Mau Mau Uprising
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|Mau Mau Uprising|
|Mau Mau||British military|
|* Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi
* Field Marshal Musa Mwariama
* General China (Waruhiu Itote)
* Stanley Mathenge
|* Sir Evelyn Baring (Governor)
* General Sir George Erskine
* Sir Kenneth O'Connor (Chief Justice)
|Unknown||10,000 regular troops (Africans and Europeans) 21,000 police, 25,000 home guard|
|Casualties and losses|
|10,527 killed in action;
2,633 captured in action;
1.5m effectively interned in emergency villages.
|Security forces killed: Africans 534, Asians 3, Europeans 63;
Security forces wounded: Africans 465, Asians 12, Europeans 102;
Civilians killed: Africans 1,826 recorded, best estimates suggest a total of 50,000; Asians 26; Europeans 32;
Civilians wounded: Africans 918, Asians 36, Europeans 26.
The Mau Mau Uprising was a military conflict that took place in Kenya (then called British East Africa), from 1952 to 1960, between a Kikuyu-dominated anti-colonial-group called Mau Mau and the British Army-cum-adjuncts.
The conflict set the stage for Kenyan independence and motivated Africans in other colonies to fight against colonialism. It created a rift between the European colonial community in Kenya and the Home Office in London, but also resulted in violent divisions within the Kikuyu community.
The conflict is also referred to as the Mau Mau Revolt, Mau Mau Rebellion, Mau Mau War and the Kenya Emergency.
The origin of the term Mau Mau is uncertain.
Some publications, such as Fred Majdalany's State of Emergency: The Full Story of Mau Mau, claim that it was an anagram of Uma Uma (which means "get out get out") and was a military codeword based on a secret language-game Kikuyu boys used to play at the time of their circumcision. Majdalany goes on to state that the British simply used the name as a label for the Kikuyu ethic community without assigning any specific definition.
According to some members of Mau Mau, they never referred to themselves as such, instead preferring the military title Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA). J.M. Kariuki, a member of Mau Mau who was detained during the conflict, postulates that the British preferred to use the term Mau Mau instead of KLFA, and that Britain, in an attempt to deny the Mau Mau rebellion international legitimacy, went to great lengths to give Mau Mau the derogatory connotations of a primitive tribal revolt against a benevolent civilizer. Kariuki also wrote that in order to counter what they regarded as colonial propaganda, members of the Land and Freedom Army satirically defined the term Mau Mau as Muthungu Athii Ulaya, Mugikuyu Ahoote Uthamaki! (translated as "Let the European go back to Europe, Let the Kikuyu get Independence").
As the movement progressed, a Swahili acronym was adopted: "Mzungu Aende Ulaya, Mwafrika Apate Uhuru" meaning "Let the European go back to Europe (Abroad), Let the African regain Independence". This latter meaning is the more commonly adopted etymology by historians in Africa.
Though only officially declared a colony in 1920, the formal British colonial presence in Kenya essentially began with a proclamation on July 1, 1895, by Her Majesty's agent and Counsel General at Zanzibar, A.H. Hardinge. He announced that he was taking over the Coastal areas, as well as the interior that included Central Province, home of the Kikuyu. Since its inception before 1895, Britain's presence in Kenya was marked by dispossession and violence: "There is only one way to improve the Wakikuyu [and] that is to wipe them out," asserted one British officer. This onslaught led Churchill, in 1908, to remark that "surely it cannot be necessary to go on killing these defenceless people on such an enormous scale."
Kenyan resistance also preceded Hardinge's declaration–for example, the Kikuyu opposition of 1880–1900–and continued through the decades afterwards: the Nandi revolt of 1895–1905; the Griamma uprising of 1913–1914; and the Kalloa Affray of 1950. The Mau Mau rebellion is therefore often considered the militant culmination of years of oppressive colonial rule and resistance to it.
A feature of all settler societies during the colonial period was the ability of European settlers to obtain for themselves a disproportionate share in landownership. Kenya was thus no exception, with the first white settlers arriving in Kenya in 1902 as part of Sir Charles Eliot's plan to have a settler economy pay for the recently completed Uganda Railway. Over the next three decades, British settlers extended and consolidated their control over Kenyan land and–coupled with an increasing African population–the issue of land became an increasingly bitter point of contention. The Kikuyu were the ethnic group most affected by the colonial government's land expropriation and European settlement, losing over 60,000 acres.
In addition to land, White farmers wanted cheap labor, so the colonial government introduced measures to effectively force many Kenyans to become low-paid, waged laborers on White-settler farms: reserves were established for each ethnic group, serving to divide them and to exacerbate overcrowding; hut and poll taxes were enacted (equivalent to two months' African wages); a pass, or kipande, was introduced to keep track of the migratory laborers and their employment histories; and growing of cash-crops by Africans was forbidden (later, even the amount of permissible crops grown was limited).
As well as waged laborers migrating back and forth between the reserves and settler farms, the measures created another phenomenon in the form of families permanently moving from their reserves to live on settler farms as so-called squatters. The squatters were relatively free until 1918, whereafter the Colonial Office enacted a series of ordinances–which faced at least some opposition in Parliament–to curtail squatter rights, and to subordinate African farming to that of the settlers. Eventually, these British strictures rendered the squatters as tenant farmers without any tenancy rights.
During the course of the colonial period, European colonizers allowed about 120,000 Kikuyu to farm a patch of land on European farms in exchange for their labour.
Until the mid-1930s, the two primary complaints were low African wages and the kipande. From the early 1930s, however, two others began to come to prominence: effective and elected African-political-representation, and land. By the late 1930s, and for the Kikuyu in particular, land became the number one grievance concerning colonial rule.
The British finally responded to the clamour for agrarian reform in the early 1930s, setting up the Morris-Carter Land Commission. The Commission reported in 1934, but its conclusions and recommendations were so conservative, its concessions to Kenyans so minimal, that any chance of a peaceful resolution to African land-hunger was ended.
By 1948, 1,250,000 Kikuyu were restricted to 2000 square miles (5,200 km–), while 30,000 British settlers occupied 12,000 square miles (31,000 km–). The most desirable agricultural land was almost entirely in the hands of European settlers.
Between 1936 and 1946, settlers steadily demanded more days of labour, while further restricting Kikuyu access to the land. It has been estimated that the real income of Kikuyu squatters fell by 30% to 40% during this period and fell even more sharply during the late 1940s. This effort by settlers, which was essentially an attempt to turn the tenant farmers into agricultural labourers, exacerbated the Kikuyus' bitter hatred of the white settlers. The Kikuyu later formed the core of the highland uprising.
As a result of the poor situation in the highlands, thousands of Kikuyu migrated into cities in search of work, contributing to the doubling of Nairobi's population between 1938 and 1952. At the same time, there was a small, but growing, class of Kikuyu landowners who consolidated Kikuyu lands and forged strong ties with the colonial administration, leading to an economic rift within the Kikuyu. By 1953, almost half of all Kikuyus had no land claims at all. The results were worsening poverty, starvation, unemployment and overpopulation.
Around 1943, residents of Olenguruone radicalised the traditional Kikuyu practice of oathing, and extended oathing to women and children.
Professor Wunyabari O. Maloba is credited as the first historian to publish a significant work on the Mau Mau rebellion, and he regards the rise of the Mau Mau movement as "without doubt, one of the most important events in recent African history." His work is considered by some to be an authoritative source on the subject. Oxford's David Anderson, however, considers Maloba's work to be the product of "swallowing too readily the propaganda of the Mau Mau war", noting the similarity between his analysis and the "simplistic" earlier studies of Mau Mau. This earlier work cast the Mau Mau war in strictly in bipolar terms, "as conflicts between anti-colonial nationalists and colonial collaborators." Harvard's Caroline Elkins' 2005 study has met similar criticism.
Others argue that Mau Mau was not explicitly national in either intellectual or operational scope. Professor Daniel Branch reasons that as the Mau Mau rebellion wore on, the violence forced the spectrum of opinion within the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru to polarise and harden into the two distinct camps of loyalist and Mau Mau. Branch contends that this "neat division between loyalists and Mau Mau was a product of the conflict rather than a cause or catalyst of the violence. Initially, that violence was more ambiguous and intimate than it later became," in a similar manner to other situations.
A related viewpoint is that of Professor Marshall Clough, who argues that throughout Kikuyu history, there have been two traditions: moderate-conservative and radical. Despite the differences between these traditions, Clough argues, there has been a continuous debate and dialogue between them, leading to a great political awareness among the Kikuyu. In a similar vein, Anderson writes that by 1950 three African political blocks had emerged: conservative, moderate nationalist and militant nationalist.
The first attempt to form a countrywide political party occurred on October 1, 1944. This fledgling organization was called the Kenya African Study Union (so named to mask its anti-colonial politics); it's inaugural chairman was Harry Thuku, who soon resigned his chairmanship. There is dispute over Thuku's reason for leaving KASU: Bethwell Ogot states that Thuku "found the responsibility too heavy"; David Anderson states that "he walked out in disgust" as the militant section of KASU took the initiative. KASU changed its name to the KAU in 1946.
On May 1, 1949, six trade unions formed the East African Trades Union Congress (EATUC). In early 1950, the EATUC ran a campaign to boycott the celebrations over the granting of a Royal Charter to Nairobi, because of the undemocratic white-controlled council that ran the city. The campaign proved a great embarrassment to the colonial government. It also led to violent clashes between African radicals and loyalists.
Following a demand for Kenyan independence on May 1, 1950, the leadership of the EATUC was arrested. On May 16, the remaining EATUC officers called for a general strike that paralyzed Nairobi for nine days and was broken only after 300 workers had been arrested and the British authorities made a show of overwhelming military force. The strike spread to other cities and may have involved 100,000 workers; Mombasa was paralyzed for two days.
In May 1951, the British Colonial Secretary, James Griffiths, visited Kenya, where the Kenya African Union (KAU) presented him with a list of demands ranging from the removal of discriminatory legislation to the inclusion of 12 elected black representatives on the Legislative Council that governed the colony's affairs. It appears that the settlers were not willing to give in completely, but expected Westminster to force some concessions. Instead, Griffith ignored the KAU's demands and proposed a Legislative Council in which the 30,000 white settlers received 14 representatives, the 100,000 Asians (mostly from South Asia) got six, the 24,000 Arabs one, and the 5,000,000 Africans five representatives to be nominated by the government. This proposal removed the last African hopes that a fair and peaceful solution to their grievances was possible.
Collective fines and punishments were levied on particularly unstable areas, oath givers were arrested and loyalist Kikuyu were encouraged to denounce the resistance.
On August 17, 1952, the Colonial Office in London received its first indication of the seriousness of the rebellion in a report from Acting Governor Potter. On October 6, Sir Evelyn Baring arrived in Kenya to take over the post of Governor. The next day, police headquarters in Nairobi received news that Senior Chief Waruhiu had been shot at point blank range by bandits in Kiambu. This was the first time the Mau Mau Organization had "officially" attacked.
On October 20, 1952, Governor Baring signed an order declaring a State of Emergency. Early the next morning, Operation Jock Scott was launched: the Kenyan police carried out a mass-arrest of Kenyatta and 180 other alleged Mau Mau leaders, and British troops patrolled Nairobi. Though there was no initial reaction from Mau Mau fighters in the forests, Jock Scott did not decapitate the movement as hoped: a series of gruesome murders against settlers were committed throughout the months that followed. Up to 8,000 people were arrested during the first 25 days of the operation.
While much of the senior political leadership of the Nairobi Central Committee was arrested, some of its military leaders took refuge in the wilderness.
One battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers was flown from the Middle East to Nairobi on the first day of Operation Jock Scott. The 2nd Battalion of the King's African Rifles, already in Kenya, was reinforced with one battalion from Uganda and two companies from the former-state of Tanganyika. The Royal Air Force sent pilots and Handley Page Hastings aircraft. The Royal Navy cruiser Kenya came to Mombasa harbour carrying Royal Marines. During the course of the conflict, other British units such as the Black Watch, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) served for a short time. The British fielded 55,000 troops in total over the course of the conflict, although the total number did not exceed more than 10,000 at any one time.
Initially, British forces had little reliable intelligence on the strength or structure of the Mau Mau resistance. Senior British officers thought that the Mau Mau Uprising was a sideshow compared to the Malayan Emergency. Over the course of the conflict many innocent Kenyans were killed. Many soldiers were reported to have collected severed human hands for an official five-shilling bounty. Others kept a scoreboard of their killings.
In April 1953, a Kamba Central Committee was formed. The Kamba rebels were all railwaymen and effectively controlled the railway workforce, and the Kamba were also the core of African units in the Army and Police. Despite this, only three acts of sabotage were recorded against the railway lines during the emergency.
At the same time, rebel Maasai bands became active in Narok district before being crushed by soldiers and police who were given the task of preventing a further spread of the rebellion.
Despite a police roundup in April 1953, the Nairobi committees organized by the Council of Freedom continued to provide badly needed supplies and recruits to the Land and Freedom Armies operating in the central highlands.
In June 1953, General Sir George Erskine arrived and took up the post of Director of Operations, where he revitalized the British effort. His predecessor, Sir Alexander Cameron, became his Second in Command. A military draft brought in 20,000 troops who were used aggressively. The Kikuyu reserves were designated "Special Areas", where anyone failing to halt when challenged could be shot. This was often used as an excuse for the shooting of innocent Kenyans, so this provision was subsequently abandoned.
The Aberdares Range and Mount Kenya were declared "Prohibited Areas", within which no person could enter without government clearance. Those found within the Prohibited Area could be shot on sight.
In late 1953, security forces swept the Aberdare forest in the Operation Blitz and captured and killed 125 guerrillas. Despite such large-scale offensive operations, the British found themselves unable to stem the tide of insurgency.
While the sweep was inefficient, the sheer number was overwhelming. Kikuyus were swept away to detention camps and the most important source of supplies and recruits for the resistance evaporated.
Having cleared Nairobi, the authorities repeated the exercise in other areas so that by the end of 1954 there were 77,000 Kikuyu in concentration camps. About 100,000 Kikuyu squatters were deported back to the reserves. In June 1954, a policy of compulsory villagization was started in the reserves to allow more effective control and surveillance of civilians and to better protect pro-government collaborators. When the program reached completion in October 1955, 1,077,500 Kikuyu had been concentrated into 854 "villages".
Conditions in the British detention and labour camps were appalling, due in part to the sheer number of Kikuyu detainees. One British colonial officer described the labour camps thus: "Short rations, overwork, brutality, humiliating and disgusting treatment and flogging - all in violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights." Sanitation was non-existent, and epidemics of diseases like typhoid swept through the camps. Official medical reports detailing the shortcomings of the camps and their recommendations were ignored, and the conditions being endured by Kikuyu detainees were lied about to the outside world.
Kenyans were granted nearly all of the demands made by the KAU in 1951. In June 1956, a program of land reform increased the land holdings of the Kikuyu, thereby increasing the number of Kikuyu allied with the colonial government. This was coupled with a relaxation of the ban on Africans growing coffee, a primary cash crop.
In the cities the colonial authorities decided to dispel tensions by raising urban wages, thereby strengthening the hand of moderate union organizations like the KFRTU. By 1956, the British had granted direct election of African members of the Legislative Assembly, followed shortly thereafter by an increase in the number of African seats to fourteen. A Parliamentary conference in January 1960 indicated that the British would accept "one person – one vote" majority rule.
These political measures were taken to end the instability of the Uprising. The choice that the authorities in London faced was between an unstable colony, which was costing a fortune in military expenses, run by settlers who contributed little to the economic growth of the Empire, or a stable colony run by Africans that contributed to the coffers of the Empire. The latter option was the one, in effect, taken.
The official number of European settlers killed was 32.
The colonial government believed the number of Kenyans killed was 11,503, but David Anderson states that the true figure is likely more than 20,000. Elkins, whose study of the event Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006, claims it is probably at least as high as 70,000 but more realistically in the hundreds of thousands.
British demographer John Blacker, in an article in African Affairs, has estimated the total number of excess African deaths at around 50,000; half were children under 10. Blacker's article deals directly with Elkins' claim that up to 300,000 Kikuyu were "unaccounted for" at the 1962 census, judged by comparative population growth rates for other ethnic groups since the previous 1958 census.
Of particular note is the number of executions authorized by the courts: by the end of the Emergency, the grand total was 1,090. At no other time or place in the British empire was capital punishment meted out so liberally–the total is more than double the number executed by the French in Algeria.
A major source of atrocities was the 'screening' of Kikuyu and others suspected of Mau Mau sympathies.
A British officer describes his exasperation about uncooperative Mau Mau suspects during an interrogation:
I stuck my revolver right in his grinning mouth and I said something, I don–t remember what, and I pulled the trigger. His brains went all over the side of the police station. The other two Mickeys [Mau Mau] were standing there looking blank. I said to them that if they didn–t tell me where to find the rest of the gang I–d kill them too. They didn–t say a word so I shot them both. One wasn–t dead so I shot him in the ear. When the sub-inspector drove up, I told him that the Mickeys tried to escape. He didn–t believe me but all he said was 'bury them and see the wall is cleared up.'
Some settlers took an active role in the torture of Mau Mau suspects, running their own screening teams and assisting British security forces during interrogation. One settler helping the Kenya Police Reserve's Special Branch described one interrogation which he assisted: "By the time I cut his balls off he had no ears, and his eyeball, the right one, I think, was hanging out of its socket. Too bad, he died before we got much out of him."
Immediately after the discovery of the first Lari massacre (between 10 pm and dawn that night), colonial security services engaged in a retaliatory mass murder of residents of Lari suspected of Mau Mau sympathies. These were indiscriminately shot, and later denied either treatment or burial. There is also good evidence that these indiscriminate reprisal shootings continued for several days after the first massacre. (See the reports of 21 and 27 men killed on 3rd and 4 April, respectively.) The official tally of the dead for the first Lari Massacre is 74; that for the second, 150.
Remarkably few British civilians were killed by Mau Mau militants: just 32. The European panic, however, was extreme. Perhaps the most famous Mau Mau victim was Michael Ruck, aged six, who was killed along with his parents. Newspapers in Kenya and abroad published graphic murder details and postmortem photos, including images of young Michael with bloodied teddy bears and trains strewn on his bedroom floor.
Some of those tortured during the era have sued for compensation from the British government, and their lawyers have documented about 6,000 cases of human rights abuses including fatal whippings, rapes and blindings. The British government has stated that the issue was the responsibility of the Kenyan government, relying on the grounds of "state succession" for former colonies. Around 12,000 Kenyans had sought compensation.
Members of Mau Mau are currently recognized by the Kenyan Government as Freedom/Independence Heroes/Heroines who sacrificed their lives in order to free Kenyans from colonial rule. The Government of Kenya has proposed Mashujaa Day (Heroes Day) to be marked annually on 20 October (the same day Baring signed the Emergency order). According to the Kenyan Government, Mashujaa Day will be a time for Kenyans to remember and honour Mau Mau and other Kenyans who participated in the fight for African freedom and Kenya's independence. Mashujaa Day will replace Kenyatta Day; the latter has until now also been held on October 20.
This official celebration of Mau Mau is in marked contrast to a post-colonial norm of Kenyan governments passing over Mau Mau as a symbol of national liberation. Such a turnabout has attracted criticism of government manipulation of the Mau Mau uprising for political ends.
It is often argued that Mau Mau was suppressed as a subject for public discussion in Kenya during the periods under Kenyatta and Daniel Arap Moi because of the post-1963 dominance of loyalists in government, business and other elite sectors of Kenyan society. During this same period, opposition groups tactically embraced the Mau Mau rebellion. As noted, Mau Mau's politicization within Kenya appears to continue up to the present.
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