George Padmore’s account of British rule and Black resistance in Kenya reminds us that “Queen” Elizabeth is both the symbol and beneficiary of the savagery of colonialism and white supremacy.
Where does one begin to catalog the British monarchy’s palace of atrocities? The history of the Crown in Africa, Asia, and the Americas is one of callous, bejeweled violence – of the expropriation of land, the appropriation of natural resources, and the extirpation of bodies and souls. All of it is supposedly sanctioned by God, buoyed by the divine right of whiteness – and blessed by a pliant state, a shamelessly supplicant press, and a mercilessly propagandized population of loyal and deluded “subjects.” Put a pin in any part of the wan, “flesh”-pink territories of the imperial map and dark blood will flow.
Let’s take the one-time British colony of Kenya as an example. On February 6, 1952, the late Elizabeth II was on safari in Kenya when her father died and she ascended to the throne. As with all the other colonial territories, the east African colony fell under her dominion. On October 20th of the same year, the British authorities declared a state of emergency in Kenya. They launched a military campaign against Kenyan anti-colonial insurgents – the Kenya Land and Freedom Party (derogatively dubbed the “Mau Mau” by the British press) – who were demanding land, political and social rights, education, and freedom. The idyllic savannahs where Elizabeth had delighted in spying warthogs, baboons, rhinos, and elephants from a hotel and hunting platform hidden among the tree top became, for Africans, a lethal killing field broken up by reservations and concentration camps.
By the end of the “emergency,” 20,000 Kenyans were killed. Of this number, 1,068 revolutionaries (called “terrorists” by the colonizers) were executed, including Dedan Kimathi who, the British press relates, was "captured during Princess Margaret's visit to Kenya in September, 1956." Between 80,000 and 200,000 Kenyans were interned in concentration camps. More than a million Kikuyu people were the victims of collective punishment, forced into settlements enclosed by barbed-wire and watch towers as part of a British “villagisation” program. In these camps, thousands were savagely tortured and beaten and victimized by extreme sexual violence. Many, including children, suffered malnutrition.
In 1953, George Padmore, the brilliant Pan-Africanist, wrote a long essay titled “Behind the Mau Mau” for Phylon, a scholarly journal founded by W.E.B. Du Bois at Atlanta University in 1940. With clinical detail, Padmore describes the long history of Crown-sanctioned, white settler-colonial violence in Kenya that sparked Indigenous resistance and led to the emergency. His essay makes for painful reading. But it provides a cool reminder that Elizabeth, that the supposedly kind, gentle, good-hearted grandmotherly woman, was not merely a symbol of white supremacy, but one of white supremacy’s supreme beneficiaries. This is the magic of the royals. This is Elizabeth’s barbaric legacy.
Behind the Mau Mau
The distinguished Victorian Prime Minister, the Marquis of Salisbury, once asserted that "Africa has been created to plague Ministers of Foreign Affairs." This was never more true than today. For throughout the length and breadth of the once Dark Continent– from Egypt to South Africa, from Kenya to the Gold Coast, not to mention the vast Central African territories of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland--the indigenous races are struggling to throw off the yoke of colonialism and achieve their rightful place as free nations in a free world.
This agitation for self-government is nowhere more dramatically manifested than in Kenya, where the violence of the struggle of the African peoples against alien domination has captured the attention of the entire world.
While Britain and France were grabbing territories in West and Equatorial Africa, where they nearly went to war over Fashoda, the Germans stole a march over their rivals and by 1886 had taken over the vast area now known as Tanganyika. The Kaiser proclaimed it a German Protectorate. The German missionaries Rebmann and Krapf – the advance guard of European imperialism – were the first white men to penetrate into the interior of Kenya, where they found the Kikuyu and Masai tribes occupying the fertile highland regions, now the center of the Mau Mau war. The Germans, having secured Tanganyika, a territory covering 362,688 square miles of some of the best country in Africa, agreed to withdraw their claims for a larger share of East Africa, in consideration for which the British ceded Heligoland to Germany as a naval base in 1890. Thanks to this modus vivendi, Britain was given a free hand to annex the whole of Kenya and the more northerly territory known Uganda. Once the rival claims of the great European imperialist powers had been adjusted by diplomatic means, the fate of the African peoples inhabiting Kenya and Uganda was sealed.
By 1888 the British were firmly established along the coast of East Africa. First came the missionaries, then the traders, and finally Union Jack. The missionaries, while motivated by humanitarian and Christian sentiments, were fully supported by the imperialist and commercial classes in Britain, who made generous financial contributions to the London Missionary Society under whose auspices the religious pioneers went out to East Africa. Following in the wake of the explorer, Henry M. Stanley, the Protestant missions started proselytising in 1877. They were soon joined by the French Roman Catholics of the White Fathers order organized by the famous missionary leader, Cardinal Lavigeri. The Protestant converts were known in the language of the Africans as the Wa-Inglesa (party of the English) and the Catholics as the Wa-Fransa (party of the French), while those Africans who were converted to Mohammedanism by the Arab slave traders were called Wa- Islamu (party of Islam). The foreign religious leaders soon started inciting religious wars among the Africans, each hoping to secure control over Equatorial Africa with the aid of adherents to their respective faiths.
During the course of the civil war, the Protestant leader Bishop Hannington, was murdered by the adherents of the Wa-Islamu party, which the then King Mwanga of Uganda supported. The Christians united and drove the King away, but after victory over the Moslems, the Christian alliance broke down and fighting started between the Protestants and Catholics for control. When the French party was getting the better of the contest, the English missionaries appealed for assistance to the British East Africa Charter Company, then in occupation of the coastal area of Kenya. Indian and Sudanese soldiers, employed as mercenaries by the British Company, were dispatched to Uganda under the command of Captain Lugard, the famous soldier of fortune who later became the first Governor-General of Nigeria (Britain's largest West African territory). On his return in 1919, Lugard was created a member of the House of Lords.
After routing the Wa-Fransa and Wa-Islamu forces, the British arrested King Mwanga and banished him to the island of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. Lugard returned to England in 1892 and persuaded the Foreign Minister, Lord Rosebery, to annex the country. The British East Africa Company, which was responsible for carrying out the conquest, was substantially compensated for adding the rich and extensive East African territory of Kenya and Uganda to the British Empire. To consolidate the conquest, the British Parliament voted the sum of five million pounds to construct a railway from the Indian Ocean through Kenya to Uganda. This opened a new chapter in British colonization and marked the beginning of the present trouble between the Kikuyu tribe and the European settlers in the Highlands of Kenya.
THE WHITE HIGHLANDS
The railway, which covers a distance of eight hundred seventy-miles from Mombasa, the chief port of Kenya, via Nairobi up to Lake Victoria and later to Kampala in Uganda, was constructed for military and economic purposes. It enabled the British to transport troops from the coast to the interior of Equatorial Africa to put down rebellion among the Africans on the one hand, and facilitated the importation of British manufactures and the exportation of the natural resources of the territories through which it ran, on the other. Unfortunately for the Kikuyus, the railway cut right through the heart of the Kenya Highlands, which they and their neighbors, the Masais and Wakambas, then occupied. To protect the railway tracks from destruction by hostile tribesmen, the Governor of Kenya, a retired soldier, General Sir Charles Eliot, appealed to English emigrants to come to Kenya and settle as farmers. To provide them with farms, the Governor cleared the Kikuyus and other tribes occupying lands through which the railway ran, and granted his countrymen, most of whom were of the English landed aristocracy, extensive plantations in the Highlands, where the climate is best suited to sustain good health for Europeans.
According to the Italian colonial expert, Salvadori, there were only thirteen British settlers in Kenya in 1901. Between May 1903, and December 1904, two hundred and twenty-two thousand acres of land were alienated from the Africans and distributed to three hundred and forty- two Europeans. By 1911, the number of settlers had increased to 3175. It reached 9,661 in 1921, 16,812 in 1931, and totaled 28,997 ten years later. Today the entire white population in Kenya numbers thirty thousand, of whom not more than three thousands are actually engaged in agriculture. The others are government, civil and military personnel, missionaries, merchants, traders, and employees in commercial, banking and other forms of private enterprise.
Among the farming community are people closely related to leading British landed gentry and feudal families. Kenya is not only a white man's paradise (at least until the present unrest) but a land of pukka sahibs. According to the American writer Negley Farson, "it has the greatest proportion among its inhabitants of ex-soldiers, generals, colonels, majors, of any country in the world. It contains a goodly number of names in Burke's Peerage — and some terrible specimens in the flesh.”
The first leader of these colonialists was the well-known empire-builder Lord Delamere. Of him, Salvadori writes: "Lord Delamere did not feel at ease in England; imbued with the feudal spirit, he preferred life in the colonies, where natives could be treated as were in the former days in Europe, the serfs attached to the land. Not being rich enough to live like a great lord in England, he knew that he could do so more easily in Kenya." Being among the first arrivals, Lord Delamere had the first pick of the best land. He took over one hundred thousand acres of the most fertile country in the Kikuyu region. Other aristocrats like Lord Francis Scott, uncle of the Duchess of Gloucester, a relative of the British royal family, and the Earl of Plymouth, secured about three hundred fifty thousand acres between them. The son of the Duke of Abercorn acquired an estate of thirty thousand acres, while other aristocrats and land speculators formed joint stock companies through which they control vast plantations, such as the East Africa Estates, which owns over three hundred fifty thousand acres. The chairman of this company is Viscount Cobham. His uncle, the Honorable R. G. Lyttelton, holds 14,108 shares in the company. Viscount Cobham is a cousin of the Right Honorable Oliver Lyttelton, the present Tory Secretary of State for Colonies. Other big land-owning companies are the East Africa Syndicate, with three hundred twenty thousand acres, the Grogan Forest Concession with two hundred thousand acres, and the Dwa Plantations, controlling over twenty thousand acres. The Kikuyus alone lost over five hundred thousand acres, for which they received not one penny compensation.
The Masai and the Kamba tribes also lost hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile agricultural and pasture lands. They, too, got no compensation. To give the stamp of legality to this wholesale land grab, the Governor set up a Lands Board to register title deeds, for which the settlers agreed to pay the British Government roughly a penny an acre. Chairman of the Board was none other than Lord Delamere. By 1914, that Lands Board had dispossessed the Africans of 4,388,502 acres and since the end of the Second World War, sixteen thousand square miles -- the most fertile parts of Kenya–have passed into the hands of two thousand European settlers and fifty thousand square miles of inferior waterless country have been reserved for the accommodation of five and a half million Africans.
And even so, the Africans have no tenure of security, for under the Crown Lands Ordinance, power is vested in the Governor "to extinguish African rights of ownership, to lease or sell or alienate land to non-Africans. The word 'alienate,' much favoured, means to dispossess Africans of the land of their birth and to give it to Europeans.”
Having lost vast areas of their ancestral lands, the dispossessed Kikuyus and other tribes were removed to other parts outside the white Highlands, officially designated "native reserves." Those who were unable to find accommodation in these over-populated areas became squatters on the plantations of the white expropriators. The squatter system is a form of forced labour for, unlike the metier system in French North Africa or share cropping in the southern states of the U. S. A., squatters are serfs tied to the landlord's property and forced little or no wages while denied the right to cultivate commercial crops such as coffee and tea, which fetch high prices in the world markets.
There are over a quarter of a million squatters on the white men’s farms. Many of them are Africans who "stayed put" when moved in. They elected to work for the invaders in return for permission to work a small plot and raise their own food and a cow or two. Under the law, squatters are not allowed to rent lands from Europeans. They must work for it. The Africans enter into a service contract running one to five years, and they and their families must labour one hundred and eighty days of the year on the European's land on such days as the master chooses, whether it interferes with the cultivation of their own small plot or not; and furthermore they may grow on their own plot only such crops as the European permits. If the land is sold, a squatter passes into the service of the new owner until he finishes the contract entered into with the former owner. If he runs away, he can be caught and put in prison! No minimum wages are laid down and the Kenya Native Affairs Department reports that natives sometimes work for nothing but their food.
TAXATION AND FORCED LABOR
Another method adopted by the Kenya government in providing European settlers with an abundant supply of cheap labor is the system of direct taxation. Every able-bodied African over the age of eighteen has to pay the government a poll tax of about twenty-four shillings a year. Those who are unable to make a living in the Native Reserves are "encouraged" by the British officials through the chiefs who act as agents of the government to go to work on the European plantations. When the tax was first introduced in 1913 the leading newspaper of the The East African Standard (February 8, 1913), congratulated the government. It said:
We consider that taxation is the only possible method of compelling the native to leave his reserve for the purpose of seeking work. Only in this way can the cost of living be increased for the native . . . it is on this that the supply of labor and the price of labor depend. To raise the rate of wages would not increase but would diminish the supply of labor. A rise in the rate of wages would enable the hut or poll tax of a family, sub-tribe or tribe to be earned by fewer external workers.
To enable the employers to keep control over their serfs, every African is compelled by law to carry a i, which is a labor pass. Failure to have a Kipande is a criminal offense under the Native Registration Ordinance and such African is liable to heavy fine, imprisonment, or both. "The purpose of the Kipande is clear. It guarantees that employers retain their labor supply.”
The average wage of an agricultural worker in 1953 was twenty-five shillings a month of thirty working days. Some squatters get between ten and eighteen shillings. Africans employed in government service as clerks and minor officials get less than twenty-four pounds per year, while the lowest grade of European civil service receives six hundred pounds per annum. According to the annual report of the Department of Labor, there were in 1952 over forty-six thousand Africans employed in government service receiving even less than two pounds per month. Out of this paltry stipend, all adult male Africans must pay their poll and hut tax and provide food for themselves and dependents. The cost of living in Kenya in 1953 had increased some two hundred per cent, while the staple food of the Africans, a maize flour known as posho, had increased over six hundred per cent since 1938. Even if all the African's wages is spent on food, the Medical Officer of Health of the city of Nairobi estimates that sixty shillings or three pounds a month is the very minimum required to feed an able-bodied adult.
The majority of African families working in the capital live in shacks and tenements. Those out of work and unable to pay for such accommodation sleep under shop galleries, between doorways and under the stalls in the native market. It is estimated that there were over ten thousand homeless Africans in Nairobi in 1953.
POLITICAL DOMINATION BY COLOR BAR
Political democracy as defined by politicians in the so-called free world means the will of the majority freely expressed through the ballot box with respect for the right of minorities. Not so in Kenya. There democracy is interpreted as the right of a small white minority to rule an overwhelming black majority who have been denied all right of free political expression. To ensure the implementation of this distorted form of democracy, the British Colonial Office, which is responsible for the administration of Kenya, has given the thirty thousand European settlers a decisive voice in the government. The settlers have the right to elect fourteen members to the Legislative Council, or local Parliament, while five and a half million Africans have only six members, who are not elected but hand-picked by the Governor, who has the right to dismiss them at any time. Apart from these representatives, the hundred thousand Indians – descendants of coolie laborers brought into the country by the British to provide workers at the time when the Kenya-Uganda railway was being constructed – have six members in the Council (three Hindus and three Muslims). The small community of twenty thousand Arabs who live in the part of Mombasa and other coastal regions have two representatives. The official members–British Colonial civil servants appointed from London number twenty-six. They, the fourteen European-elected members, guarantee the whites of forty members in a Council of fifty-four.
Thanks to this European majority, the settlers have been able to enact laws to safeguard their economic and social domination over European communities, especially the Africans. The pattern of government is based upon the Herrenvolk philosophy of "white supremacy.” The color bar operates in every sphere of public and social life. The Africans are discriminated against in the allocation of public funds services, housing, agriculture and education. Since the whites control the Legislative Council, they use their privileged position to tax the Africans to the limit and at the same time starve them of essential funds for economic and social betterment.
For example, education, like all other government departments, is conducted along strictly racial lines. The Kenya government maintains three separate and distinct systems of education–European, Asian, and African. Only white children enjoy free compulsory education. The majority of the African children of school-going age receive no education for, apart from a few government schools, the majority of the state-aided schools are operated by missionaries. The "boss" of the Kenya educational system is the British Director of Education. His decision on curriculum, the opening and closing of schools and the allocation of funds is final. Out of the annual budget for 1951-1952, £666,877 was allocated to six thousand children and £776,652 to three hundred fifty thousand Africans. In other words, each white child got one hundred pounds and the black child just over two pounds. In the same period the government spent out of the special Ten-Year Development Fund, £999,207 on educational projects for white children and £350,196 for African.
KIKUYU INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS
In order to supplement the meagre educational facilities provided by the government, African political leaders established their own independently run schools in 1945. These schools were financed and maintained by voluntary contributions under the auspices of the Kikuyu Independent Schools Association and the Kikuyu Karinga Education Association. On November 14, 1952, four months after the present state emergency in the colony was declared, the Governor ordered the closing of of all African independent schools on the ground that these institutions were "dangerous to good government of the colony." The African Teachers Training College, which prepared native teachers to staff these schools, has also been closed. This college, the first of its kind in East Africa, was founded by an American-trained Kikuyu, Mr. Peter Mbiyu Koinange, son of an ex-senior chief. He studied at Lincoln and Columbia Universities in the United States, where he obtained the Master of Science and Master of Arts degrees in sociology and education, respectively. As a result of the closing down of the independent schools, over thirty African children enrolled in these schools are being denied education. Apart from those fortunate enough to find accommodation in missionary and government schools, it is estimated that 469,500 African children of school-going age were out of school in 1952. And even those who found places did not receive more than three years of schooling.
Facilities for secondary and post-secondary education for Africans is even more meagre. Out of a population of five and a half million Africans, only 3,891 were enrolled in secondary schools in 1952 and a hundred-fifteen in post-secondary colleges. Despite the absence of facilities for professional and technical training in Kenya, very few scholarships have been awarded to Africans for study abroad. During the period under review, only thirty-four African students from Kenya were studying at Makerere, the East African university college in Uganda, and were in attendance at British universities and colleges, most of them studying education and linguistics. Since the annexation of Kenya and the imposition of British rule, not one African doctor, engineer, chemist, scientific agriculturalist has been trained at a British university.
The urgent need of educational provisions for Africans has continually been urged upon the British government by African political and educational leaders. In a petition presented to the Secretary of State for Colonies during the visit of Mr. Oliver Lyttelton to Kenya in November, 1952, the Kenya African Union asked for the extension of educational facilities, including technical training. Instead of meeting these demands with sympathy and understanding, ten days after they were presented to the Queen's Minister, the Independent African schools were closed and the teachers arrested and thrown into detention camps as Mau Mau "agitators."
FORERUNNER OF MAU MAU
There is no doubt that the European settlers, aided and abetted by the British officials and Colonial Office, are directly responsible for the present state of unrest in Kenya. The very term "Mau Mau" was invented by the settler Press to discredit the Africans and justify the white legalized terror against a once peaceful and long-suffering people. Long before the world outside Kenya ever heard of Mau Mau, the Africans were begging and praying the British government for help and deliverance from white settlers' rule. They did so through what restricted constitutional means were open to them. The first attempt at peaceful agitation started as far back as 1922, when a group of Kikuyu young men, with the support of some of the progressive-minded chiefs, formed the East African Association. This society was soon suppressed for protesting against the eviction of Africans from the Highlands to make way for European ex-army officers who were encouraged by the British government to settle in Kenya after the First World War. To placate the fears of the Africans, who were fast becoming a landless proletariat dependent upon the sale of their labor to the ever-increasing number of white immigrant farmers, the Duke of Devonshire, the then Secretary for Colonies, issued an official decree declaring that "primarily Kenya is an African territory, and His Majesty's Government think necessary definitely to record their considered opinion that the interests of African natives must be paramount, and that, if and when and the interests of the immigrant races shall conflict, the former should prevail."
A few years later, the British government appointed a Lands Commission under the Chairmanship of Sir Hilton Young to inquire into and report upon the claims of the Africans for lands, to accommodate the rapidly increasing black population. To enable the Africans to present their case to the Commission of Enquiry, a new organization known as the Kikuyu Central Association was formed in 1928, and the secretary, Mr. Jomo Kenyatta, was dispatched to London to solicit parliamentary support from among members of the British Labor Party. On the strength of the Hilton Young Commission Report of 1930, the first Labor government under the Premiership of Mr. J. Ramsey MacDonald issued a memorandum on native policy, which solemnly pledged the British government not to countenance any more confiscation of African lands for the benefit of European settlers.
Despite the solemn promise to the Africans to respect their land rights, the Kenya government continued its policy of discriminating against them for the benefit of the European community. This gave rise to continued agitation by the Kikuyu Central Association and led to the appointment of another Lands Commission in 1932, under the chairmanship of Sir Morris Carter, but grievances still remained. To silence the Africans, as soon as Britain declared war against Hitler in 1939, the Kenya government suppressed the Kikuyu Central Association as "subversive." Five years later, at the conclusion of the Second World War, another attempt at organizing the Africans to demand their rights had to be made. While the initiative was taken by the Kikuyus, the most politically advanced tribe in Kenya, the Kenya Africa Union set out to establish one "united front" nationalist organization for all Africans, regardless of tribal affiliations, religion or caste. At the first Kenya African Union Congress held in Nairobi on June 1, 1947, delegates representing all the main tribes–Kikuyu, Luo, Masai, Kavirondo, Kamba, etc., adopted a constitution and program of economic, political and social reforms which was submitted to the government.
By 1950 the Union had built up a membership over one hundred thousand strong, with a network of branches throughout Kenya. Confining its activities to strictly constitutional methods, the leaders inaugurated a campaign for one million signatures to a petition to the British Parliament. The campaign proved to be such a success that within a few months after it was launched, the Union was able to dispatch two of its executive members – Mr. Mbiyu Koinange, a Kikuyu, and Mr. Achieng Oneko, a Luo, to England to present their petition to the Secretary of State for Colonies.
Unfortunately by the time the African mission arrived, the Labor government had been defeated and the Tory Secretary for Colonies, Mr. Oliver Lyttelton, refused to receive the African leaders. Rebuffed in London, the Africans proceeded to Paris to lay their country's case before the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations then in session in the French capital. The mission was received by the Secretary General and other high-ranking officials like Dr. Ralph Bunche, and the memorandum was distributed among the delegate members of the Council.
On their return to England, the Kenya African Union spokesmen, with the assistance of the Congress of Peoples Against Imperialism, under the chairmanship of Mr. Fenner Brockway, and a number of other sympathetic Socialist and Liberal Members of Parliament, addressed public meetings throughout Great Britain and secured additional signatures from progressive-minded British people (especially trade unionists and co-operators) to the petition which was to be presented to the House of Commons.
Having acquainted the British people with the urgent need for getting their government to redress the grave wrongs being inflicted upon Africans in Kenya, Mr. Oneko returned home to report back upon the mission carried out by himself and his colleague, Mr. Koinange who, meantime, remained in London to carry on the work of public enlightenment on behalf of his people. When news of the widespread support progressive sections of the British public became known to the white settlers, they immediately started to bring pressure to bear on the Governor, Sir Evelyn Baring, to suppress the activities of the Kenya African Union and to arrest the leaders. But since Jomo Kenyatta, the President of the Union, and other officers had publicly repudiated the use of violence and were conducting their campaign for economic, political and social reforms strictly along constitutional lines, the Governor found it difficult to justify the suppression of the Union. This made the representatives of the white settlers in the Legislative Council very angry and, aided by the European press in Kenya, a campaign of open vilification and provocation was started against the Kenya African Union. In this they were supported by certain sections of the imperialist press in Britain and Tory members of Parliament with close social and economic links with the settler communities in East and Central Africa.
As time went on the pressure of the white settlers for suppression of the African Union became so strong that Mr. F. R. Davies, the Chief Commissioner and Member for African Affairs, and Mr. John Whyatt, the Attorney General and Member for Law and Order in the Governor's Executive Council, were summoned to London for consultations with the Secretary of State for Colonies on September 15,1952. This was the first official discussion between the ranking British officials in Kenya and the Colonial Office about the policy to be adopted to appease the white settlers. While these negotiations were taking place in London, the European newspapers suddenly announced that they had discovered an African secret society which they called "Mau Mau," and which they asserted aimed at driving the white man out of the Kenya Highlands under the nationalist battle cry of "Africa for the Africans.”
WHAT AND WHO IS MAU MAU?
Although the name has never been satisfactorily defined, as no such word as "Mau Mau" exists in the Kikuyu language, its socio-causes are easier to explain. Mau Mau is not an organized political movement with a regular membership, officers and constitution. It is a spontaneous revolt of a declassed section of the African rural population, uprooted from its tribal lands and driven into the urban slums. It is estimated that over ten thousand Africans are permanently unemployed in Nairobi. Frustrated and embittered, many of the young men take to a life of crime. It is from among this lumpenproletariat that "dead-end" gang leaders have recruited adherents to avenge themselves upon the white man, whom they hold responsible for breaking up their tribal life and replacing it with nothing but slave labor on European farms. Like the slave revolts of ancient Rome, the supporters of Mau Mau are fighting for land, without which they prefer death.
On his return to Kenya on September 25, 1952, the Attorney General introduced a number of emergency bills at a special session of the Legislative Council. The chief provisions were:
1. Control of the African press and organizations.
2. Restriction of the movements of Africans suspected of belonging to the Mau Mau society.
3. Licensing of printing presses, unless specially exempted, and powers to seize and destroy newspapers printed on unlicensed presses.
4. Registration of organizations with ten or more members, except co- operatives, trade unions and free-masons. Societies not registered or exempted were automatically declared unlawful. Societies with international affiliations could be prosecuted.
5. Confessions made to police officers may be used as evidence against Africans and evidence can be taken on affidavit.
6. A British provincial commissioner who is satisfied that any African is a member of Mau Mau may order his arrest and deportation to a restricted area. Disobedience of such an order is punishable by a fine of a hundred pounds or twelve months' imprisonment.
Since then, additional repressive legislation has been enacted. Among these is collective punishment, which is imposed upon entire African communities accused of failing to disclose the identity of people accused of Mau Mau membership.
Having forced the government to carry out the first part of the program by enacting repressive legislation and adopting a strong-arm policy against Africans suspected of membership in the secret society, the white settlers continued to press for military action the legal Kenya African Union. In this they also succeeded. For at dawn on October 21, 1952, Jomo Kenyatta, the President, and twenty-officers were arrested. From then on mass arrests of members of the Union have taken place.
Replying to the new repressive policy of the government, the Acting Executive Committee of the Kenya African Union issued the following manifesto on October 28, 1953:
In the name of the people of Kenya we demand:
1. The abolition by law of all racial discrimination as being repugnant to morality and civilized standards and contrary to the principles of the United Nations.
2. That the paramount need of the Africans for land be satisfied. Meanwhile, there must be no further immigration of Europeans or Asians, except on a temporary basis for the purpose of providing personnel for essential services and industries.
3. The extension of educational facilities, including technical facilities by
(a) establishing institutions of full university status in East Africa in the shortest possible time;
(b) arranging for a greatly increased number of African students to proceed overseas for higher studies, and the provision of a Fund from which students wishing to go abroad can obtain loans;
(c) multiplying the number of primary and secondary schools so that in the shortest possible time all African boys and girls shall at least have the benefits of compulsory education.
4. The immediate introduction of the system of election, not nomination, for all African unofficial members of the Legislative Council.
5. A Common Roll for all three races.
6. The reservation of an equal number of seats for Africans and non-Africans on the unofficial side of the Council.
7. A franchise for Africans based initially on literacy and/or property qualifications and including women.
8. The nomination of equal numbers of Africans and non-Africans on the official side of the Council.
9. The direct election, not nomination, of all African members of the proposed Constitutional Committee for Kenya, and that the number of African, Asian and European members of the Com-mittee be equal--failing which, Her Majesty's Government in Britain should be requested to set up an impartial Committee of British constitutional experts.
10. The elections of Africans to all County, District and Municipal Councils and Boards: and the establishment of County, District, Locational and Municipal Councils and Boards on an electoral basis in the African Land Units. An immediate increase in the membership of African Councillors in the Nairobi Municipal Council representing not less than the membership enjoyed by the European community. The same to apply to the Municipal Boards of Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret and Kisumu.
11. That Trade Unions be allowed to function freely, that registration be optional and not compulsory, and combination of trade unions be permitted.
12. Full opportunity for Africans to demonstrate their loyalty to Kenya by serving in commissioned ranks in the Defense Forces and in the senior posts in the Civil Service. 13. Assistance in the economic development of African farms, in the form of loans on easy terms and the provision of agricultural schools where appropriate courses can be administered to African farmers.
14. The payment of uniform prices to all producers of primary produce of which the purchase and sale is controlled, and the abrogation of all restrictive practices in the growth of certain crops.
15. Equal pay for equal qualifications and work.
16. The immediate increase in the minimum wage by thirty-three and one-third per cent to offset the high cost of living, and the provision of adequate housing accommodation for the thousands of homeless and bedless African workers in Nairobi and Mombasa.
17. The right of freedom of assembly and speech, without interference by the police or the administration; and the repeal of the relevant sections of the Police Ordinance; in accordance with the terms of the United Nations Charter.
18. The terms of reference of the Royal Commission be widened to include a survey of lands in Kenya.
19. The earliest possible repeal of all recent repressive legislation including the Bill for the Registration of Societies.
20. The release or immediate trial of all persons arrested since October twentieth.
21. Facilities to enable the independent African press to start functioning again.
22. The removal of all restrictions on the legitimate activities of the Kenya African Union.
23. The immediate implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
MILITARY OPERATION "EPSOM"
But redress of African grievances is the last thing the white settlers would even dream of. Even to suggest the possibility of immediate small alleviations and reforms would, they declared, smack of "appeasement." On the contrary, they intensified their campaign against the Kenya can Union. Kenyatta and five of the Union's executive committee – Achieng Oneko, Secretary-General; Fred Kubai, chairman of the Nairobi branch; Bildad Kaggia, secretary of the Nairobi branch; Kungu Kuruba and Paul Ngei–were charred with “assisting in the managing of Mau Mau contrary to the Penal Code." After a trial of sorts lasting fifty-nine days -- the longest and most sensational in British colonial history – the accused were all convicted and sentenced to seven years' imprisonment with hard labor. As the prisoners have all appealed to the Supreme Court of Kenya, which will hear arguments of the leading defense lawyer, Dennis Pritt, a British Queen's Counsel, it would be improper to comment upon the trial, except to say that the day after was judgment delivered on April 8, 1953, the Kenya government found it necessary place the magistrate, Mr. Thaker, under police protection and fly him out of the country for asylum in England. Since then, an African journalist, Mr. Joseph Kwanuka, the editor of the African-language paper, Uganda Post, has been sent to prison for fifteen months for criticizing the handling of the Kenyatta case. It is dangerous for a black man to challenge British "justice" in Africa!
With Kenyatta and other leading nationalists safely behind prison walls, the white settlers renewed their campaign for the suppression of the hundred thousand strong Kenya African Union which, despite the arrest of its officers, was still allowed to exist as the recognized political organization of the Africans. However, on June 8, 1953, two months after the Kenyatta trial ended, the Governor announced the suppression of the Union. In a broadcast statement to the people of Kenya, the Chief Native Commissioner, Mr. E. H. Windley, declared:
There is no doubt that there are members of the Kenya African Union who have no connection with violent movements; but action has been taken because the Government has satisfied itself that there is ample evidence to show that the Kenya African Union has often been used as a cover by the Mau Mau terrorist organization, and that, both before and after the emergency was declared, there has been connection between many members of the Kenya African Union and Mau Mau terrorists.
The official spokesman hypocritically declared:
We would not have wished to stop political associations with sincere aspirations for the legitimate development of African interests and progress, but the Kenya Government can never again allow such an association as the Kenya African Union. Moreover, the Government cannot permit the formation of any African political societies on the same lines as the Union while there is still such trouble in the country. We will, however, give assistance and recognition to those local associations which have been reasonable and sincere in the interests of their own people.
In other words, unlike the Kenya African Union which, as its title implied, sought to unite all Kenya Africans into one united movement, the British intend to pursue a policy of "divide and rule" by encouraging the pro-British chiefs to form separatist tribal societies which the whites can play off against one another and thereby prevent the Africans from presenting a common united front.
With the Mau Mau patriots branded as "terrorist," the constitutionnally based Kenya African Union suppressed, their recognized leaders imprisoned, the European settlers, with the active support of the Kenya government, now hope to consolidate their political and economic domination over the Africans without fear of being challenged. To achieve the policy of making Kenya a "white man's country" like the British government has let loose a reign of terrorism upon the Africans cans. What started as an "emergency," has already become a full scale military operation. Over thirty thousand British troops have been assembled to assist the local police force, the Kenya Regiment recruited exclusively from among the European male population, the Kikuyu Home Guards, and the King's East African Rifles in open warfare against what the Africans call the Mau Mau Liberation Movement.
In an Order-of-the-Day issued on June 19, 1953, General Sir George Erskine, the Commander-in-Chief, East Africa, announced his battle plan against the Mau Mau insurgents. Three task forces will be formed, with the possibility of additions later. The first will be mainly an infantry force of brigade strength, whose task will be in the forest areas, where infantry is most effective. The second task force will consist of armored car squadrons and mobile infantry drawn mainly from the East African heavy anti-aircraft battery. And the third will be the Air Force, which will bomb Africans out of their mountain strongholds by making pro- hibited areas "unwholesome" for Mau Mauists. The General also said that when an area is cleared it would then be taken over by the police and home guards recruited by the loyal chiefs.
In carrying out this operation under the military code name of "Epsom," General Erskine, who is fifty-three and was formerly Commander of the British Army stationed in the Suez Canal Zone against Egypt, will be assisted by Major General W. R. N. Hinde as Director of Operations. This shameful colonial war against an unarmed people has already cost the British government several million pounds and is expected to cost much more before it is ended. For the government has refused to accept services of responsible African leaders to bring about peace. British policy in Kenya, like that in Malaya for the past three years, is one of "unconditional surrender." Under the guise of establishing the "Queen's peace," the Kikuyus are to be exterminated in order to provide lebensraum for a few thousand British colonists.
Reporting on the casualties up to April 14, 1953, the Secretary of State told Parliament that two hundred forty members of the security forces and civilians had been killed and a hundred sixty-six wounded. Since the emergency began, 82,840 persons had been arrested. Of these, 8,975 were released immediately, 38,947 were screened and released, 28,912 screened and tried, and there were 6,006 then awaiting trial. Of the per- sons awaiting trial, 2,549 were in police custody, 2,116 in prison, and 1,291 in remand homes. The number of Africans shot while resisting arrest or after being challenged to stop was four hundred thirty. By the end of May, the number reported shot "while trying to escape" had reached one thousand, with more killings taking place every day since.
“We Europeans have to go on ruling this country and rule it with iron discipline tempered by our own hearts,” declared seventy-eight-Colonel Ewart Grogan, Member of the Legislative Council. The Colonel, who is the doyen of the settler community, was cheered by hundreds of Europeans when he addressed a meeting of the newly-formed Kenya British Empire Party in the Legislative Assembly hall in Nairobi. He told his audience that the east coast of Africa was in the front line of any future strife and that a great battle was bound to flare up sooner or later with hordes of colored races of the east rising up. The only answer to Mau Mau, declared this Christian gentleman, “was to teach the whole Kikuyu tribe a lesson by providing a ‘psychic shock’.”
Out of the temperament of his own heart, this most gallant crusader for "Western civilization" has recommended that the "psychic shock" should take the form of the government arresting one hundred Mau Mau suspects and hanging twenty-five of them upon a public gallows before the eyes of the other seventy-five, who should then be sent back to the Kikuyu reserve to spread the news among their tribes. And should this fail to terrorize the Africans, those in possession of farms should be expelled from them and their holdings handed over to Europeans until they learn to respect the white man's rule. "If the whole of the Kikuyu land unit is reverted to the Crown," maintains this noble bearer of white supremacy, "then every Kikuyu would know that our little Queen was a great Bwana (white ruler.)"
Significantly enough, this proposal of Colonel Grogan, one of the most influential leaders of the colonists, is precisely what the Governor has decided to adopt. Addressing the Budget Session of the Colony's Legislative Council on October 20, 1953, to mark the first anniversary of the declaration of emergency, Sir Evelyn Baring announced that:
It is felt that some striking action should be taken against the few villainous leaders of the Mau-Mau movement. For this reason a Bill will shortly be introduced providing for the forfeiture of land held in the Kikuyu land unit by two classes of persons. First, those convicted of certain serious offenses connecting the offenders with the direction of the Mau Mau movement and, secondly, any still at large who might be declared subject to the provisions of the Bill-that is in practice the best known gang leaders now opposing the forces of law and order.
On the same occasion, the Governor also announced other security measures, including an expansion of the armed forces and the intensification of the military campaign. Reviewing the military situation the day after the Governor disclosed his new policies, General Sir George Erskine said that there was no military answer to Kenya's troubles. The problem was "purely political –how Europeans, Africans live in harmony on a long-term basis. If the people of Kenya could address themselves to this problem and find a solution they would have achieved far more than I could do with security forces.”
Answering the white settlers who have criticized the army for not having exterminated the Mau Mau gangs, the General said that there was no question of the Mau Mau having strong defenses or being particularly gallant. "It is just the opposite." He went on:
Mau Mau defenses consist of sentries down every trail leading to hideouts. As soon as a sentry is engaged, the gang disperses and reassembles at prearranged places. Sitting in an armchair, it sounds very easy to catch these chaps. It is comparatively easy to get a sentry or two but much more difficult to get into or surround a gang. The gangs never wait to fight.
Completing the first year's report on the Mau Mau War, the Colonial Minister, Mr. Oliver Lyttelton, gave the following casualties--2,968 have been lost. Of these, 2,207 were Africans, nearly all of them Kikuyu, killed by the British armed forces. Mau Mau insurgents killed twenty-one Europeans, eleven Asians, 549 Kikuyu and 155 other Africans. Eighteen white settlers were wounded by Mau Mau. The total number of Africans arrested and screened during the past year was 138,235, of these only 82,000 have been released, 55,307 are in concentration camps and 965 are still awaiting trial.
AFRICAN PEACE TERMS REJECTED
Despite the failure of the British military forces to impose “unconditional surrender” upon the Mau Mau, responsible African leaders expressed their readiness to try and bring the fighting to an end.
Mr. Joseph Murumbi, the acting secretary of the Kenya African Union before it was proscribed in June, 1953, arrived in London in September with the following concrete peace proposals, which he presented Colonial Office:
1. Release on bail of the political leaders, on the basis of their co-operation in restoring peace and discussion with the Colonial Office regarding essential reforms
2. A Round Table Conference of representatives of all races in Kenya with a view to acceptance of a program of political, social and economic reforms.
3. The development of land in the African Reserves to the fullest capacity.
4. Making available to Africans land in the Highlands not yet sold to Europeans.
5. Community Projects, Co-operative Farming and Rural Industries should be introduced in the Reserves and technical and financial help welcomed from the United Nations, British, American, Indian or other sources.
6. The principle of parity should be adopted in representation in Executive and Legislative Councils of Kenya.
7. Political democracy should also be applied to local government.
8. The progressive elimination of the Color Bar.
9. The encouragement of the cooperation of educated and politically-minded Africans in all schemes of political, economic and social developments.
To prevent misuse of land, Mr. Murumbi suggested that:
African farmers would be required to conform to strict farming practices under the direction of a Community and Co-operative organization and that leases for such land should be on a temporary basis until the African farmer has proved himself efficient. During this period he should be subject to eviction if his farming did not reach the required standard.
Although Mr. Murumbi's proposals had the support of a number of distinguished Labor Members of Parliament, British trade unionists and co-operators, they were rejected out of hand by the Colonial Office officials.
So the Mau Mau colonial war entered its second year with casualties increasing from day to day. “Whatever form operations now take they must last for some time,” writes The Times Special Correspondent from Nairobi.
The authorities realize that military operations alone can never end the emergency. That can only come about when the bulk of the Kikuyu cooperate with the Security Forces and the Home Guards instead of with the Mau Mau, as they still do in too many places. In trying to win them over the authorities have to contend with many years of previous propaganda, intimidation, genuine griev- ances, and the popular belief that Mau Mau will win.
While the struggle of the Kenya African for "land and freedom" goes on, all the colored races of Africa and Asia are watching and making their own conclusions. For in the words of the distinguished and prophetic Afro-American scholar and champion of oppressed people, Dr. W. E. B. DuBois:
the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line, and there can be no lasting peace or security in the world until the age-old and discredited system of Colonialism is completely abolished and recognition given to the equality of all men, regardless of race, color or creed.
George Padmore, “Behind the Mau Mau,” Phylon 14 no. 4 (1953)