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Democrat March-April 2013 (Number 134)

Struggle for
an Independent Kenya

by Tony Grace

Not Yet Uhuru* is an autobiography by Oginga Odinga and describes in telling detail his involvement in the struggle for national independence of the oppressed people of the former colony of Kenya (British East Africa). It could have been entitled: "Not Yet Harambee", Kenya’s slogan for National Unity - one country, one destination, one Africa, one policy; the unity of all tribes and peoples for a united free country. He covers the entire history of that struggle which is a classic example of the Imperialist strategy of "Divide and Rule".

There were many divisions to exploit by the colonial authorities’ schemes to prevent the ‘revolt’ spreading against their rule. This gathered pace by the early 1950s by enlisting the support of the Luo, the second largest tribe in Kenya, in a pro-government home guard. Oginga, in his childhood, joined that select group of Africans who received education at faith schools, the curricula was designed to groom loyal supporters of the colonial regime. This extract gives a flavour of this total propaganda system : "But I found at Maseno (secondary) School that the teachers were disciplined like schoolboys. We had to wear uniforms. We were not called by our African but by our Christian names.....(The head teacher) knew well the attitude of the white settlers and especially of the government towards African people. His training at Maseno was to prepare us to lead a life of acceptance that Europeans had settled in Africa and we would have to take directions from them.... Every African teacher was put in charge of a dormitory... but at the head of three or four groups was placed a white master who had to supervise the African staff member.....I was one of the first to rebel and I took issue with the use of our Christian names."

   Christian teaching, supported by the colonial administration, precluded any discussion of the politics of nationalism and most importantly preached anti-communism. Yet Oginga and colleagues, despite being trained to become merely useful and loyal subordinates of the colonial regime to maintain minority rule, rapidly developed into an opposition which took the colony to independence. At first, after he left Maseno and was blacklisted by the educational establishment. Oginga, through the Luo Thrift Association endeavoured to develop economic independence for all Africans. Colonial authorities placed every obstacle in their way. Oginga concluded: “...the admonitions for us to seek economic power before political rights were not genuine advice from the colonial government; they were devices by the authorities to mislead us and gain time for the administration.” He was “convinced that political power had to be struggled for and achieved as a stepping stone to any advance at all."

   What followed was the vicious and brutal struggle known as the "MauMau Emergency" which reinforced divisions between the Kikuyu, the second largest tribe, the Luo and between the Kikiyu and the smaller clans of Meru, Kalenjin.Kamba, Shifta and Masai who were solidly pro-British. Treachery was well rewarded. Lands of the detainees were given to the Luos or indeed anyone in the home guard.

   Freedom fighters were driven out of Nairobi and smaller towns to the densest parts of the forests by thousands of British conscripts .In Operation "Anvil" for example. 25,000 soldiers rounded up the entire African 100,000 population of Nairobi - screened and despatched to specially prepared detention camps all men between 16 and 35 ‘the warrior age' from so-called affected tribes. The following quotation is especially relevant: "The British improvised a devastating new tactic in the formation of pseudo-gangs of captured and surrendered fighters under the control of the police which penetrated forests to track down the fighters' groups. Their greatest success was the capture of Dedan Kimathi and his subsequent execution. Where the bombing of the forests had not destroyed the guerilla bands this infiltration did. The war lasted three years. Towards the end the freedom fighters were reduced to small, isolated poorly armed bands using their forest skills to survive, and being hunted like animals by the imperialist army and its pseudo gangs." Mention should also be made of the General Service Unit whose methods of torture would surely have been much admired by the Nazi SS.

   Sadly, on the day of independence, Kenyatta displayed indifference to the tiny remnant of the forest fighters who had attended the ceremony to hail him as their president. The European population had been advised to watch the ceremony at home on their televisions for safety reasons but they had little to fear.

  All that had changed was the ethnic identity of the governing class.

   Oginga's conclusion provides a succinct summary of the political situation even to this day in Kenya: "Under the KANU government the peasant has for the most part remained as he always was. The wealth of a privileged few in government has had a demoralising effect on their poor countrymen called on to make sacrifices for Uhuru. The politicians have clung to position and been prepared to abandon principles because they have developed an appetite for power and for property that grows with each new form of promotion. This is a  leadership that has not shown the moral or the intellectual strength to withstand the pressure of civil service advisers trained in the old ways of the colonial administration to the external economic and political pressures working against true Kenyan independence." Oginga was also castigated for his support of the Soviet Union and its role in assisting liberation struggles in the former colonies and in that regard the following comment is apposite: "I am convinced that the external vested interests at play in Kenya are not communist forces but the result of the involvement of an increasing number of politicians in British, American and West German commerce and big business."
   It seems ironic  that an account of the struggle to free the people of Kenya from the oppression of the British colonial government should be relevant to the campaign against Euro-Federalism where the descendants of the former colonial oppressors are themselves engaged in a fight to regain more than a thousand years of self rule for the British people against the new colonial power, the European Super State.

*East African Educational Publishers:323 pp:illus:indx: ISBN9966-46-005-5

[Above picture - After six decades, former Mau Mau internees get justice in 2013]