Kenya: From Kikuyu And Mau Mau Rebellion to Civil Butchery
Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra)
8 May 2008
Posted to the web 8 May 2008
A new era dawned on Africa when the ‘Cold War’ ended with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and African countries were left with no other alternative than to adopt Western democracy. The adoption of multi party democracy has not been without problems. Power-drunk leaders like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who is virtually a life-president and the late Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo who clung unto power and died a president after many disputed elections keep muddying the political waters of the African continent.
The case of Kenya is not different as disputed elections have brought about civil butchery. Kenyans have a history of resisting oppressive rule and this dates as far back as the colonial era.
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From 1952 to 1956 the British struggled to repress a rebellion by mostly Kikuyu peasant farmers. By the end of the revolt they had taken the lives of 11,000 rebels and had forcibly detained nearly 100,000 people, while 200 Europeans and some 2,000 Africans loyal to the British were killed by the rebels. The Mau Mau rebellion was one of hundreds that took place as Europeans attempted to establish colonial control over peoples of Africa. It serves as a good example of the conditions under which a group is willing and able to go from passive resistance to active and even violent resistance. The Mau Mau rebellion also reveals the psychology of oppressors as they struggle to understand why they are objects of protest.
Finally, it is important because it has been considered the first great African liberation movement and according to Robert Edgerton (1989), was probably the most serious crisis of Britain’s colonies in Africa.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century most of East Africa became an economic battleground between Germany and England, each trying to control the resources of the area. To avoid conflict, the two countries met in Berlin in 1884 partition much of East Africa among themselves. Kenya came under Great Britain’s influence. The Africans resisted, sometimes violently the efforts of the British to control the economic life of Kenyans. But British military actions, often ruthless, soon subdued most of the resistance. In addition to dealing with the British invasion, they were decimated by plagues of locusts, prolonged drought, cattle disease, and an epidemic of smallpox.
Kikuyu, the largest cultural group in Kenya, fought the occupation of the British by attacking settlers, which brought in its wake a trail of more British military actions and more Kikuyu deaths. The Kikuyu subsisted on horticulture and livestock-raising on communally owned land, governed by a council of elders who were later replaced by the appointed chiefs when the British introduced ‘Indirect Rule’. Kikuyu continued fighting the British, using spears and poisoned arrows and their courage greatly impressed British officers. By 1904 the resistance had ended and other groups in Kenya, such as the Luo, Kambaand Nandi, fought the British but were not as successful as the Kikuyu.
The British did not hide their intention to seize African land and so confined the Kenyans to reserves, and used them as cheap labour. Africans were prohibited from growing cash crops, such as coffee, sisal, and maize. The introduction of hut and poll taxes made the Kenyans work for wages to pay the taxes. Africans were forced to carry a pass that bore their name, tribe affiliation, fingerprints, work history, and, later, photograph. The struggle with the British culminated in the attainment of independence led by Jomo Kenyatta in1963.
Today, the Mombassa Port, Mount Kenya, Climate of Nairobi and its environs, National Parks and other scenery landscape make tourism a very lucrative business and high foreign exchange earner to the country. Kenya happens to be one of the East African countries which are hard hit by HIV/AIDS and the devastating effects has brought untold hardships to Kenyans.
Another leader who could be likened to the British overlords by name Mwai Kibaki has plunged Kenya into turmoil. Kenya is now in flames because of a wicked, bloodthirsty tyrant whose controversial success in the recent general elections of Kenya is being fiercely resisted just like their forefathers did to their colonial masters. He does not want to let go power and has added to the scourge of HIV/ AIDS a civil strife. About 1,500 people had died as a result of clashes between supporters of the government and that of the beaten opposition party which has Raila Odinga as its leader.
It is in the light of this that, Kibaki should spare Kenyans the killings and retaliatory killings which have taken their toll on the people especially women and children.
He should have resigned and paved way for fresh elections devoid any form of rigging. Angola, DR Congo, Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone other war-ravaged countries have already made the ‘African signature’ worse and Kibaki should not add to that.