Attractions in Nyeri County
29. Nyeri Civil Cemetery
Passing Game Rock and the turnoff to Le Pristine it is a short 8 kms drive to Nyeri Town going past Nyeri Primary (the olden days top of the tree education giant) and the junction to Mweiga-Nyahururu Road before wandering over the valley crossed by Chania River over which, at the brow, is the town. Noticeable as you enter Nyeri Town is the wicket gate to Robert Baden-Powell Cemetery at Nyeri Civil Cemetery. This site contains agency maintained non-war graves plus the graves of Lord Baden Powell and his wife Lady Olive Baden Powell. It has no Commonwealth war graves. The site was declared a National Monument on 9th March, 2001, in company with St. Peter’s Anglican Church found next door, St. Cuthbert’s PCEA Church found across the road, Nyeri Old Clock Tower sited 300 ms away and White Rhino Hotel found 500 ms away – making this one the greatest concentration of National Monuments in one area. Furthermore, Nyeri Provincial Police Headquarters on Baden Powell Road, Nyeri Club and Africa Retailers (Osman Allu Shop) all gazetted as National Monuments lie within a radius of only 1 km. Nyeri Civil Cemetery is open daily between 6 am and 6 pm.
30. Nyeri Museum
The establishment of Nyeri Fort in 1902 emboldened colonial penetration at a huge cost to the socio-economic system of the natives, interrupting and forever changing the outlook of Nyeri. Foremost on the agenda was the appropriation of native land and labour, in most cases with a general application of force and esoteric pre-capitalist modes of production to obtain both. To make commercial headway, the colonial government employed natives to build roads, bridges and forts. And for convenience, the laborers were forced to settle in Nyeri Township demarcated on basis of class and race – the newcomer settlers living in the Ring Road area, the Asians at Asian Quarter and natives in insufficient and informal native areas. Thus the town grew. To maintain and reinforce law and order, the Native Law Courts, part of which now house Nyeri Museum, was established in 1924. “Its main objective was to deal with customary law cases, previously dealt by clan elders in the villages.” It would later become popular for sentencing of captured Mau Mau fighters. The nearby Ruringu Police Station was then used to detain the Mau Mau prisoner. Both these sites are also National Monuments.
To return. The general atmosphere in Nyeri Town since its establishment to the late 1940’s was one of substantial apprehension and strict ordering. In any case, the distribution of wealth only further expanded the “Crown Land” and brought with it more incomers. The labourers, in turn, responded by maintaining some interest in the reserves as a form of social security. As a result, most belonged to two economic spheres: wage earning in the town became complementary rather than an alternative to the produce of the family in the reserve. Even so, many natives continued to exist in poverty. It would be the return of African Carrier Corps and soldiers from World War II that gave rise to a nationalist sentiment of dealing with the austere land policies, outfitted as Kenya Land and Freedom Army. And bearing in mind that many natives were deprived and desperate, the movement spread like wildfire. Their resolve was demonstrated by the violence that shook Nyeri shortly after World War II in the name of ‘Mau Mau Uprising‘.
31. Consolata Nyeri Cathedral
Nyeri’s long and warm-hearted relationship with the Catholic Mission dates to 1909 with the arrival of Filippo Perlo, its first vicar apostolic, who founded the Nyeri vicariate and established the Mathari Mission. He also founded the 1,000 acres Nyeri Hill Farm created for the support of their missionary outreach. The ecclesiastical edifice of the Our Lady Consolata Cathedral along Kenyatta Road opened in 1957. Rising headlong out of the hidebound and undeveloped area of town, the Cathedral has a certain aura of romance about it. It made headlines in 2015 with the the beatification of Sister Irene Stefani “Nyaatha”. A Papal event of pomp and glitz on a scale not seen before in Kenya and a first in Africa. Born on August 22nd, 1891, she joined Consolata Sisters’ Institute at Turin in France, at age 20, concentrating her life to the service of God. She arrived in Kenya in January of 1914, at the height of WW1, as a medical colonel and later served in the Mission of Gikondi (1920- 1930). Here, they simply called her “Nyaatha” or merciful mother. “In October 1930, she offered to God her life for the Mission”.
In 1995, Irene Stefani’s remains were exhumed from her final resting place in the compact village of Gikondi in Mukurwe-ini and preserved at the Consolata Nyeri Cathedral. She had succumbed, in 1930, to the highly communicable Bubonic Plague contracted while treating a villager at Gikondi. At the time of her death she carried the title ‘servant of God’. “The miracle attributed to the intercession of Sister Irene Stefani, which opened the way to the Beatification Process, was one of multiplication of water in the Baptismal fount of the Parish of Nipepe (Diocese of Lichinga, Niassa, Mozambique); water was used for four days by about 270 persons sheltered there to escape the violence of civil war”. The documentation was collected in the ecclesiastical process that was carried on July 18th to 26th, 2010, in Mozambique. After this, Pope Francis decreed in June 2014 that Sister Irene Stefani Nyaatha be beatified. The remains of Sister Irene Stefani were interred in a tomb in the Cathedral, on the 23rd May, 2015.
It is important to note that before 1953 there were many autonomous branches of the Catholic Church operating in Kenya – CMS in Taita Taveta, Methodist in Meru, Holy Ghost in Mombasa, St. Austin’s Mission in Ukambani, the Mill Hill Mission in Kavirondo, Consolata Society in Kiambu, Muranga and Nyeri, and numerous orders of sisters – which came together in 1953 when Kenya became an ecclesiastical Province with the Archdiocese of Nairobi and three Dioceses; Kisumu, Meru and Nyeri. It is also important take note of the fact that Nyeri’s obscure title “as a place of smoke and mirrors” has much to do with its colonial legacy as does with its religious history. On the surface of it, Christianity is all-round and across the board, yet, many avow culture and tribal allegiance takes precedence. The omens are that Christianity has become for Nyeri – and Kenya in general – what sociologist unacceptably describe as a “sugar coated religion”.
The Western education imparted to Africans in mission schools enabled them to rationalize that the comfortable lives of the Europeans in Kenya was the direct result of the African drudgery and poverty. It is in this light that the emergence of welfare, religious, and political associations in Nyeri must be analyzed – Kiruthu, Felix Macharia.
32. White Rhino Hotel
The success of colonial farming enterprises brought with it big entertainment in Nyeri. What’s more, it was in the heart of big game country with year-long fine weather. In a bid to attract tourists, and to find accommodation for them when they arrived, three settlers – Berkely Cole, Lord Cranworth and Sandy Herd – founded the White Rhino Hotel in 1910, its 27 rooms, most of which were not self-contained at the time, providing very simple accommodation for travellers, were widely popular and welcomed guests from far and wide. It was also famed as the first segregated exclusive pub for whites, memorialized for its baroque and excessive jamborees. Its original canopied-terrace entrance lounge, nearby Kenyatta Road’s Lumumba Junction, which has preserved its old-way character since was listed as a National Monument in 2001. The lodge was named after a wounded Rhino that collapsed and died at its passageway. And while this old antique block connecting it to a rich past warrants a look-see, its modern, exotic and refined 4-stars-wing with 105 rooms connects it to the future. Some of the highlights include 3 restaurants, 3 bars, penthouse lounge, and business center.
33. Nyeri Golf Club
Started in 1910 by Reggie McClure and Sandbach Baker as a 9-hole course, later extended to 18-hole in 1934, this pleasing course is the second oldest in Kenya after the Royal Nairobi Golf Club started in 1906. What is offers in spectacular scenery is expiated with a difficult mountainous course. Helpfully, the Club has maintained a tradition of well manicured greens flanked by the tall indigenous trees. In 2016, they put in a sheltered starters-cabin that offers a much needed rest area. NGC hosts the annual Kibaki Cup inaugurated by former President Mwai Kibaki on the 2nd of September, 2001. It is located 1.3 kms from White Rhino Hotel along the Baden Powell-Kamakwa Road. An equally impressive 9 hole course can be played at Aberdare Country Club set 16 kms away at Mweiga.