What Mr Sanders Really Did

Written by Veronica Bellers

The Kedong Massacre

And the death of Mr Andrew Dick

"The Kedong massacre on November 26th, 1895, was a very terrible affair, and several versions of have been published from time to time, but the real facts are as follows:

A large caravan of eleven hundred men, of whom one hundred and five were Swahilis, and the rest Akikuyu, carrying food supplies for Eldoma Ravine Station, was despatched from Fort Smith by Mr Gilkisson, the officer in charge. Such a caravan ought to have been under an European official, and one was actually available at the time, but for some reason or another it was most unfortunately sent off under a Swahili headman, a man I knew well, who was too young for the job.

All, however, went well until Naivasha was reached on the return journey, when a considerable number of both Swahilis and Akikuyu began to get out of hand, and by the time they reached the Kijabi the headman had lost control of them. From Naivasha to Kijabi they were accompanied by several Masai elmoru, who did their utmost, not only to urge the headman and askaris to persuade their men to behave themselves and do nothing likely to disturb and excite the Masai, but warned them that there was a large moran's manyatta close by and just ahead.

The Masai elders then hurried on to this manyatta and urged the moran to remain quiet. Next morning the first half of the caravan passed without a disturbance. However the rest deliberately went out of their way to create a disturbance by entering the manyatta and molesting the moran's ditos. One Swahili even attempted to drive away a cow. This was too much for the moran and of the them, 'seeing red', speared the Swahili. He was promptly shot dead by another Swahili; in a very few minutes, the manyatta and its near vicinity was in a shambles.

It was there that the majority of the 98 Swahilis out of the 105 were killed. Then followed a merciless butchery all the way from that point to an open space at the foot of Mount Margaret, on which was a small manyatta of elmoru and kokos. It was here that some seventy odd panic stricken and exhausted Akikuyu stopped and pleaded for protection from the moran who were now mad with blood lust and coming up from behind.

To the credit of the old people, men and women, they did all they could to intercede. However, they were pushed to one side and, in a minute or two, the massacre was over.

When I passed along the road about five weeks later there were skeletons everywhere. The road itself was strewn with basket-work hamper lids (used in their donkey transport when moving to fresh grazing grounds), stooks, dressed leather garments - all loot...

Altogether four hundred and fifty-six Akikuyu were killed. It was interesting to note that the majority of the skeletons seen by myself were quite perfect, even to the first joints of their fingers and toes. This showed clearly that while the vultures and ravens were able to deal with them, hyenas and jackals had not been numerous enough to do so, and had not touched a single one of the seventy or more that lay within an area twenty yards square at the foot of Mount Margaret.

It was certainly the most gruesome and horrible march of four miles or so that I ever experienced. If ever a spot in East Africa could claim to be a 'Valley of Death', the Kedong Valley could do so easily in December, 1895.

At the moment when information of the massacre was brought in by survivors to Fort Smith, Lenana, the Masai Lybon was actually on a ceremonial visit. That in itself was convincing proof that he had had nothing to do with it; but he must necessarily have experienced many anxious hours (I believe he subsequently admitted it) until he found himself free to return to his people when he liked. His treatment on that occasion very greatly impressed him, and he frequently referred to it as an example of white man's justice.

At that time, there were three French men at Fort Smith; Monsieur Versepuit, Baron de Romans, and a man named Spork. They had worked their way from Kilimanjaro on a shooting expedition. There was also a man named Andrew Dick, late Chief Accountant of the Imperial British East Africa Company, but at that time was on his own. He had been doing transport work for the Uganda Government, and had fitted out his safari for a trading venture towards Rudolf, when he realized that here was a favourable opportunity for annexing, as a reprisal on the Masai, a quanitity of the best of all trade goods - cattle!

The upshot was that he defied Gilkisson and bullied and taunted the Frenchmen into joining him, and off they started with a considerable armed force. They found the Masai had already moved away from the valley, but succeeded in rounding up a lot of cattle near the foothills of Longonot. The moran made no attempt to recapture their stock in the valley; but, adopting the old and well-known native tactics, they got well ahead of the raiding party, under cover of the bush and stunted acacias, took up a position in a small ravine flanking the road on the first terrace and there waited. For some reason of their own, instead of dashing forward and driving off the cattle when they had reached the terrace, while the Europeans and the strong rear-guard were still struggling up the steep path below, they waited until the latter arrived and then attacked.

The Frenchmen told me that at one time the situation was far from pleasant, and for some little time they themselves were kept very busy with their sporting rifles, until the moran were driven back to the shelter of the ravine.

It was then that Dick committed an act of folly that led to his death. Shortly before, close to the edge of the ravine, he had killed a moran who had a particularly long-bladed spear, and went forward to secure it, but while stooping to pick it up another moran dashed out towards him. Dick was prepared, but his Colt repeating rifle failed him. When he realized that the rifle was jammed, he turned and ran. Then, according to the Frenchmen, there followed a series of bluffs by Dick and ducks by the moran. The former running and then whipping around and aiming at the latter, who continued to duck until he realized that the rifle was either empty or useless. Then, instead of ducking, he came on just as Dick had turned to run. The moran drove his spear through Dick and nearly a foot of it ran beyond his chest. The moran was himself shot immediately afterwards. So died Andrew Dick, a very brave man.

The gist of the above was the first bit of news I received at the Eldoma Ravine Station on arrival there from Uganda on December 22nd, 1895. I had gone there to take charge of the Eastern Province, which at that time embraced the Rift Valley up to and including the Kedong, Nandi, Lumbwa, Elgeyu, Kamassia and Baringo.

Two days later the three Frenchmen arrived, and it was from them that I heard the details of Dick's death.

It was, of course, my duty to proceed as soon as possible to investigate and report on the matter. Little Martin, who had built the station and was going on leave, accompanied me to Fort Smith. On the way down, close to the Gilgil River, we came across two Masai moran sitting under a leleshwa bush. When we were about 70 yards away, they stood up and came forward holding in one hand a wisp of grass as a peace offering, in the other hand was a spear.

The Masai, then more or less concentrated round about Naivasha and the Kinangpop Plateu, had, through their scouts, heard of our approach, and these two moran had come out alone to meet us. It at least showed that they were not wanting in courage. One of them was Laigulishu the laigunan of Tereri's moran, a man who has figured so prominently in all negotiations since ever since.

On reaching Naivasha we found Tereri and a host of elmoru assembled, and the whole afternoon was spent in taking down the evidence of both elders and moran who were present on the occasion. During my two and a half years' residence at the Ravine, I held many scores of shauris with the Masai and their neighbours, but none of them impressed me so much as that one. The calm dignity of both old and young men, as they stood slowly wielding a light rungu to emphasize their words, passing it on from one speaker to the other, giving their version fluently, without hesitation, sign of fear, or bombast, was a very remarkable display of oratory.

The statements by the two elmoru who accompanied the caravan from Naivasha to Kijabi were particularly fine efforts, and showed very clearly that they had done everything possible in order to avoid a clash. I came to the conclusion that unless the evidence of the survivors to the contrary was equally weighty, there could be no possible doubt that the behaviour of the caravan as a whole was abominable, and that the Masai received the greatest provocation.

On reaching Fort Smith, I was told that Mr John Ainsworth had arrived there from Machakos some time previously, on the same inquiry as myself. I at once walked over to his tent, where I found him, very busy as usual, writing. After greetings he said "Well, what do you think about it?" to which I replied, "My dear John, I have only heard one side of it, but I am, so far, of the opinion that your people started it and had only themselves to blame!" to which he replied, "I am glad to hear you say that, as I have come to the same conclusion." We then gave each other the gist of our respective inquiries. We were also agreed on the unwarranted action of Dick. It was decided that the cattle taken should not be returned but be regarded as a fine, and the proceeds distributed amongst the relatives of the Akikuyu who had been killed.

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