Classic Essays

Mau Mau Oaths and Ceremonies

ILW2178Original Introduction to CANDOUR Supplement, 22nd July, 1960

WARNING! (ILLUSTRATION: The Mau Mau uprising originated in the 1950s among the Kikuyu people of Kenya, forcing its adherents to swear savage oaths which involved bestiality. Its loyalists advocated ultra-violent resistance to British control of the country.)

ON NO ACCOUNT should this supplement be allowed to fall into the hands of children or adolescents. It should not be read by subscribers, especially women subscribers, who lack strong nerves and tough minds. What is published here is a terrifying document, a horrifying document, an obscene document, but an official document.

If ‘independence’ is to be given to Kenya, Nyasaland and perhaps northern Rhodesia, then at least let the British people know what the British government is doing and the kind of mentality to which their kith and kin in those territories may be sacrificed.

I can think of no more effective means of achieving this object than by circulating to adults this official Kenya government description of the Mau Mau oaths and oath-taking ceremonies.

The oaths are terrible enough, but the actual ceremonies are so appalling in all their vileness and filth and sexual depravity that no editor in the world has taken the responsibility of allowing his readers to study them.

It should be pointed out that decent Africans are as horrified by such happenings as are sane Europeans. It must be said, against this, that about 90 per cent of the Kikuyu – the largest tribe in Kenya – became in greater or less degree infected by Mau Mau.

What follows should not be judged by the first half of it. The document becomes increasingly horrible to read.

Having given my solemn warning that the contents of this supplement should not be seen by the squeamish or the immature, I announce my willingness to face any consequences which may arise as a result of my decision to make known these facts.

Subscribers can now burn the supplement or read on.

A.K. Chesterton,

Editor of Candour

* * *

IN VIEW of the recent launching by Mau Mau of a campaign to re-oath its adherents and to enclose in its net an ever-greater number of African followers, not only of the Kikuyu tribe, and in view also of the increasing bestiality of the oath ritual, it is timely and necessary to appreciate anew the significance of Mau Mau ceremonial practices and to review the extent and type of atrocities perpetrated by members of the movement.

Much has been written from time to time about the significance of tribal oaths, some seventy in number, in the life of the Kikuyu, still held as he is in the grip of pagan superstitions and ideologies. The originators of the Mau Mau movement chose the more powerful features of those many oaths to ensure that the Mau Mau version was supremely powerful — as it has since proved to be, despite the fact that in three ways it transgresses Kikuyu custom, which prohibits the administration of oaths by night, by force, and to women.

The original aim of Mau Mau, as expressed in the words of the oath, was secretly to unite, discipline and foster political consciousness among the Kikuyu, with the ultimate object of satisfying the political aspirations of its leaders, if necessary by force. The terms of the original oath were as follows:

(a) If I ever reveal the secrets of this organisation, may this oath kill me.
(b) If I ever sell or dispose of any Kikuyu land to a foreigner, may this oath kill me.
(c) If I ever fail to follow our great leader Kenyatta, may this oath kill me.
(d) If I ever inform against any member of this organisation or against any member who steals from a European, may this oath kill me.
(e) If I ever fail to pay the fees of this organisation, may this oath kill me.

In a large prison camp for British-captured Mau Mau’s, prisoners sit with their arms crossed on the ground.

New Clauses

As the Mau Mau campaign gained strength and the advocates of violence came to the fore, the terms of the original oath were amended to include the following new clauses, inter alia:

(a) If I am sent to bring in the head of any one and I fail to do so, may this oath kill me.
(b) If I fail to steal anything from the European, may this oath kill me.
(c) If I know of any enemy to our organisation and I fail to report him to my leader, may this oath kill me.
(d) If I ever receive any money from a European as a bribe for information, may this oath kill me.
(e) If I am ever sent by a leader to do something big for the house of Kikuyu, and I refuse, may this oath kill me.
(f) If I refuse to help in driving the Europeans from this county, may this oath kill me.
(g) If I worship any leader but Jomo, may this oath kill me.

With the advent of these new terms there came an increase in acts of violence by Mau Mau.

The oath so far described is the general, or 3rd grade, oath from which no Kikuyu man, woman or young person is exempt, and which may be taken again and again by the same person. Its effect has been to create a mass of violent-minded, often bewildered people, chained by superstition and fear to the commands of their unscrupulous leaders. In the early days the ritual was primitive but not bestial, its symbolism alone being sufficiently powerful to bind initiates to the terms of the ghastly oath. In more recent times bestial practices and numerous stages of ceremonial have embellished the ritual in certain areas, particularly Meru.

With the launching of the violent campaign came the need for leaders of gangs, committees and other Mau Mau organisations. To them was administered a stronger, or 2nd grade, oath in the following terms:

(a) If I fail to lead the children of Mumbi in a proper manner, may I die.
(b) If I fail to support the Independent School movement, may I die.
(c) If I betray the leaders of the Kenya Africa Union, may I die.
(d) If I fail to support this organisation until the day of independence, may I die.
(e) I must sacrifice my blood and the blood of Kikuyu for freedom.

There is a third, or 1st grade, oath taken only by leading political agitators. The terms of this oath are political and vary from time to time in accord with circumstances. It is significant that no instances have come to light of its being administered since the declaration of the state of emergency when the principal political agitators were arrested and detained on account of their complicity in the Mau Mau movement.

Deceased Mau Mau freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi, was considered the best fighter for the Mau Mau’s. A posthumous monument was built in his honor on December 6th, 2006.

Batuni Oath

Apart from these three basic oaths, two new versions have been devised to meet the needs of the terrorist campaign. The first, called the “Githaka” or “Forest” oath, is administered by forest gang leaders to their followers; the second, the “Batuni” or “Platoon” oath, the most recent innovation, is gradually being administered to all Mau Mau “soldiers” and “soldier recruits”. By taking the “Batuni” a man becomes a full-blooded terrorist. The following are some of the common features of the “Batuni”:

(a) To burn Europeans crops and kill European-owned cattle;
(b) To steal firearms;
(c) If ordered to kill, to kill no matter who is to be the victim, even one’s father or brother.
(d) When killing to cut off heads, extract the eyeballs and drink the liquid from them.
(e) Particularly to kill Europeans.

It must be seen from the foregoing that the terms of the Mau Mau oath have become increasingly more violent and bloodthirsty, envisaging even the killing of father by son and brother by brother. It is not perhaps surprising, therefore, that with this increased emphasis on brutality and murder in the words of the oath, a corresponding increase in bestiality should have invaded the ritual of oath ceremonies, thus forcing the initiates to reach the necessary pitch of blood lust and degradation to make it possible for them to pronounce the ghastly words of the oath itself.

The only possible deduction to be drawn from the details of the bestiality and perversion connected with the ceremonies is the horrible one that we are now faced in Kenya with a terrorist organisation composed not of ordinary human beings fighting for a cause but of primitive beasts who have forsaken all moral codes in order to achieve the subjugation of the Kikuyu tribe and the ultimate massacre of the European population of the Colony.

That these terrible rituals and oaths drive the participants to honour their vows is only too apparent from the lurid list of atrocities committed by Mau Mau. Such atrocities include:

(a) The Lari massacre;
(b) Decapitation and general mutilation of victims;
(c) Bodies bound up in sacks and dropped into wells;
(d) Torture before murder;
(e) Exhumation of bodies and eating the putrefied flesh;
(f) Drinking of human blood — (ex-chief Luka’s child was cut in half, its blood drunk, and the two halves of the body were flung at the mother, who was then killed);
(g) Death by hanging;
(h) Pregnant women split open along the stomach;
(i) Victims held down while their heads are slowly sawn off with pangas;
(j) Maiming of cattle by hamstringing;
(k) Cutting off the ears of persons who have not taken the oath so as to identify them in the future as Government loyalists.

These and similar atrocities have been perpetrated against people of all races in Kenya.

Growing up side by side with and immersed in these horrors is the new generation of Kikuyu youth, which ever since reaching the age of reason has been indoctrinated, largely through the Kikuyu Independent Schools, with a hatred of the European, a fanatical admiration for Kenyatta, and a disregard for parental and tribal authority. These young men are the backbone of Mau Mau terrorism, and they owe no allegiance to the ordinary dictates of either Christian or pagan ethics.

Such then is the problem of Mau Mau. The gradual extermination of terrorists will in the end undoubtedly sway the majority of the Kikuyu tribe against terrorism as a means of achieving an end. There will remain, however, the need to lead the debased and unruly youth of the tribe to a better way of life. There is now, also, the need to dissuade the youth of other tribes from following the downward path of their Kikuyu counterparts. Normal means of rehabilitation unlikely to succeed until the common law of discipline has been instilled and is obeyed.

Horrible Ceremonies

The following confessions given by Kikuyu who have taken these degrading oaths are quoted individually. It will be seen that the confessions give certain details that appear throughout.

Extract from statement by Karioki s/o (son of) Njeroge to South Kinangop Screening Team:

“I was made to pay Shs. 10/0 (Kenyan currency) to Mweru s/o Rugo. I took this oath along with: Mbae s/o Kanyi, Karango s/o Matitka, Gachomo s/o Njiru, Kamau s/o Munyau, Gatete s/o Njuguna, Karanja s/o Ngutu, and Mungai s/o Kamau.

“I was made to take my clothes off for this ceremony, and made to place the meat from a sheep’s chest on my penis holding the meat with my left hand whilst with my right hand I took a small stick about 6” long and poked it through the meat at the same time eating a small piece.

“This performance was repeated seven times and each time with a new stick. Each time the oath was taken the oath ran as follows:

1. Should I be ordered to burn the European crops I will do so and not turn back.
2. Should I be ordered to kill cattle I shall do so and not turn back.
3. Should it be possible for me to steal a firearm I will do so.
4. If I am ordered to kill, I will, no matter who it is.
5. In the event of me killing anyone I will cut their heads off, extract the eyeballs, and drink the liquid from them.
6. Should a gangster from the forest come with blood-stained clothing I must take them and supply him with new ones.
7. When I go to kill someone I must take with me a strangling rope€, a small knife to extract the victim’s eyes and a handkerchief to cover my hands against fingerprints.

“The above are the only oaths I know of that are given at a ‘Platoon’ ceremony.”

Extract from a statement made by Themu Magu to J.M. Harvey and R.K.S. Hendry:

“I found a circle of bababa leaves, potatoes and sugar cane leaves and sorghum leaves. There was a girl there and Karanja. The ram which was used had been killed yesterday at General Charle’s camp, and had been used for the fourth oath there.

“I was put into the circle and made to take off all my clothes. The whole breast of the ram had been cut off including the penis; I was made to squat down on the ground within the circle. The meat was placed on my penis and chest. I held it in place and ate one end of the meat. The Ndito stood on one side, the meat and penis of the ram was placed in the vagina of the Ndito who was having her ‘monthlies’. It was then given back to me, and I was made to eat parts of it, including parts of the penis and testicles. Only small parts were eaten by each man taking the oath.

“The girl’s name is Waithirra Ngume. I heard that she has taken five oaths. She was not a prostitute, but is one now. Her father Ngume lives in Chief Muhoya’s District, the village is Karanga. There are ten girls in the camp and all are used when they have their ‘monthlies’ if the fourth oath is to be given. This is part of their job.

“When I took the fourth oath, three others took it. Wachira Gathuke, Magugu Githaiga and Gudo Mwasa. I was made to swear:

1. I was not to tell anyone about this oath.
2. To hate my father and mother.
3. To steal arms or anything else which would help Mau Mau.
4. Not to fall out with any Mau Mau.
5. To kill Europeans or Kikuyu if so ordered.
6. To steal money from Europeans.
7. To refuse orders from Europeans.
8.To kill any European.”

The body of Kikuyu senior chief Waruhiu, assassinated by Mau Mau gunmen in Kiambu.

Platoon Oath

Extract from a statement made by Thiga s/o Makljha to South Kinangop Screening Team:

“This was a ‘platoon’ oath. No one wore any clothes and in the hut stuck to the floor with a stick was a bit of gristle from behind a goat’s neck (Ngata in Kikuyu). Also seven sticks which l rubbed in the gristle as I took the oath. Also a piece of fatty meat which runs under the neck of the goat (Gisuir in Kikuyu). Into one end of the ‘Gisuru’ I inserted my penis while I chewed the other end of the ‘Gisuru’ and repeated these words:

1. If I do the platoon wrong they will kill me.
2. If either my wife or child does the platoon wrong, they will take either their heads or mine.
3. If I am told to kill a European I will do so, or be killed.
4. If I am told to burn a farmer’s wheat or destroy his maize I will do so or die.
5. If I am told to kill or maim a farmer’s cattle or sheep I will do so or lose my head.
6. If I am told to help release prisoners from jail, I will do so or this oath will kill me.
7. If the platoon wants my wife for any reason I will give her to them or they will take my head.”

Extract from statement made by Waweru s/o Chege to R.K.S. Hendry:

“The fourth oath is taken as follows:

“A ram is killed, the penis is cut off. A ewe is killed and the vagina of sheep is inserted into the vagina of a Kikuyu prostitute who is having her ‘monthlies’. Removed from the vagina of the prostitute and is licked seven times by men receiving oath. Penis and vagina then passed round seven times. This procedure takes place with all the people taking the oath, until all have licked the penis/vagina until all is eaten.

“Ten men took the oath at the same time as I did. When penis/vagina had been eaten, blood of ram and ewe is mixed with earth, small potatoes, small amount of wimbi, sugar cane, banana, sweet potatoes, Kikuyu beans — this mixture is eaten seven times. Then all the meat is eaten. Then every man who has taken the fourth oath on that night lies with the prostitute. In the morning the prostitute goes to the river to wash and then returns to Njabini. Her name is Wainja. She is not at Thika.

“Oaths taken:

1. I must kill even my brother.
2. I must steal arms or ammo.
3. Every man from now on, even a brother, who has not taken the Mau Mau oath is an enemy.
4. Not to show a woman a gun unless she has taken the oath.
5. If by any chance a bibi (woman) who has not taken the oath sees a fourth oath man with a gun, she is to be killed.

Naivasha Confessions

The details of all the oaths now administered to the various “ranks” of the Mau Mau were supplied by the Naivasha Screening Team from information received from confessions.

FIRST OATH: The first oath is of being cut and millet (Njahi) mixed with blood and the mixture taken. (There are five stages in taking this oath.)

SECOND OATH: To be pricked on the thumb to draw blood. (There are eight stages in this oath.)

THIRD OATH: To place a piece of meat in the anus of an old woman, to take it and the oath.

FOURTH OATH (Captains): The administrator waves his hand over the head of the “victim” seven times. The eyes of a human head are then pricked seven times, and the fingers of the right hand of the dead man are bent seven times.

FIFTH OATH (Major) (Treasurer): The brain of a dead man (African) is bitten and eaten seven times.

SIXTH OATH (Colonel): To drink the blood of a menstrual discharge seven times.

SEVENTH OATH (Brigadier): The brain of a dead man (European) is bitten and eaten seven times.

EIGHTH OATH (General); To drink the urine of a woman during menstruation seven times. The wrist bones of a body are broken up and mixed with excreta and earth and blood and are taken seven times.

Taking Oath tn the Forest: The group taking the oath have to kill a man and a boy. The head of the man is used, the blood being mixed with that of the oath-takers. Then the brain of the boy, of the man and some of the mugere tree are eaten together seven times. The oath-taker swears never to disclose the whereabouts of arms and ammunition. The heart of the child is then cut from the body and is pricked seven times with a sharp nail.

Women: The oath for women is taken with the tail which has been cut from a dog placed in the vagina.

In another district the details of the oaths are:

FOURTH GRADE: A woman sits naked at the meeting. The initiate inserts a dead goat’s penis into the vagina of the woman seven times; the goat’s penis is then dipped into a vessel of blood and the initiate licks it seven times. The initiate then jumps over the prostate body of the woman.

FIFTH GRADE: A naked woman is present at the meeting. As the initiate approaches, the woman lies on her back, and the initiate inserts his penis seven times. The man then jumps over the prostrate body of the woman. During this oath the oather apparently stands by to make sure that no time is wasted. Ejaculation is not encouraged.

SIXTH GRADE: Three naked women are present at the meeting. She makes attempts to have intercourse with a dog. The dog is then killed and its penis cut off. The oather then inserts the dog’s penis seven times into the woman’s vagina. The penis is then dipped in a vessel of blood and handed round to all the initiates to be licked seven times by each person.

NOTES: It seems a common practice to take the first, second and third oaths together. There is also a shortened form of all seven oaths which can apparently be taken all in one night. The lying down is believed to be a symbol of dying through the oath if the society is betrayed.

British soldier killed by Mau Mau thugs.

Forest Oaths

In another district all who had attended the meeting had been previously initiated except two Meru. These two were initiated in the normal way at the beginning of the meeting in the first clearing. While this was in progress the organisers were preparing equipment for the second and third oaths. A large quantity of beer was drunk in the first clearing.

The members were then called in batches to the second place. They took off all their clothes. Senior members stood around clothed and carrying knives, simis, pangas, etc. A live sheep was held by the other and each initiate was obliged to have sexual intercourse with the sheep as the words of the oath were repeated. Some of the witnesses say that their penis just touched the vulva of the sheep, others admit that full intercourse took place. The words of the oath were the same as in the familiar first oath with the addition that this oath would make them sterile if they betrayed the society. Each member as he took this oath had seven rings of sheepskin placed on each wrist. It is probable that these were sheep’s vulvas.

In the third clearing there were two arches. The first arch was festooned with sheep’s intestines. The second was also so decorated and in addition there were leaves of a sacred Meru bush (Mahara) spread below it and hanging from the centre of the arch were the sexual organs of a dead female sheep with other parts of the sheep attached. Below the arch was a bowl of blood with seeds in it and also milk. The procedure in this third ceremony was for the initiate to crawl through the first arch and then kneel before the second arch and masturbate into the sheep’s vagina. The other parts of the sheep were held in the mouth at the same time. The orgasm was directed through the sheep’s vagina so that the semen fell into the bowl of blood. After this the initiates had to drink some of this brew. “Kiberichia Cocktail”, while repeating the words of the oath which were the same as the second oathing ceremony. There is evidence that a young woman was present at this ceremony. She was presumably there partly for exciting purposes but two witnesses say that her blood was mingled with that in the bowl. One of these, in cross-examination, says that her thumb was pricked to obtain the blood.

* * *

This article was originally printed in Candour Supplement, 22nd July 1960, and was reprinted in Candour, Volume 70/71, Numbers 12/1, January 1998.

Source: Candour Magazine

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5 September, 2015 5:49 am

Well, that is “Great Black Culture and Civilisation for you!!… UTTER SAVAGES!!!

3 August, 2016 10:47 pm

These are all made up. Trying to dehumanize Mau Mau. Many other accounts on historical facts and research done by the likes of Caroline Elkins hold more truth. The colonislists always made up the stories and this article is a good example. Totally pathetic. Without the Mau Mau, the white man’s “supremacy” would have continued. I cant believe one would make up such horrible oaths.

29 September, 2017 3:17 am

Total rubbish – the kind of thing you expect from Public Relations writers contraced to cover up the acts leaning towards genocide undertaken by the colonial government in Kenya against the Gikuyu population.

Felucia Kim Samantha
Felucia Kim Samantha
12 December, 2017 6:03 pm

I believe this article. There’s a part of untold story which nobody dared to touch. What about us girls who were born to secret leaders of this group?Girls who were born to be used in their incest rituals. Genital mutilated at 13 years old….forced to have sex with their fathers as early as 8 days after mutilation. Got kids with their fathers. Isolated from the real world.Nobody dared going further. When and how will the whole world know this? I’m one of them ,in exile…..somebody help me shout out this. I’m not afraid anymore.