Middle Africa: Behind the Mau Mau Rebellion

Middle Africa: Behind the Mau Mau Rebellion

When the Mau Mau rebellion broke out in Kenya in the fall of 1952, the American press was quick to interpret it as a “terroristic” uprising by a people barely a few generations away from “savagery.” It was said that Mau Mau was primarily anti-Christian and anti-European, and had as its basic aim the removal of all whites from Kenya. Amid these sensationalistic charges, almost no one troubled to investigate the possible social and political factors underlying the uprising. It was hardly even considered that Mau Mau, despite its “terroristic” manifestations, might be an authentic expression of African needs and demands.

Like the rest of tropical Africa, Kenya has undergone significant social and economic change in the past 50 years. The Kenya African is today reacting to those social and economic changes in all sorts of ways. In fact, at virtually no point during the history of Kenya under British rule have the Africans failed to respond, favorably or unfavorably, to these changes. Particularly is this true of the Kikuyu people, the largest group in Kenya (approx. 1,500,000) and perhaps the most politically conscious, whose response took the form of political organization and agitation. A glance at the history of the Kikuyu’s political response to the changes in his society may thereby place the Mau Mau in its proper historical perspective.

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