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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Colonial Warfare pt 10

Kenyans fighting the Japanese in Burma

While the partition of India is the stuff of epic novels and Masterpiece Theater, the bloody end to British rule in Kenya is often overlooked. The whole nature of the British in Kenya reads like a lurid sex novel, complete with murder. The theft of Kikuyu and Masai lands are of lesser interest to people, since white actresses can't be seen semi-nude in the story of destroying the pastoral life of a people.

The Mau Mau rebellion set the stage for rebellions across black Africa, as long simmering resentment towards British rule finally exploded. Like in other colonies, the British-trained ex-soldiers led the way. However, unlike the Congolese or Indonesians, Kenyans, like their Algerian counterparts, had a good grounding in modern warfare. As members of the 11th East Africa Division, they fought the Japanese in Burma as part of the 14th Army.

The 11th East African Division incorporated battalions of the King’s African Rifles and other forces from Kenya, Uganda, Nyasaland (now Malawi), Somaliland (Somalia) and Tanganyika (Tanzania). These Africans – considered by some of their own British officers to have been undervalued and underused as front-line troops by the British commanders – proved extremely hardy and tenacious in several battles, both as combatant soldiers and as medical staff, carriers and other auxiliary participants.
The Askaris or soldiers of 11 East African Division, which included the Kenyans and the Ugandans of the King's African Rifles, proved notable jungle fighters, especially in the notoriously disease-ridden Kabaw Valley (‘Death Valley’) near the Indian border towards the end of 1944.
In December 1944 the 14th Army launched its third and decisive Arakan offensive. The 11th East African Division advance to the River Chindwin, capturing the town of Kalewa.

This solid war record, and the educational efforts used to get the three African divisions (81st and 82nd West African and 11th East African) up to standard would have the effect of creating people who no longer wanted to be ruled by the British. They had fought side by side with the British, beaten the Japanese like the British and wanted to run their own country like the British.

By 1952, disgust with British rule in Kenya would explode in rebellion.

Why did the Kenyans hate the settlers? Well, they lived in a weird fantasyland in which Kenya and Kenyans were mere backdrops.

Altitude sickness
by Javier Gómez-García

The place where this happened was Soysambu Ranch, the property of Baron Delamere at the shore of Lake Elmenteita, in present-day Kenya. The region was the most flourishing development pole in British East Africa, home of some of the most prominent families of colonial aristocracy. But behind the shining there is always a shade. In this case, the dark side was known as the Happy Valley, a name that symbolised a place, the White Highlands; a time, the period between the two world wars; and a community, the European settlers under the Union Jack. And mainly, a lifestyle: the ex-pats lived a never-ending and unrestrained celebration where no human instinct was without satisfaction. "Continual flow champagne", described Waugh, only an occasional visitor surprised by the decadent delirium. In those days an expression became popular, "are you married or do you live in Kenya?". Couples swinging was, after hunting and horse races, the main socialisation ritual.

Today, the fifth Baron of Delamere still lives at Soysambu. He affectionately defines his stepmother, the late Diana Delamere, as a nymphomaniac, which in his opinion was due to the fact that she "didn't ovulate well". Now, hold your breath. Diana, née Caldwell, married the fourth Lord Delamere, who passed away bequeathing a good stretch of his land to her, same as had done her previous husband, Gilbert de Preville Colvile, a friend of Lord Delamere who flattered Diana with a mansion bordering Lake Naivasha called Djinn Palace, a.k.a. Gin Palace, original dwelling of "Molly" Mary Ramsay-Hill, married for the second time to Josslyn Victor Hay, twenty second count of Erroll and an inveterate gigolo formerly married to Idina, who wedded five times. Molly had died of alcohol and heroin abuse when Lord Erroll had an affair with Diana, who after Delamere's demise got married to Sir John Henry Delves Broughton, alias Jock, a friend of Erroll. One night, Erroll was found shot dead. Everyone's eyes where then set on Jock, who in fact scarcely fitted into the role of the outraged husband. The night before the crime, Jock had willingly invited his wife and her new sweetheart to supper and had risen a glass of champagne to the lovebirds' happiness. He himself spent the rest of the evening in the company of a female guest, married to be precise, though Jock was by then so drunk that he hardly could introduce her to the local hospitality rules. The executor hand could belong to any of Erroll's numerous lovers, those whose clothes he liked to wear. Or to any of their respective husbands. The story has it that many of them opened a bottle in silence with the breaking news, perhaps defeated by the identity crisis caused on the long run by swinging, perhaps weary of the tremendous physical erosion produced by orgies, perhaps with a deteriorated health by force of using local fauna for purposes other than game hunting. Sure that it could either be crazy Alice, a rich and morphine-addict heir from Chicago, first married to Count Frederic de Janze and later to Waugh's acquaintance Raymond de Trafford, with whom she fell in love after shooting him. After all, it was only her who perplexed all mourners by starring a nasty erotic show with Erroll's dead body for all to see.

Jock was formally accused but finally acquitted, after which he rented the Djinn Palace for Diana in an attempt to recover her which proved useless. Poor Jock committed suicide with a barbiturate overdose. All of them used to meet at Muthaiga Club in Nairobi, "the place of its kind that has seen more fornication", in the words of Nicholas Best, author of Happy Valley, the story of the English in Kenya.

Oh yeah, they stole the land as well.

Land claims put Kenya in difficult spot
Government fears Pandora's box as indigenous Masai assert ancestral right to white-held ranches

By Laurie Goering
Tribune foreign correspondent
Published October 25, 2004

NANYUKI, Kenya -- For decades, while his cattle have torn scarce nourishment from parched Masai communal grazing lands, Joseph Kuraru has looked through a wire fence at the green pastures of adjoining Lolldaiga Hills Ranch.

Nearly 100 years ago, his forefathers ceded the sprawling 45,000-acre ranch--and much of the high plateau west of Mt. Kenya--to British settlers. Now Kenya's famed pastoralists say 99-year leases on the land, granted by the British colonial government, are up.

In August, Kuraru and his neighbors cut Lolldaiga's fences and herded thousands of their gaunt cattle onto its rocky, green hills. Despite clashes with Kenya's police and ranch owners, they say they have no intention of moving them off again.

"In the next 100 years, we have no problem if we have this land," said Kuraru, 50, leaning on his long spear as his animals grazed around him.

Reclaiming the ranches "is the only solution" to overcrowding and poverty on Masai reserves, he said.

Across Africa, governments are struggling to resolve land ownership disputes that have lingered since the days of colonial seizures. Over the past two years, Zimbabwe's government has confiscated nearly all of the country's white-owned farmland, reapportioning it primarily to government officials. South Africa is slowly buying whites' farmland for resettlement of blacks, or paying compensation to former black owners. Namibia is considering forced buyouts of white-owned ranches

Whites still live in Kenya, still own land. This was the cause of the 1952 rebellion and it remains unsolved today.

1954: British crackdown on Kenya rebels
Security forces have rounded up more than 10,000 men in the biggest anti-Mau Mau operation since a state of emergency was declared in Kenya 18 months ago.

The British authorities have ordered the clampdown on the Mau Mau, a guerilla movement opposed to white settlers in the East African colony, following a breakdown in law and order.

Those suspects found to be Mau Mau supporters will be sent to detention camps for further questioning.

More than 4,000 British and African troops, Nairobi's entire police force and African loyalists are involved in the operation. They have orders to shoot to kill if there is any armed resistance.

Operation Anvil began at dawn this morning with raids on homes throughout the city. Mau Mau supporters are mostly members of the Kikuyu tribe but any suspects are being handed over for further screening.

Rumours about the impending clampdown have persisted for some time and so it was feared many of the rebels may have already escaped to the countryside. But spotter planes have reported no mass exodus from the city.

Since then the government has launched a major offensive against the Mau Mau, sending RAF planes to bomb areas where the gangs are concentrated.

Last year black activist Jomo Kenyatta was jailed for seven years for his part in the organisation of the Mau Mau movement.

The rebellion soon exploded across the country.

Film footage and commentary paints a vivid picture of Kenya before the uprising, with smug Europeans living a life of idle luxury based on African land and labour. But in the post-Second World War world, resentment against colonial rule increased. One by one, African countries demanded self-rule. John Maina Kahihu from the Mau Mau's political wing said, "In 1942 we had fought for the British. But when we came home from the war they gave us nothing."

The settlers felt themselves immune to the changing times. Willoughby Smith, a district officer in the Colonial Service from 1948 to 1955, testifies to this. "The settler knew a lot about how to use African labour. But he could not see what the use of that labour and the production of money was beginning to bring about. He could not see the political change."

The fiercest opposition to the colonial authorities came from the Kikuyu tribe who, 50 years earlier, had been evicted from their traditional areas to make way for the European farmers. By the end of the Second World War, 3,000 European settlers owned 43,000 square kilometres of the most fertile land, only 6 percent of which they cultivated.

The African population of 5.25 million occupied, without ownership rights, less than 135,000 square kilometres of the poorest land. On the "native reserves" much of the land was unsuitable for agriculture. The poor peasants had been forced to abandon their traditional methods of extensive agriculture and did not have access to the new technology that would make intensive agriculture viable. The population could not feed itself and the peasants were desperate.

The commentary explains, "Rumours began to circulate about the formation of a secret society amongst the Kikuyu, Kenya's largest tribe, one-fifth of the population. It was called the Land Freedom Army (LFA). It was forcing Kikuyu to swear an oath to take back the land the white man had stolen.... Any African who refused the oath or was loyal to the colonialists was likely to be brutally murdered. The secret society acquired a new name, though no one knew where from. It was called 'Mau Mau'."

The designation “Mau Mau” was never used by the Kikuyu and does not exist in their language. It was, most probably, invented by the British as part of an attempt to demonise the Kikuyu people. Professor Lonsdale, an historian, explains how the movement was portrayed by the settlers and the government as "the welling up of the old unreconstructed Africa, which had not yet received sufficient colonial enlightenment and discipline, which proved that colonialism still had a job to do."

The core of the LFA was the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA), which was formed in 1924. Its original programme was a combination of radical demands such as the return of expropriated lands and the elimination of the passbook scheme, (similar to the internal passport system in South Africa), with a striving to return to the traditional pre-colonial past. In the late 1930s the KCA led a wave of mass peasant struggles against the forced sale of their livestock to the government.

Much of this political background was not explained in the programme, so it appeared that the Mau Mau arose spontaneously in 1952.

In the 1950s the KCA began conscripting support from the Kikuyu masses, believing it was possible to consolidate their support through the administration of "the oath".

Jacob Njangi, an LFA fighter, explains, "We used to drink the oath. We swore we would not let white men rule us forever. We would fight them even down to our last man, so that man could live in freedom."
Reports of brutality by the British forces began to appear in the press. The Daily Worker carried a report under the headline: "Officer who quit says, 'It's Hitlerism'". The officer concerned was 19-year-old Second Lieutenant David Larder, who after killing an African, chopped off his hand. Afterwards he wrote home in anguish asking, "What has happened to me?"

Other reports told of officers who paid their men five shillings a head "for every 'Mau Mau' they killed". One soldier testified in court that his officer had said he could shoot anybody he liked as long as they were black, because he wanted to increase his company's score of kills to 50.

In late 1953 the British opened a new campaign, code named Operation Anvil, to cut off the supply network to the LFA. The first target was Nairobi, which was believed to be the centre of their organisation. On 24 April 1954, the police rounded up all the African inhabitants in the city—around 100,000 people. The 70,000 Kikuyu were separated and screened. Of them, up to 30,000 men were taken to holding camps. The families of the arrested men were pushed into the already overcrowded native reserves.

In rural areas Kikuyu were forced into fortified villages, where they lived under 23-hour curfew. This policy, known as "villagisation", was claimed to be "purely protective and beneficial for the Africans". It gave the colonial authorities total control over the Kikuyu.

Taking the Mau Mau oath was made a capital offence. Between 1953 and 1956 more than 1,000 Africans were hanged for alleged Mau Mau crimes. Public hangings, which had been outlawed in Britain for over a century, were carried out in Kenya during the emergency

Professor Lonsdale explains, "A mobile gallows was transported around the country dispensing 'justice' to 'Mau Mau' suspects.... Dead 'Mau Mau', especially commanders, were displayed at cross-roads, at market places and at administrative centres."

In 1954 one-third of all Kikuyu men were said to be in prison. These detainees had not been convicted of any crime and were held without trial. The British government insisted that every prisoner had to denounce "the oath" and submit to a "cleansing ceremony"

This brutal repression of the Mau Mau Rebellion only bought time. The British Empire had several ongoing wars at the same time, Korea, Malaya, the Canal Zone, Cyprus, Aden, Suez, Radfan. The empire was falling apart, and the Indian Army was no longer on tap to help solve these problems. By 1960, it was clear the sun was crashing on the British Empire.

posted by Steve @ 11:02:00 AM

11:02:00 AM

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