann Njogu as ‘heroine, feminist, Mau Mau veteran and nationalist’. It is not possible, in a short obituary, to capture the bravery, courage and commitment of this most amazing woman – a role model for all women who are struggling to break the chains of imperialist and male domination.
This great grand daughter of the patriot, Waiyaki wa Hinga, took the Mau Mau oath and fought for our freedom. She was arrested by the British in 1955; tortured, raped and brutalised; detained on Lamu island and released finally in 1961.
In our ethnically divided society she, a Kikuyu, married S M Otieno, a Luo criminal lawyer and lived a happy marriage for 30 years. On Otieno’s death, the full brunt of traditional male patriarchy descended on her; but true to her fearless character and her feminist covenant she fought a pitched battle and took it to the highest court in the land. She lost – the independence she had fought for did not accord her her independence as a woman. Unbowed she refused to go to Nyalagunga and instead built a mausoleum in her matrimonial home in Ngong.
Never one to be cowed by societal opprobrium; Wambui married Sam Mbugua, 20 years her junior, in a very public tying of the knot and lived her remaining years in failing health but true to her heart’s desires. She passed away on 31 August, 2011 and then, incredibly, tradition rose up again to lay claim to her body. But Wambui was as determined in death as she had been in life – she was buried in the mausoleum she had built. It is hoped that someday when Kenyan society has heard the centuries old cry of woman’s right to freedom and understood the true of essence of ‘marriage’; the remains of her beloved will be interred beside her, where they surely belong.