The Bitter Struggle To Independence AUTHOR Major John F. Waweru, Kenya Army CSC 1988 SUBJECT AREA General EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TITLE: THE BITTER STRUGGLE TO INDEPENDENCE I. Purpose: To highlight the sufferings, frustrations and degradation that the Kenyans had to put up with as they struggled for their political independence. II. Problem: On arrival colonialists believed that they had found a haven in Kenya. The weather, climate and the small population, encouraged them to go ahead and settle down in the best parts of the country with total disregard of the indigenous Africans. On realizing what all this meant the Africans began to demand their independence and the return of the 'stolen land', two issues the British government would not even address then. Left with no alternatives the Africans commenced a bitter and protracted struggle for their independence. III. Data: Kenya's political history began in the last quarter of the nineteenth century when the British etablished a colony and protectorate in that part of Africa. The changes they brought were not beneficial to the Africans, whom they considered as social and cultural inferiors. These provoked unrest and formation of tribal political action groups in the 1920's. By mid 1940s there was only limited improvement on the lot of the average African. The Europeans were determined to retain exclusive control in the 'White Man's Country' [Kenya]. The Africans were denied their natural and national rights. This maltreatment set off violent insurgency activities which led to the declaration of a state of emergency in 1952. The uprising was suppressed and nearly all of its leaders arrested and either given long jail terms, detained or even hanged. This move gave rise to organized African political activities. In the 1960s the campaign for majority rule within the framework of the colonial regime succeeded in unifying the different tribes against colonialism and winning the recognition by the authorities. 1961 saw most of the political prisoners and detainees released and set Kenya on a course that led to sovereignty by end of 1964. IV. Conclusions: After 70 years of hard and bitter struggles, Kenya became a sovereign state. Since then, Kenyans have continued to forge ahead in the economic field despite various constraints, while consolidating national unity and safeguarding politcal stability. V. Recommendations: The older generation of Kenyans who have perhaps the worst experience of life under colonial rule and several of whom are now at the helm of the country's leadership should be the vanguard in safeguarding political stability in the country. Any ofattempt neocolonialism by any of the world powers should be resisted and condemned in the strongest terms possible. THE BITTER STRUGGLE TO INDEPENDENCE OUTLINE Thesis Statement: The significance of these celebrations is that Kenyans seize the opportunity to look back to the history of the long and bitter struggle for freedom in the country and address themselves to the crucial task of consolidating the country's hard earned independence while at the same time forging national unity. I. Early History: A. National days and nationalists. B. Arrival of Arabs and Europeans C. Establishment of a colony. D. The land issue. II. Political awakening: A. Pseudo-political parties. B. African political organizations. III. The MAU MAU uprising: A. MAU MAU activities. B. State of emergency. C. Trial and imprisonment of patriotic nationals. D. The labour movement. IV. Political parties: A. Regional political parties. B. Kenya African Natonal Union [KANU]) C. Kenya African Democratic Union [KADU]. V. General elections: A . Constitutional conference-London. B. Release of Jomo Kenyatta and other detainees. C. Independence. THE BITTER STRUGGLE TO INDEPENDENCE On December 12, 1963, the day Kenya finally shrugged off the yoke of colonial rule and attained its independence, the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, father and founder of the Kenya nation, described the occasion as "A day of great rejoicing".1 Since that day, there have been a good many days on which Kenyans have had excuse to rejoice during ceremonies marking national days such as Kenyatta Day [October 20th], Madaraka Day [June 1st], and of course Jamhuri Day [December 12th]. The significance of these celebrations is that Kenyans seize the opportunity to look back to the history of the long and bitter struggle for freedom in the country and address themselves to the crucial task of consolidating the country's hard earned independence while at the same time forging national unity. December 12, 1963, marked the end of almost a century of bitter struggles which saw a lot of suffering and bloodshed in Kenya. During that long period of struggling for self assertion, there were painful sacrifices on the part of indigenous people of Kenya. A great number of children became orphans, parents lost their children, men and women lost their spouses and thousands of freedom fighters, branded by the colonialist terrorists were marched off to detention camps where they were thoroughly humiliated and where several of them met their deaths. The forty years between 1920 and 1960, were perhaps the most trying of all periods in which Kenyans struggled to shape their political course. That poignant epoch was, indeed, a time when Kenyans intensified their struggle in a more organized manner behind nationalist leaders such as Harry Thuku, Jomo Kenyatta, Oginga Odinga, Tom Mboya and Daniel arap Moi to name just a few. Those were some of the banner bearers who gave inspiration to the Kenyan masses and spearheaded an onslaught against the machinations of the colonial establishment that for many decades subjugated the people of Kenya. Though the bitter political struggles waged in Kenya took a more drastic turn from the 1950s, especially as a consequence of the arrest of nationalist leaders and the declaration of a state of emergency in l952 in Kenya, the historical origins of the struggle stretch further back. This long history can be traced back to the last century when the whiteman first penetrated the East African hinterland. Even before the arrival of the whiteman, foreigners, notably Arabs, had already made their presence felt along the East African coast where, initially, they traded in ivory but later degenerated to trade in human beings [slave trade]. When the Arabs started capturing Africans and selling them abroad, [some of those captured met their deaths in transit] the Africans were, naturally, stunned at this brutality and appeared helpless but, later on, put strong resistance to this inhuman trade. The second category of outsiders to arrive at Mombasa were equally adventurous, fortune seeking Portuguese. In their ambitious quest to establish a base along the East African coast, they fought and drove away the Arabs and established a rule in Mombasa and other areas along the coast of East Africa, for some 200 years. Subsequently, however, the Arabs re-emerged as a strong force which pitted itself against the Portuguese, finally driving them away. The Arabs re-occupied Mombasa towards the close of the 17th century. When they finally established a firm rule along the coastal strip that included Zanzibar, Pemba, Mombasa and Lamu islands, this marked the beginning of a reign of Arab Sultans that was more repressive and exploitative than ever of the Africans. The suffering the Africans experienced at the hands of the Arabs and the Portuguese was, however, mostly felt along the coast. However this suffering quickly spread to affect the Africans in the hinterland when British foreigners came in around 1888. About half a dozen years later, the new masters signed an agreement with the Sultan of Zanzibar in which a 10-mile strip along the coast was leased to the British, who took it upon themselves to "protect" the African subjects. For protecting the "natives" the British government paid an annual "rent and concession interest fee" to the Sultan and this continued until 1963 when the agreement came to an end with attainment of independence for Kenya. The coming-to-stay of the whiteman in Kenya and the nature of his interests, no doubt, is what led to the Africans in Kenya fall under the yoke of colonialism and suffering the subsequent degradation. For example when the white settlers arrived in Kenya, they quickly colonized and violently robbed the Africans of large tracts of fertile arable land. Most of the prime land stolen was in the Rift Valley and Central regions of the country, although some large patches could also be found in other regions of the country. As if land grabbing alone was not enough to hurt the Africans, the colonialists also introduced hut and poll taxes and used the Africans as a source of free forced labour in their [settlers'] plantations. More shaming was the requirement that parents in central Kenya [Central Province] and the Rift Valley region, where most of the settlers' farms were situated pay a tax on the breasts of their daughters. As the whiteman consolidated his rule in Kenya, other abuses clearly aimed at portraying the African as an inferior person were unashamedly put to practice. One practice which was to provide the Africans with one of the key reasons for open protest against the repressive excess of colonial rule was the issuance of "Kipande" [identity card]. Africans living in urban areas as well as upcountry were required by the whiteman's law to carry an identification card issued by the labour department, but the main purpose of this card went beyond the need to identify the Africans. The "Kipande" which subsequently met with a lot of resistance, was actually aimed at restricting the movement of Africans in their own country. Resistance against unjust land [according to a Crown Land Ordinance issued in 1902, Africans could only own five acres of land for one year on temporary basis2] and identification laws was widespread throughout the country, but this was usually crushed by the colonial machinery of coercion. The ferocity of machinery can be illustrated in a case involving the resist of the Giriama [a coastal tribe] people against the settlers' robbery of their lands. In ensuing clashes with the British forces, a colonial policeman was killed. The colonial government on realising that the Giriama were not going to abandon the resistance to the alienation of their land, placed the whole area under martial law. This led to the massacre of hundreds of Africans, and the capture of thousands of goats, possession of which the colonialists believed made the Africans big headed. In the subsequent years, the iron hand of the colonialists tightened its grips on the Africans with a view to making them more submissive to colonial rule. The Africans however, particularly the more politically enlightened ones were not easily cowed. With sharpening of contradictions between colonialism and nationalism in the country, there emerged in increased awareness of the need and urgency of political change in the country. The few decades running up to the declaration of emergency in the country were therefore characterized by heightened political activities launched by the awakening nationalist forces in the country. These heated political struggles first took the form of peaceful negotiations by political organizations such as the Kikuyu Central Association, the Young Kavirondo Association, the Taita Welfare Society and the Kenya African Union among others. However the fruitless peace negotiations finally gave way to the need for more violent approach to the struggle. In reaction, in October 1952, the colonial government moved against the Kenyan nationalist leadership with a view to crushing it altogether. This in itself marked the turning point for the freedom struggle, spurring men and women in unprecedented numbers to go to the forests to launch a bitter armed struggle against a clearly identified enemy British colonialism. Men chose to step up armed struggle to express their feelings. There was determination to hit back at the wicked hand that had so rudely picked nationalist leaders such as Jomo Kenyatta from the people, whose aspirations they represented. Kenyatta's arrest in particular sparked off a succession of events in the country. The urge to rebel against repression and denial had been fomenting and this vicious stroke of Kenyatta's arrest unleashed the flames of unbridled revolution in the country. Although there had been sporadic acts of protest before October 1952, men did not take to forests - en masse before the emergency. Kenyatta's arrest gave thousands of able-bodied men and women no option but to go into the bush to wage war against the coloniaists. These simple people, who were poorly armed vowed [usually they took a binding oath] to fight to the bitter end. As the war against colonialism escalated, so did the colonial crackdown on suspected Mau Mau freedom movement leaders. Mau Mau was outlawed and branded a terrorist organization by the colonial establishment though it was, in fact, a movement demanding freedom in Kenya and return of the stolen land to its legitimate owners - the Africans. The colonial government's decision to round up all the leading nationalists was, however, not promoted merely by the desire to eliminate Mau Mau, but to eliminate the only political organization, the Kenya African Union [KAU] which was fighting constitutionally for the rights of the Africans. Those leading nationalists rounded up at the declaration of emergeny were arraigned in a kangaroo court in a remote town- Kapenguria in northern Kenya and sentenced to seven years imprisonment with hard labour for managing Mau Mau. During the trial, Kenyatta averred that he believed that the activity of the government in arresting KAU leaders, whom he referred to as innocent people engaged in ordinary business, was not the right way of combating the Mau Mau. He added that those arrested knew very well that the reason for their arrest was not Mau Mau, but because they were going ahead uniting the people in demanding their rights. The government arrested them because it realized that these leaders were able to to organize more than 40,000 people into demanding their rights and used the Mau Mau as a scapegoat to stop this.3 The period 1945-51 had been a crucial one for the independence struggle, for it was around this time that a solid feeling of togetherness was taking root among the different tribes in Kenya. The emergence of such a feeling was a major achievement for the national leaders. Particularly influential was Kenyatta's charismatic personality and gift of leadership, always exerted in such skillful manner as to coordinate with efforts of other leaders. The spread of nationalism in Kenya necessitated that the nationalist leaders address many public rallies in various parts of the country. Jomo Kenyatta, seized every opportunity as in the fight against the "Kipande" system, to promote or place emphasis on which Africans felt strongly, so that national unity would be strengthened both consciously and subconsciously through themes and struggles which could bind people together. In the years leading up to emergency, Kenyatta and other nationalist leaders traveled widely in Kenya delivering speeches and rallying people to struggle for freedom. Much of their effort was directed towards building a national party and forging unity in the country. The declaration of a state of emergency in the country was a desperate attempt by the colonialists to stem the tide of the liberation struggle. Rounded up in large numbers, the nationalist leaders were usually condemned to languish for years in jails or detention camps. However with the subsequent fruition of the struggle these people were, upon their release, garlanded by the masses as heroes of the struggle for Kenya's independence. Besides the political parties and the Mau Mau, there were other forces that pitched themselves against colonialism in Kenya and thus provided fora for those rallying the people to the call for independence. Trade unions were one of the main forces that led the struggle for Kenya's independence, particularly during the hard days of emergency. When KAU was banned in 1952 and its leaders including Jomo Kenyatta-arrested and detained, it was the labour movement then known as the Kenya Federation of Labour [KFL] and led by Tom Mboya, that carried the banner of those nationalists clamouring for change from the colonial masters. During that time the KFL became so active that at one time, there was a motion in the legislative council demanding it be banned. The KFL fought against the injustices done to African workers and raised funds to assist those who been evicted from the "white highlands". Thus besides championing the cause of workers, the labour movement found itself increasingly at the centre of an awakening society demanding political freedom. It was not, therefore, surprising that the colonialists were uneasy about the activities of the KFL An attempt to ban the KFL came during the absence of Tom Mboya who was at that time at Ruskin College in England. Mboya's role as a key figure behind the political campaigns of the K.F.L. enabled him and many others to play an active part in nationalistic politics. When the colonial administration allowed, in 1956, the formation of political parties [at district level] in the country, virtually all the leaders of the parties that sprang up emerged from the labour movement. Some of these parties included the Nairobi Congress Party led by Argwings Kodhek, the Nairobi Peoples Convention Party, the Mombasa African Democratic Union and the South Nyanza Congress to name just a few. Subsequently, however, the district political parties were allowed to progress and come together to form two national parties, the Kenya African National Union [KANU] and the Kenya African Democratic Union [KADU]. Again labour personalities like Mboya, were deeply involved in the organization of the national political parties. Like Mboya, Kodhek boldly championed the freedom struggle, especially during the volatile emergency years. Kodhek who was also the first African lawyer to set up a legal practice in Nairobi, played an important role in defending many Africans arrested during the state of emergency. A good example of this is that in 1953, in Lari, a small town west of Nairobi, there was a massacre after which more than 500 people were arrested, put on a mass trial in a cattle shed and convicted. Kodhek who specialized in criminal law helped 48 of the accused persons successfully to appeal on a legal technicality against the conviction of taking part in the massacre. The lawyer was also adept on the political platform. He made fearless, hard hitting and impassioned speeches in Nairobi which promoted his arrest and charges of making seditious utterances. All said and done, Kenya's first general elections were held in February 1961. Campaigning very largely on the issue of Kenyatta's release and national leadership KANU one of the two newly formed political parties emerged victorious over KADU, winning about two thirds of the vote. In March of the same year, six nominees from each party were authorized as a delegation to visit Kenyatta in Lodwar, a small town in northern Kenya, where he had been restricted. Kenyatta urged them to unite and work for full independence. Kenyatta was released later that year and in August of the same year called for a joint meeting of the two parties. As a result of this meeting the two parties agreed to form an interim coalition government and to hold elections before independence. A constitutional conference was held at Lancaster House in London from February to April 1962, with KADU appearing as the governing party and KANU in the opposition. [Although KANU won the 1961 general elections, the party refused to form a transitional government because of Kenyatta's continued restriction, and this led to KADU's being invited to form the first African government in Kenya.] The conference ultimately shaped the framework of a new Kenyan constitution with the objective of a new Kenyan nation. KANU agreed to join KADU-led transitional government and both parties returned to Kenya anxious to put into practice a national coalition administration and to work towards a general election in May 1963. When the elections came round, KANU scored a far greater victory over KADU than before, and these elections resulted in the all important achievement of internal self-government for the country on June 1 1963. To many Kenyan nationalist leaders, it was a proud moment, a realization of a goal long identified and fought for and which now represented the last lap of the road to independence. To finalize the arrangements for the country's independence, another round of important deliberations was held at Lancaster House in London, between September and October 1963. Among other things the conference agreed on amendments and additions to the constitution that were necessary to effect Kenya's change of status from self-government to independence. This conference confirmed that December 12, 1963 would be the date of the country's independence. On the night of December 11, 1963 over half a million people thronged the Independence Arena in Nairobi to witness the unfolding of a historic ceremony. When the black, red and green flag of independent Kenya was hoisted at midnight [and the Union Jack lowered], it was greeted with the thunderous applause of the crowd below. The glory of the day was underscored by Jomo Kenyatta himself who, as the new prime minister, received the instruments of independence and affirmed: "It is with great pride and pleasure that I receive these constitutional instruments today as embodiment of Kenya's freedom. This is the greatest day in Kenya's history."4 Exactly a year later, on December 12, 1964, Kenya became a republic and the last British governor in Kenya departed, leaving Kenyatta to steer the country as its first president. Indeed Kenya was now a free country having severed a colonial ties and becoming a republic answerable to no one else but its people. THE BITTER STRUGGLE TO INDEPENDENCE BIBLIOGRAPHY 1 Kenyatta, Jomo. Facing Mount Kenya. African Writers Series No 219. London: Heinemann  192. 2 Kanogo, Tabitha. Squatters and the Roots of Mau Mau. 1st ed. James Currey [London] and Heinemann [Nairobi]  38. 3 Kenyatta, Jomo. Facing Mount Kenya. African Writers Series No 219 London: Heinemann  201-202. 4 Ndegwa, R N Mau Mau. A Select Bibliography. Nairobi Kenyatta University College  141 Leakey, Louis S B Defeating Mau Mau. London Methuen 1954. Kenya Ministry of Home Affairs. White Highlands No More. Nairobi Government Printer 1983. Kenya Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Time-Kenya. Where International Co- operation Works. Government Printer 1983. Wa-Githumo, Mwangi. Land and Nationalism. Washington University Press of America. 1981.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|