It was a Kikuyu ritual for both men and women to undergo circumcision as a rite of passage into adulthood. For women, things changed when the missionaries, started a campaign against the practice between 1929 and 1932.
However, the Kikuyu people were against the banning because it was an erasure of their culture and traditions. The Kikuyu Central Association (KCA) in Nyeri led the opposition, leading to the opening of its independent churches and schools, which tolerated the traditions and practices of the Agikuyu.
In defiance to the anti-FGM campaign by the church, some girls took matters in their own hands, they cut each other’s genitals with razor blades, starting a movement known as Ngaitana, meaning “I will circumcise myself”. It was an ingenious way of avoiding naming the friends, so they just claimed to have cut themselves.
In the 1950s, the Mau Mau, in its fight against the colonial government, turned its attention to the Christians and women who refused to undergo the cut.
According to Reverend Timothy Njoya, whose aunt, Mary Wambura, then a deacon of a church became a victim of the Mau Mau.
Some of the brutal things they did to her include the gorging out of her eyes and her clitoris. They then chopped her body and strew them across the board.
They did the same to 20 other women.
MY HERITAGE:My Mom was the first Kikuyu woman who in 1925 decided to go on with her life without the cut.1950 She died of natural cause. My aunt Mary Wamburu who like my Mom refused to be circumcised was amongst 21 women gruefully executed by MauMau. pic.twitter.com/n5H3CX1vsh
— Timothy Njoya (@timothynjoya) May 31, 2018
The Mau Mau killed the Christians for they had refused to take part in the oath. According to Njoya, they had refused the oath in fear of mixing the ‘blood of Christ’ and animal blood.
However, this account has been disputed by members of the Mau Mau. The Mau Mau War Veterans Association’s Secretary General Gitu Kahengeri said they neither forced people to take the oath or kill Christians because of their faith.
“Mau Mau never forced anyone whether Christian or not to take an oath. Furthermore, those who refused to take the oath were not killed, most of us are Christians even to date and Catholics for that matter,” Mr Kahengeri said in 2015.