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Gacheche Wa Miano: Unsung liberation hero

By Muchemi Wachira
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In August 1988, a lawyer stormed the chambers of the Karatina Senior Resident Magistrate, Kiarie Waweru Kiarie, grabbed the judicial officer by his collar and dragged him into the adjacent open court.

He then started punching him as litigants watched in horror.

Mr Kiarie had the lawyer arrested, arraigned before him on a contempt of court charge and jailed for one month.

That lawyer was Gacheche wa Miano, a former political detainee who died last week. He was not new to such controversies. In 1986, he was in a group of University of Nairobi law students arrested in a crackdown on members of the dissident movement Mwakenya.

They were pressing for the release of one of their colleagues, Mwandawiro Mghanga. Mghanga, a student leader who became MP for Wundanyi, had been jailed for five years for being in possession of “Pambana”, a document distributed by Mwakenya that was considered seditious by the Kanu dictatorship.

Miano was first incarcerated in the infamous Nyayo House for 70 days and, when he refused to reveal his association with Mwakenya, he was detained.

Others detained with him were Wanyiri Kihoro and Mirugi Kariuki, both lawyers who served as MPs in the Narc era.

Prof Katama Mkangi and Ngotho Kariuki, their lecturers, were also in the group.

The detainees had lodged a petition in court over the torture meted out on them by security agents. Their lawyer, Gibson Kamau Kuria, was also detained.

Seen from this background, Miano’s altercation with the magistrate did not surprise those who knew him.

He had accused the judicial officer of disrespect. Mr Kiarie, he alleged, insulted him in the presence of his clients. The High Court quashed his conviction after he successfully filed an application seeking to have the magistrate barred from presiding over cases that were before him where he was appearing as the counsel.

LIBERATION

Miano was another unsung hero of the country’s second liberation who sacrificed most of his youth fighting for democracy and good governance.

Surprisingly, his death was known only to close family members who attended his funeral.

“I am not aware about his death,” Mr Mghanga, who said he recruited Miano into Mwakenya, said earlier last week.

Mr Kihoro, the former Nyeri Town MP, learned about Miano’s death from an obituary in the Saturday Nation.

A radical thinker since his primary school days, Miano spoke his mind. A former schoolmate at Tumutumu Primary School remembers him as a genius.

“He was always absent from class but no one would beat him to the first position in exams,” says James Gatama, a political activist. Despite his truancy, he said, the school could not expel him because it needed him to improve its mean score in the national examination. He was one of the top candidates in Kenya and joined Alliance High.

But despite high scores in the Form Four exam, the school declined to admit him in its A-level class. He eventually joined Kirangari High School, where he was the top student in the A-level exam.

Miano was freed from detention after three years. The “dissident’’ tag that hung around his neck meant he could not be employed anywhere in Kenya. In any case, he had been expelled from the university and had not graduated.

He retreated to his rural home in Ngunguru, Mathira West, and established himself as a farmer.

He became active in the PCEA church, where he was elected a youth leader. At the time, the Rev Dr Timothy Njoya had been transferred from Nairobi’s St Andrew’s Church to Tumu Tumu Parish, where Miano was a worshipper.

As the youth leader, he worked closely with Rev Njoya, who assisted him to enrol as a theology student at Limuru’s St Paul’s Theological College, now St Paul’s University.

But always the non-conformist, Miano fell out with the leadership of the church and could not complete his studies.

“He was very intelligent, a good mobiliser and he helped me a lot in organising my crusades,’’ Rev Njoya told the Nation.

“Miano was not only brilliant, he was also a socialist who understood where our country was heading to,” he recalled as he expressed shock at the news of his death. Miano used the church crusades to educate worshippers on the need to free the country from Kanu’s despotism.