Atrocities in Kenya: A Review of David Anderson’s Essay Example
Atrocities in Kenya: A Review of David Anderson’s Essay Example

Atrocities in Kenya: A Review of David Anderson’s Essay Example

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  • Pages: 9 (2297 words)
  • Published: August 12, 2017
  • Type: Essay
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This paper is a review of a book that examines the force in Kenya during the late 1940s and 1950s, particularly focusing on the Mau Mau movement. The Mau Mau were a violent religious group whose goal was to expel the British from Kenya. The book receives both criticism and praise, but ultimately falls short by not providing a comprehensive analysis of the unique nature of the Mau Mau. Its main argument is that both colonizers and settlers are brutalized by colonization.

Achieving anti-colonialism without violence is uncommon in Africa, and the Mau Mau rebellion after World War II in Kenya witnessed some of the most extreme forms of violence. This review will discuss one recent work on this rebellion, exploring its causes and effects on Kenya and Africa as a whole. It will be divided into three sections: an overview of the rebellion's causes, a discussion on major theoretical and


practical issues raised by the book, and finally, an evaluation of the author's methods and overall approach.

Like colonialism in other parts of world history such as French domination in Algeria, Jewish presence in Palestine, or English rule in Ireland; colonialism in Kenya shares similarities. Colonialism refers to an empire's dominance over native civilizations within colonized territories resulting in various manifestations of elitism. One key aspect involves gradual imposition by empires onto colonized societies economically, leading to distortion.The text highlights various elements of colonization and their impact on the colonized land. It discusses how a small privileged group of immigrants from the empire settle in the colonized land, claiming a significant share of economic resources and causing resentment among the local population. Additionally, these colonists maintai

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their citizenship with the empire, receiving protection from any consequences resulting from their exploitative actions. They also adopt a hostile attitude towards the indigenous population, demanding increased military force for suppression. Furthermore, individuals loyal to or aligned with the empire are often promoted to positions of power within the colonized group. Kenya serves as an example where British settlement led to economic exploitation, the formation of a white settler movement (Kenyan Highlanders), and appointment of "chiefs" rewarded with large plots of land for loyalty. These interconnected elements – concentration of economic wealth, dominance by the metropole, and involvement of foreign and local elites – must be considered in any anti-colonial resistance efforts. In Kenya specifically, control over land was crucial for growing coffee and cocoa – key exports post-World War II – which were controlled by both local and foreign elites.Economic conflict escalated post-war, driven by the coffee-boom and a competition among white colonists to acquire more land, even beyond colonial administration control. Similar to the French in Algeria, colonists established their own lifestyle while depending on protection from the metropole. The Kikuyu people faced displacement as white settlement expanded, with their land being taken for white cultivation and chiefs gaining power to enforce control. Initially prospering under British rule, the Kikuyu gradually lost their land and businesses as white settlement expanded. In summary, expanding white settlement in post-World War II Kenya led to the displacement of the Kikuyu population. The text discusses an upcoming war of independence primarily motivated by economic factors such as regaining what was lost to colonists and exploiting western demand for coffee and cocoa products. By the late 1940s, the

Kikuyu had lost their elite status and experienced colonization-induced loss of land. Local population dehumanization and control by colonists resulted in diminished rewards and increased tenant farming. This gave rise to various movements including conservatives comprising remaining Kikuyu elite, wealthy individuals, as well as a faction within the missionary group.In the end, the moderate patriots, led by Jomo Kenyatta, emerged as the victors. This group consisted of the middle class and a majority of missionaries. In contrast, there were hawkish patriots, exemplified by the Mau Mau rebellion, who were mainly black patriots and anti-Christian forces in the country. The rebellion was driven by various causes but two key issues stood out: land reform battle and controversy surrounding female circumcision.

The land reform battle was a significant economic struggle. Centrists formed the Kikuyu Association to demand rational land reform that would return profitable land to African control. These demands were relatively moderate but faced rejection from the British government partly due to opposition from colonists themselves. While this setback was notable, it also added a cultural dimension to the conflict through debates on female circumcision.

Female circumcision had long been practiced in East African society and enjoyed support from most of the population. However, missionaries and elites strongly opposed this practice using it as an opportunity to assert European values as superior to African ones. Both nationalist movements supported female circumcision which further fueled radical sentiment within their ranks.The centrists' failure in land reform efforts ultimately contributed to Mau Mau violence, but they did achieve significant progress in defending female circumcision. Kenyatta's influence remains strong in Kenya even during his exile. He emerges as the first indigenous political

leader since colonization, rejecting violence and tribal divisions within the country. Although he opposes the Mau Mau rebellion, he does not benefit from it. He advocates for racial tolerance and a multi-racial society (333-336ff). Despite being targeted by the British throughout his radical years, he becomes the "moderate" that they desired. However, colonial governments persecuting him at the colonists' insistence proves counterproductive. The rebellion persists into the 1950s and sets a precedent for future African rebellions, causing various issues within existing forces. The British employ divide and rule tactics leading to tribal and economic divisions in the country. Religion also plays a role as elite Christian Kikuyu people are forcibly displaced from their land alongside other settlers. They become prime targets for more aggressive factions of the Mau Mau rebellion and suffer atrocities like the Lani Massacre (126ff).The attack resulted in the deaths of around 300 Africans who were pro-British or moderate and attempting to utilize the all-black home guard for defense against the Mau Mau, despite their lack of proper equipment. This massacre acted as both a warning to cautious individuals and a means for gaining access to British weapons. Both objectives were achieved successfully, and ultimately, the moderates prevailed. The text implies that the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya instilled fear within the population and argues that although inferior in arms and tactics, the Mau Mau possessed qualities such as resilience and public support. Anderson's analysis suggests that the British employed violence and dehumanization under the pretext of combating the Mau Mau. The book effectively combines local issues with broader contexts like economic disruption and cultural division while maintaining an objective approach that

supports its main thesis regarding British utilization of Mau Mau force to conceal their own actions. The "Jack Scott" offense establishes a pattern for how Britain responded to the Mau Mau rebellion, characterized by widespread imprisonment and a refusal to address underlying causes - similar actions taken during Ireland's history. The book highlights parallels between this so-called "Jack Scott" offense and Ireland's "black-and-tan" movement within Britain's colonial military.However, similar to what happened in Ireland, this strategy backfired and undermined peace efforts. Bwana, portrayed by David Drummond, serves as a vivid example of the extreme measures taken by security services to target Mau Mau leaders. This portrayal not only adds color and interest to the story but also showcases the violent tactics employed by both the British and the Mau Mau.

II. Major Issues
Instead of focusing on the chronological events of the rebellion, the book aims to address underlying issues that contributed to it. These include extreme violence and how the British responded to it. The list provided is not exhaustive but highlights key theoretical and tactical points discussed in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the rebellion.

1. The Mau Mau was largely a response to British aggression, although undeniably violent itself. The British media depicted horrifying stories that justified their empire while dehumanizing resistance movements. To them, issues like circumcision and the actions of the Mau Mau proved that their mission was civilizing "barbarians." Settler culture in places like Gaza Strip, Algeria, or Ulster fueled British violence and hindered land reform and economic opportunities for Kenyans. Additionally, this foreign oligarchy distorted Kenya's development and connected economic corruption with national aspirations.
The beginning of the rebellion saw

the British implementing concentration camps for prisoners of war, worsening the situation. By the mid 1950s, there were around 70 of these camps in existence. The Kikuyu people experienced detainment without trial, a practice referred to as "re-education" cantonments. These camps resembled communist "corrective labor camps" and mirrored British attempts to eliminate the Afrikaners earlier in history. This challenges the common interpretation of a "racial" perspective often found in literature on this subject. It could be argued that the concentration camps for white Afrikaners were actually the first systematic and scientific form of "re-education." The revelation of these malicious intentions severely damaged the moral standing of the British empire, known for defeating Nazis and fighting against communism. The trial of Kenyatta himself is particularly absurd as Anderson uncovers that he received a substantial bribe worth ?20,000, further undermining an already biased trial system. Approximately 1,000 out of 3,000 Mau Mau members who faced trial were executed through mass hangings orchestrated by the British authorities. These brutal actions allowed the rebellion to escalate even further into violence.The trials were characterized by beatings and torture, with many "informants" lying or being coerced through bribery or threats. It is important to avoid romanticizing the Mau Mau, as their attacks mostly targeted moderate members of their own Kikuyu ethnic group, resulting in loss of power in the highlands. Ultimately, Kenyatta and his followers claimed moral authority for national liberation. What distinguishes this book is its refusal to idealize the rebel movement, instead providing a realistic portrayal of strengths and weaknesses on both sides. Colonialism not only harms the colonized but also brutalizes the colonizers. Throughout the book, Anderson suggests

that the Mau Mau fought against traditional African leadership structures like religious and political chiefs, aiming to build a modern Kenya based on industry and socialism rather than traditional agriculture favored by more moderate groups. This work critically examines both conquerors and conquered without simplifying it into a morality play - there are no innocent victims; everyone suffers.The book's central argument, that all individuals are complicit in wars like these, is logically valid. To ensure an impartial and fair analysis, it is necessary for authors to adopt this perspective. The moral blame cannot be assigned to the descendants of colonizers based on their colonial heritage and should not be used as a basis for judgment. The racial aspect loses its significance when considering the mistreatment of the Irish and Afrikaners by the British empire, thereby invalidating any racial arguments. Although it may have successfully mobilized African Americans and British people of African descent during the 1960s, it does not apply to the overall pattern of British colonialism where race holds little importance compared to profit and power. This book, along with others on British colonialism, suggests that a person can be considered "white" if they support the Empire's goals regardless of their skin color. The avoidance of both irrelevance and cliche regarding race is a major strength evident in this work. Another significant strength lies in its focus on motivations and perceptions rather than delving into minute details that can easily be found on Wikipedia regarding rebellions. Religion emerges as the most crucial factor in predicting which side Kenyans would align with rather than political ideology; Christians were either conservatives or moderate patriots while Mau

Mau sought to revive pre-colonial religious beliefs. Lastly, emphasis is placed on economic aspects which play a vital role in these eventsUnderstanding this component is crucial to comprehending the rebellion and its related interventions. The rebellion's root cause lies in the gradual marginalization of the Kikuyu people who held power. Additionally, the narrative ingeniously incorporates the global economic system, as the war-triggered surge in coffee prices eventually led to Africa's reliance on this commodity. Consequently, colonists took over more native land for cultivation, resulting in a scarcity of land and reducing a majority of Kenyan population to tenant farmers regardless of their ethnicity. Thus, we can summarize the model as follows: global economic adjustments due to war leading to local changes and a new drive for profits sufficiently explain rebellious actions.

Moreover, there is an understandable gap in this book given the nature of the Mau Mau movement which originated uniquely in Kenya compared to other African rebellions. Are there parallels between Jamaica's Maroons and the Mau Mau? Were similar economic conditions present? Can all these complexities solely be attributed to the coffee industry? Furthermore, what role did the vast American market play?While American consumers sought coffee from Latin America, it raises questions about the dynamics at play. This intense competition may be linked to the strength and inflexibility of the colonist movement in Kenya. In addition, the referee was annoyed by the unsatisfactory lack of comparison with Ireland. Both countries had similar conditions such as population pressure, land scarcity, an elite colonist population, brutal treatment of rebels, dehumanization, belief in the "civilizing mission," religious superiority, individual reliance on agriculture, and other variables that create a

strong parallel. However, this parallel should have been included. Furthermore, there is no resemblance between the Mau Mau in Ireland and even the Defenders who do not fit because they were a secret society without secret rituals or gruesome inclinations like the Mau Mau. Nonetheless, a clear comparison between the Mau Mau and Defenderism could have been made for scientific control but was omitted from this engaging yet non-comparative and therefore non-scientific treatment of the topic.

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