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Kikuyu People

Kikuyu People

The Kikuyu people (aka Gikuyu or Agikuyu) are a Bantu-speaking people who occupied territory in what is today central Kenya in East Africa from the 17th century onwards. They established themselves primarily as agriculturalists around Mount Kenya and the Highlands. The Kikuyu thrived and were able to use their foodstuff surplus to trade with neighbours such as the Maasai people.

Although for much of their history the Kikuyu did not form any centralised political institutions, they did eventually become the driving force of Kenyan nationalism and the anti-colonial movement in the mid-20th century, particularly the Mau Mau uprising. Today, the Kikuyu make up some 20% of the population of Kenya where they are the largest ethnic group.

Origins & Territory

The forerunners of the Kikuyu and several other groups in East Africa were the Thagicu, a Bantu-speaking group who from the late 11th century migrated to the region from central Africa. The Thagicu began to clear the forests around the southern slopes of Mount. Kenya to create land suitable for agriculture. Consequently, as in other regions, the Bantu-speakers spread their knowledge of iron-smelting, pottery-making, and farming skills with indigenous forager and nomadic tribes. Archaeological evidence of iron-smelting and new types of pottery in the area has been radiocarbon dated to the 12th century or even the 11th century.

The name Kikuyu is from the Swahili language whereas the people themselves use the name Gikuyu.

There were also migrations of people to the area from the east coast and northeast Africa (a movement which features in the Kikuyus' own oral traditions), creating a melting pot of cultural and technological exchange that led to thriving communities able to produce a surplus of foodstuffs. By the 17th century, this mix of peoples had evolved into two major and distinct ethnic groups: the Meru and the Kikuyu who spoke a Bantu-derived language of that name. The name Kikuyu is from the Swahili language whereas the people themselves use the name Gikuyu (pron.: geekoyo).

The Kikuyu, moving slowly southwards, came to occupy the territory in what is today central Kenya, south of the River Tana and between the coast and Lake Victoria to the west. This area is sometimes called Kikuyuland. Their southern neighbours were the Maasai and to the north of them were the Somalis. Trade routes largely passed to the south of the Kikuyu area from Pangani on the coast to northern and southern Lake Victoria. Kikuyu traditions do record a long-standing trade with the Akamba people to the south and the closer Maasai. The former exchanged animal skins and uki (a type of beer), while the latter offered cattle, milk, skins, and leather cloaks for staple foodstuffs and manufactured goods. Illustrative of the peaceful relations between these various peoples is the fact that the Akamba often exchanged their labour for goods each harvest time.

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The typical Kikuyu home was a homestead organised around a single extended family with males taking several wives.


The Kikuyu people cultivated millet, above all, but also beans, peas, sorghum, yams, and ndulu (a green vegetable traded in quantity with the Akamba). Some crops like maize and sweet potatoes had been introduced to the region via the Portuguese in the 17th century. Farming methods included the use of irrigation and terracing but were not universally applied by all Kikuyu groups. Tools included hoes, axes, machetes, and digging sticks. Livestock was kept as a source of milk, meat, and leather for clothing. Unlike say the Maasai, animal husbandry was very much secondary to agriculture and so the ownership of cattle, in particular, was a sign of status in Kikuyu society. Not all Kikuyu groups were predominantly agriculturalists, some in the south were pastoralists like the Maasai, or at least semi-pastoralists, while the Athi Kikuyu thrived on hunting and collecting honey and beeswax. Today’s Kikuyu farmers largely concentrate on coffee, maize, and fruit.

Social Structure

In the 17-19th century, the typical Kikuyu home was a homestead organised around a single extended family with males taking several wives. Each wife lived in their own hut. The buildings of the homestead were protected by an encircling stockade of wood or bush. Buildings were made from mud, stone, and vegetable matter, and there was a tradition that a Kikuyu hut had to be built within one day, which meant a good deal of planning, preparation, and communal effort was required. The reason for such a short deadline was because the Kikuyu believed that an unfinished house if left overnight would attract unwanted spirits who might take possession of it.

The Kikuyu had no tribal chiefs, but the population as a whole was divided into several clans and subclans (today there are nine such clan groups). Extended family groups, or mbari, within these clans were headed by a number of senior, related males who were ranked according to their age group. Inheritance went through the male line. Each mbari could be composed of anywhere from 30 to over 300 people. Even though the Kikuyu have abandoned the individual homestead for village life, the mbari remains an important social unit. The importance of family ties is also reflected in the belief that the spirits of ancestors are present and available to help the living. Grouping people into age ranges was very important for social status, as were rites of passage for adolescents, which included male and female circumcision.

The predominance of family units and the physical barriers between groups - many occupied individual mountain ridges - meant that the Kikuyu people had no centralised government, bureaucracy, or even perhaps a sense of belonging to a particular wider ethnic group. This situation of politically and culturally isolated communities was heightened by the strong localised traditions such as oral histories of specific family groups. However, as the UNESCO General History of Africa notes:

Decentralisation…did not mean disorganization or lack of political and social cohesion. These decentralized societies had family, village and district councils made up of elders. Members of each family, clan and district were united by relationships which defined and governed the actions of individuals and established mutual obligations and rights. (Vol V, 414)

Religious Practices

As noted, ancestor worship was a key part of the Kikuyu pre-colonial religious practices. Believed to be capable of helping the living, ancestors were offered certain sacrifices and rituals, called koruta magongona. It was believed that ancestors lived below the ground but they could appear amongst the living when seeking to communicate with them; illness was considered a typical form of such communication. The Kikuyu gods also benefitted from such rituals, the supreme god being Ngai, while others may have been envisaged as supernatural beings without names or form. Ngai was thought to dwell on Mount Kenya and so all rituals were directed at that mountain. A third group of spirits is those who meant to do harm to the living. Religious ceremonies, which aimed to please all of these supernatural beings and call upon their assistance in daily life, included the offering of food and drink, animal sacrifices (sheep and goats), dancing, the temporary observation of taboos, and ritual sexual intercourse. Rituals were not carried out by priests as such but were the reserved domain of community elders, often performed under a particular tree, which was considered sacred.

Foreign Invasions & Conflicts

Despite the long-standing and peaceful cross-regional trade relations, the 19th century witnessed a generally more violent East Africa. There were invasions from the Arab and coastal traders, as well as forces from European states. The Kikuyu were as militaristic as any other tribal peoples in the region in a period where the introduction of firearms meant that only a small band of warriors was required to wreak havoc on its neighbours. Trade caravans travelling to and from the coast were a particular target, as were the resources of poorly defended villages which could also be a source of slaves, valuable for trading. The Kikuyu raiding parties were known as thabari, which derived from the Swahili word safari, meaning a journey or caravan. The Kikuyu seem not to have been interested in cultivating long-term peaceful commercial relations with Arab and Swahili Coast traders over the duration of the 19th century. This was perhaps a symptom of their lack of a centralised political system, which might have allowed the Kikuyu as a whole to take such opportunities or better face the threat from Britain, eager to establish a colony in the region from the late 19th century. The British East Africa Protectorate was established in 1895 and the colony of Kenya in 1920.

The Kikuyu & Modern Kenya

The Kikuyu Central Association (KCA) was established in 1924, and it championed a nationalist agenda in Kenya, which aimed at redressing colonial grievances, taking a firm stance against European ownership of land and certain aspects of missionary work in the country. There were also severe practical problems caused by an increase in population density in the Kikuyu highlands where the soil was no longer able to bear the intensive agriculture required. The KCA brought the Kikuyu to the forefront of African nationalism in Kenya, but the organisation was banned by the British Governemnt during the Second World War (1939-1945). In 1944, the KCA’s successor was created, the Kenyan African Union (KAU). One of the founders of the KCA was Jomo Kenyatta (1891-1978), and he continued to take a prominent role in post-war Kenyan politics, being elected as president of the KAU in 1947.

The so-called ‘Mau Mau’ uprising (a British term of disputed significance) occurred between 1952 and 1960. This was a violent episode in the country’s history, which saw the Kikuyu again take the leadership, but this time in a much more militant, anti-colonial guerrilla action against both white settlers and Kikuyu who were considered collaborators with the colonial system. A particular policy aim was the removal of white landowners from the former Kikuyu territory known as the ‘White Highlands’, a particularly fertile area which the Kikuyu had been excluded from farming by the colonial government. Kenyatta was tried and imprisoned for his role in the uprising, although the evidence used against him was later found to be perjured. The Mau Mau uprising had resulted in the deaths of 32 white civilians and 13,000 Africans. Some 80,000 Kikuyu had been placed in detention camps. Released in 1961, Kenyatta was elected the first Prime Minister of an independent Kenya in 1963 and then made President in 1964 when the country became a republic. After this tumultuous post-war decade, Kenya was then surprisingly peaceful and gained significant economic success, particularly from exports such as tea and coffee and from tourism to its national parks.

Kikuyu People - History

/AFP/Getty Images Soldiers guard Mau Mau fighters behind barbed wires, in October 1952, in the Kikuyu reserve.

When British settlers began pouring into what is now Kenya in 1902, they intended to set up an agricultural colony whose surplus could help pay the costs of other imperial projects in East Africa. To do this, the British needed land and labor, which led them into a series of policy decisions that culminated in a grotesque genocide that the history books have largely overlooked.

The Kikuyu genocide took place in the 1950s, a decade after the Holocaust and the West’s promise to never again allow the destruction of entire peoples, and it saw virtually the entire population of 1.5 million Kikuyu locked up in concentration camps, where they were starved, beaten, and tortured to death by the tens of thousands.

To terrorize the natives, colonists enacted medieval-style public executions and plumbed the depths of what a diseased imagination can inflict on conquered people.

To this day, no serious reckoning has taken place, nor does it seem likely to, as most of the perpetrators are either dead or old enough that prosecutions are virtually out of the question. This, then, is the secret history of the British rule in East Africa.

The identity of the kikuyu

The British had taken farming lands from the Gikuyu and given these lands to white settlers.

Gikuyu were forced to work on these farms and to provide labor for cash crops such as coffee and tea.

The Gikuyu nationalist Jomo Kenyatta (1894–1978) became the first president of Kenya at its independence in 1963.

He is respected among the Gikuyu for his leadership against colonialism (outside rule) and for his status as is regarded as the father of his country.

Today, the Gikuyu, like other Kenyans, participate in a democratic political system. Gikuyu are organized into two major political parties that are considered to be part of the opposition (to the ruling government) in Kenya.

These parties are the Democratic and the Ford-Asili Parties. Political participation is primarily through election to a parliamentary (similar to a congressional) seat (of which there are 188 in Kenya) or through direct election to the national presidency.

Gikuyu Origins

The Gikuyu is one of the “tribes” among the forty two tribes in Kenya, and were originally located in Central Kenya around and about the foot of Mt. Kenya, the snow capped second highest mountain in Africa at 17,040 ft above sea level. There were really no strict boundaries between different peoples. Their neighbours were the Maasai to the South, the Kamba to the South east and the Embu and Meru to the North. They are more closely related to the Embu and Meru but also shared a lot culturally with the Maasai and the Kamba in trade and inter-marriages. (click here or map on right)

Kikuyu is the English form of the proper name of the tribe, the Gikuyu.

The name Akikuyu or Agikuyu with the prefix ‘A’ is usually used to describe the people as entities and ‘a Kikuyu’ and ‘a Mugikuyu’ for an individual being. To describe the language we say, in singular, “This Kikuyu is speaking Kikuyu or this Mugikuyu is speaking Gikuyu”. In the collective we say, “The Akikuyu speak Kikuyu or The Agikuyu speak Gikuyu”. When the definitive article “the” is used, “The Kikuyu tribe speak Kikuyu language or The Gikuyu people speak the Gikuyu language” is also correct. Throughout this site, I, Mukuyu, will always refer to the Gikuyu people as the Gikuyu and Gikuyu when reffering to the language and peoples. The context will usually give you a clear distinction as to whether it is the people or the language being refered to. Rarely will I, Mukuyu, use the term Agikuyu except when absolutely necessary. Never will I use the Englished term Kikuyu or Akikuyu except as a quote from some other source.

The Gikuyu origins are traced by historians as part of the greater Bantu peoples migrations in Africa,(see http://umanitoba.ca/faculties/arts/anthropology/courses/122/module2/bantu.html.) The best and most comprehensive is by Professor Godfrey Muriuki (A history of the Kikuyu 1500-1900 by Godfrey Muriuki)* Were, one of the foremost historians in Kenya admits that “The early history of the Kikuyu is still unknown”**, but goes on to posit that the Bantu migrated into the Mt. Kenya region in waves and not as a group from AD 1300. The Gikuyu seem to have been a grouping of such bands. A group certainly came from the South from the Taita region and is related more to the Kamba, Chaaga and Taita. (Were map) Other bands, that included the Meru, Embu and Mbeere migrated from the North in Ethiopia and others from the Central Africa. This would account for the various quite distinct facial characteristics among the Gikuyu. A round stocky soft face and the thin sharply defined cheek and forehead features being the main types. The intermarriages with the Maasai, the Kamba, and the original inhabitants of Gikuyuland, the short Gumba and the tall Dorobo and Athi complicated the gene pool even further. Today with the added gene pool from the British soldiers who participated in mass rapes of Gikuyu women in 1952-58, the picture is very complicated.

For speculative purposes only I offer my opinion of observed main types for what it is worth. This is that the group that moved to Northern Kikuyuland, towards the sacred Mountain was the more spiritually inclined and was mainly from Ethiopian origins. The group that moved South towards the Coastal trade routes was the more enterprising and linked to the Kamba traders and trade routes to the Coast.

Continuing studies in linguistics and modern methods in medicine like gene mapping, etc. (see http://med.stanford.edu/mcr/2008/Y-chromosome-0806.html ) may some day shed more light on the origin and complicated gene pool of the Gikuyu.

This kind of complicated migration story is not the kind of narrative that can be handed down in oral tradition and as Amstrong observes, “Unless a historical event is mythologized, it cannot become a source of religious inspiration”*** It cannot endure and history without myth is cold and lifeless. It is even doubtful that history without myth can exist. The Gikuyu myth of origin like other myths of origin relates a garden of Eden scenario where God comes into the picture. According to this myth, the first man, Gikuyu walked with God, Ngai, Mwene Nyaga, Murungu, Mugai, or any number of other names given to Him. Call Him Ngai.

The scene starts at the top of “The Mountain of God”, Kiri Nyaga generally called Mt Kenya. This is where God showed the first Gikuyu man the land below and instructed him to go to a specific spot to the South of the mountain where there was a grove of fig trees, Mikuyu. Gikuyu descended the mountain and on arrival at the place found a woman. I suppose he introduced himself and Gikuyu and Mumbi became husband and wife. He was also told that he could make contact with this Ngai at any time by praying to him while facing Mt. Kenya or by sacrificing a goat under the Mukuyu or another type of fig tree, the Mugumo.

The name Gikuyu means a huge fig tree – Mukuyu, and Mumbi means Creator. The roots of the Mukuyu entered into the Great Mother Earth each nourishing the other and connecting with God. Man and the Goddess of Creation came together and as the milk essence from the Mukuyu entered the earth, the Gikuyu and the Mumbi brought forth the ten daughters who became the mothers of the ten Gikuyu clans. Think of the sun and moon and the ten planets.

When the girls became of age and began to have yearnings for their own husbands, they went to their mother and asked her where she got her’s. She took the problem to her husband Gikuyu. Gikuyu consulted Ngai, God and Ngai asked him to make a sacrifice of a spotless ram under the fig tree “Mugumo”. He called his daughters and asked them to go to the Mukuyu and for them to cut for each a straight rod of her own height. Nine of the girls brought the rods and their father placed them on top of the fire as ndara and then placed the sacrifice on them. In the morning NINE young men appeared and each of the daughters took a mate her own height. The last born Wamuyu was too young to take part on the rod’s business and thus remained without a husband. The others married young men “A Gikuyu” meaning “of the great Mukuyu tree”

Gakaara wa Wanjau in “Warahuri wa Muhooere wa Gikuyu na Mumbi. compares Gikuyu worship with the Adam and Eve story of Genesis thus:****

  • Gikuyu unlike Adam was not fashioned from mud but from the word.
  • Mumbi was not created from Gikuyu’s rib like Eve but existed simultaneously if not before the man.
  • There is no mention of sin, damnation and the messy start of lies, deception, murder, calumny and acrimony characteristic of the Bible’s Genesis and which are the main features of Western Christianity.
  • Gikuyu and Mumbi were never cursed.

The original location of the Gikuyu Eden has been generally identified as being in Central Province near Gaturi village of Muranga District at a place called Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga. It is believed by the Gikuyu to be the cradle of the tribe. The map below taken from Google Earth shows that you will take the Muranga – Othaya road to Nyeri and branch off right at a market town called Karuri.

It seems like myth has always had a greater attraction and meaning to humans than so-called facts and most Gikuyu seem to take this creation myth very literally as actual occurrences beyond question. They would cling to the myth even if scientists were to definitively “prove” through gene mapping and so forth that the Gikuyu originated in Egypt from a group of slaves in Egypt who fled the Pharoah to the South as another the Hebrews led by Moses fled North.

What seems certain is that moving bands of migrating Bantu groups dispersed from several nodal points notably Central Africa, Ethiopia, South Africa at various times. What the Gikuyu may have retained in their collective memory is such a point of dispersal which they give the name Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga, a sort of Garden of Eden for them. Let us try to locate it. Like many garden of Eden’s there was a tree of Origin involved, in fact for the Gikuyu three important trees.

Three Trees****

  • The tree of origin for the Gikuyu is the Mukuyu, (Ficus sycomorus), a fig tree with a nice, beautiful and evergreen shade which provides a wonderful shadow as a sanctuary from the African sun. Since these trees grow to a great age and height an old one can be called a gikuyu. From high up in the mountain looking down they are landmarks or nodes in the landscape.It is to a groove of these trees that Gikuyu was pointed to by Ngai from Mt. Kenya and to where Gikuyu went to establish his first homestead and from which he got his name, Gikuyu. The picture on the right shows a gikuyu being used by the Gikuyu as “Axis Mundi”, “Tree of Life”, or “Origin” in a music ceremony the “Gicukia” photographed here by Father Cagnolo at around 1910. The ashes from its branches is super white and mixed with fat made the white paste dancers painted their bodies with. This paste was called ira exactly the name given to Ngai’s white snow on top of Mt Kenya. All major Gikuyu religious sacrifices were done under this tree and the name of the tribe Gikuyu is derived from it.
  • A fig tree, mugumo, (Ficus thonningii) grows either independently or as a parasite on another tree entangling itself around it and with roots coming down from branches above. The mugumo tree is the second most sacred tree among the Gikuyu and under which sacrifices to Ngai were also done. This tree grows to a great height and age but without an interesting shadow or comfortable base. An old one is truly an awesome sight, like the famous 15 feet diameter one near Thika that had to fall before Kenya could gain independence from Britain. The picture on the right bottom shows a mugumo tree.*****
  • The site of the first homestead according to myth was called Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga in Muranga. The Mukurwe (Albizia gummifera), was a common tree found in most parts of Gikuyu land and had a variety of uses. Its trunk was used for building, the branches for firewood and leaves are also feed for goats. The mukurwe was a utilitarian tree where the mukuyu and the mugumo were sacred. The Nyagathanga bird made its nest at this particular tree and hence the name Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga, the Mukurwe belonging to the Nyagathanga bird. Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga as a site was the habitation of Nature long before the appearance of man and woman and the idea that a site can be demarcated and owned.

I would like here to speculate that the practical needs for the establishment of a homestead like, availability of water, fuel, building materials could have been just as important in the choice of place as those of religious meaning, if not more important. The name for Gikuyu’s companion Mumbi, means Creator which means she fashioned things from clay and as a potter she would also have needed a place with good clay just as Gikuyu would have needed lots of building materials.

It seems like the place would have had to have the following characteristics.

  • In the immediate vicinity of a huge fig tree, mukuyu or Gikuyu, around which the daily activities of the homestead were centered. This tree could also have been the locator of the place from afar. It gave the tribe its name, Gikuyu.
  • Near or surrounded by lesser trees like mukurwe, muringa, muhu and other utilitarian trees suitable for firewood, building materials, animal feed etc.
  • In the neighbourhood of a mugumo, the sacrificial tree and certainly not next to it. Near a source of drinking water, Gathambara.
  • In a fertile place ready for agricultural exploitation.
  • Near a source of good clay useful for pottery.

Are all these present at Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga? The answer unsurprisingly is that in all Kikuyuland it is the one place with the a good if not the best, combination of all the above.

Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga means, “The tree where the Nyagathanga bird dwelleth”. The bird preceded the woman and they have a special relationship and bond. The woman preceded the man and was at Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga first.

And finally, it may well be that the place only existed as a metaphor and was never meant to be a physical locale. This would bring it at par with other mythical places of origin like the Garden of Eden and others fantastic places like Eldorado and Shangri-la. These places and such ideas and beliefs in the existence of a Holy Grail, a Golden Fleece, a Philosopher’s Stone etc. are vitally important in their contribution to a people’s search for wholeness and are embedded in human psyche.

In conclusion, this post has opened discussion on several questions on the ideas of “Location” or “Place” of Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga in Gikuyu consciousness. Like the spiral of the Gikuyu basket, kiondo, we have to follow the string backwards through all the stages, till we arrive at the naval, mukonyo. The search for the original location of Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga may have only began.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
– T. S. Elliot

* Muriuki, Godfrey. 1974. A history of the Kikuyu 1500-1900. Nairobi, Oxford University Press.

** Were, Gideon S., and Derek A. Wilson. 1985. East Africa through a thousand years: a history of the years AD 1000 to the present day. London: Evans Brothers.

*** Armstrong, Karen. 2005. A short history of myth. Edinburgh: Canongate.

**** Wanjau, Gakaara wa, 1999. Warahuri wa Muhooere wa Gikuyu na Mumbi. Karatina: Gakaara Press Ltd.

***** Beech, Mervyn W. H. 1913. “3. The Sacred Fig-Tree of the A-Kikuyu of East Africa“. Man. 13: 4-6.

Post updated to accommodate Gikuyu cultural icon, Gakaara wa Wanjau’s views on 19th September 2009 .

Post updated to accommodate academic historian, Professor Gideon S. Were’s views and correct citations on 17th September 2011

Mugai beckoned Gikuyu, father of the Gikuyu, to the sacred mountain and said: “You shall carve your inheritance from this land, it shall belong to you and your children’s children.” And Gikuyu went to a grove of sacred fig trees where, resting in the shade, he found the most beautiful of women. He took her for his wife and named her Mumbi, the creator of the tribe.

Gikuyu and Mumbi built a home and had nine daughters. Their nine daughters matured into beautiful women. Their cheerful laughter was like the sweet chorus of birds and their milky teeth glittered like white doves in flight. When they walked, the melody of the beads around their waists rose to the sky, deep, somber, and enchanting. But with every full moon, they felt the flow of the rising tide searing like glowing firewood in their wombs. They beseeched their parents: “For many seasons you have held and comforted us but now we wish to have homes of our own so that your names may be whispered from generation to generation.” For many moons, Gikuyu and Mumbi searched their hearts. At last, in despair, Gikuyu fell upon his knees.


The origin of the term Mau Mau is uncertain. 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). [17] Some publications, such as Fred Majdalany's State of Emergency: The Full Story of Mau Mau, claim 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 also says the British simply used the name as a label for the Kikuyu ethnic community without assigning any specific definition. [18]

Akamba people say the name Mau Mau came from Ma Umau meaning 'Our Grandfathers'. The term was first used during a pastoralists revolt against de-stocking that took place in 1938 led by Muindi Mbingu, during which he urged the colonists to leave Kenya so that his people (the kamba) could live freely like the time of 'Our Grandfathers' ("Twenda kwikala ta maau mau maitu, tuithye ngombe ta Maau mau maitu, nundu nthi ino ni ya maau mau maitu").

As the movement progressed, a Swahili backronym was adopted: "Mzungu Aende Ulaya, Mwafrika Apate Uhuru" meaning "Let the foreigner go back abroad, let the African regain independence". [19] J. M. Kariuki, a member of Mau Mau who was detained during the conflict, suggests the British preferred to use the term Mau Mau instead of KLFA to deny the Mau Mau rebellion international legitimacy. [20] Kariuki also wrote that the term Mau Mau was adopted by the rebellion in order to counter what they regarded as colonial propaganda. [19]

Another possible origin is a mishearing of the Kikuyu word for oath: "muuma " . [21]

Author and activist Wangari Maathai indicates that, to her, the most interesting story of the origin of the name is the Kikuyu phrase for the beginning of a list. When beginning a list in Kikuyu, you say, "maũndũ ni mau " , "the main issues are. ", and hold up three fingers to introduce them. Maathai says the three issues for the Mau Mau were land, freedom, and self-governance. [22]

—Deputy Governor to Secretary of State
for the Colonies, 19 March 1945

The armed rebellion of the Mau Mau was the culminating response to colonial rule. [24] [25] . Although there had been previous instances of violent resistance to colonialism, the Mau Mau revolt was the most prolonged and violent anti-colonial warfare in the British Kenya colony. From the start, the land was the primary British interest in Kenya, [26] which had "some of the richest agricultural soils in the world, mostly in districts where the elevation and climate make it possible for Europeans to reside permanently". [27] Though declared a colony in 1920, the formal British colonial presence in Kenya began with a proclamation on 1 July 1895, in which Kenya was claimed as a British protectorate. [28]

Even before 1895, however, Britain's presence in Kenya was marked by dispossession and violence. In 1894, British MP Sir Charles Dilke had observed in the House of Commons, "The only person who has up to the present time benefited from our enterprise in the heart of Africa has been Mr. Hiram Maxim". [29] During the period in which Kenya's interior was being forcibly opened up for British settlement, there was plenty of conflict and British troops carried out atrocities against the native population. [30] [31]

Opposition to British imperialism existed from the start of British occupation. The most notable include the Nandi Resistance of 1895–1905 [32] the Giriama Uprising of 1913–1914 [33] the women's revolt against forced labour in Murang'a in 1947 [34] and the Kolloa Affray of 1950. [35] None of the armed uprisings during the beginning of British colonialism in Kenya were successful. [36] The nature of fighting in Kenya led Winston Churchill to express concern in 1908 about how it would look if word got out:

One hundred and sixty Gusii have now been killed outright without any further casualties on our side. . . . It looks like a butchery. If the H. of C. gets hold of it, all our plans in E.A.P. will be under a cloud. Surely it cannot be necessary to go on killing these defenceless people on such an enormous scale. [37] [38] [39] [40]

—Chief Native Commissioner of Kenya, 1925

Settler societies during the colonial period could own a disproportionate share of land. [42] The first settlers arrived in 1902 as part of Governor Charles Eliot's plan to have a settler economy pay for the Uganda Railway. [43] [44] The success of this settler economy would depend heavily on the availability of land, labour and capital, [45] and so, over the next three decades, the colonial government and settlers consolidated their control over Kenyan land, and 'encouraged' native Kenyans to become wage labourers.

Until the mid-1930s, the two primary complaints were low native Kenyan wages and the requirement to carry an identity document, the kipande. [46] From the early 1930s, however, two others began to come to prominence: effective and elected African-political-representation, and land. [46] The British response to this clamour for agrarian reform came in the early 1930s when they set up the Carter Land Commission. [47]

The Commission reported in 1934, but its conclusions, recommendations and concessions to Kenyans were so conservative that any chance of a peaceful resolution to native Kenyan land-hunger was ended. [24] Through a series of expropriations, the government seized about 7,000,000 acres (28,000 km 2 11,000 sq mi) of land, most of it in the fertile hilly regions of Central and Rift Valley Provinces, later known as the White Highlands due to the exclusively European-owned farmland there. [45] In Nyanza the Commission restricted 1,029,422 native Kenyans to 7,114 square miles (18,430 km 2 ), while granting 16,700 square miles (43,000 km 2 ) to 17,000 Europeans. [48] By the 1930s, and for the Kikuyu in particular, land had become the number one grievance concerning colonial rule, [46] the situation so acute by 1948 that 1,250,000 Kikuyu had ownership of 2,000 square miles (5,200 km 2 ), while 30,000 British settlers owned 12,000 square miles (31,000 km 2 ), albeit most of it not on traditional Kikuyu land. "In particular", the British government's 1925 East Africa Commission noted, "the treatment of the Giriama tribe [from the coastal regions] was very bad. This tribe was moved backwards and forwards so as to secure for the Crown areas which could be granted to Europeans." [49]

The Kikuyu, who lived in the Kiambu, Nyeri and Murang'a areas of what became Central Province, were one of the ethnic groups most affected by the colonial government's land expropriation and European settlement [50] by 1933, they had had over 109.5 square miles (284 km 2 ) of their potentially highly valuable land alienated. [51] The Kikuyu mounted a legal challenge against the expropriation of their land, but a Kenya High Court decision of 1921 reaffirmed its legality. [52] In terms of lost acreage, the Masai and Nandi people were the biggest losers of land. [53]

The colonial government and white farmers also wanted cheap labour [54] which, for a period, the government acquired from native Kenyans through force. [51] Confiscating the land itself helped to create a pool of wage labourers, but the colony introduced measures that forced more native Kenyans to submit to wage labour: the introduction of the Hut and Poll Taxes (1901 and 1910 respectively) [51] [55] the establishment of reserves for each ethnic group, which isolated ethnic groups and often exacerbated overcrowding [56] the discouragement of native Kenyans' growing cash crops [51] the Masters and Servants Ordinance (1906) and an identification pass known as the kipande (1918) to control the movement of labour and to curb desertion [51] [57] and the exemption of wage labourers from forced labour and other compulsory, detested tasks such as conscription. [58] [59]

Native labourer categories Edit

Native Kenyan labourers were in one of three categories: squatter, contract, or casual. [C] By the end of World War I, squatters had become well established on European farms and plantations in Kenya, with Kikuyu squatters comprising the majority of agricultural workers on settler plantations. [45] An unintended consequence of colonial rule, [45] the squatters were targeted from 1918 onwards by a series of Resident Native Labourers Ordinances—criticised by at least some MPs [60] —which progressively curtailed squatter rights and subordinated native Kenyan farming to that of the settlers. [61] The Ordinance of 1939 finally eliminated squatters' remaining tenancy rights, and permitted settlers to demand 270 days' labour from any squatters on their land. [62] and, after World War II, the situation for squatters deteriorated rapidly, a situation the squatters resisted fiercely. [63]

In the early 1920s, though, despite the presence of 100,000 squatters and tens of thousands more wage labourers, [64] there was still not enough native Kenyan labour available to satisfy the settlers' needs. [65] The colonial government duly tightened the measures to force more Kenyans to become low-paid wage-labourers on settler farms. [66]

The colonial government used the measures brought in as part of its land expropriation and labour 'encouragement' efforts to craft the third plank of its growth strategy for its settler economy: subordinating African farming to that of the Europeans. [51] Nairobi also assisted the settlers with rail and road networks, subsidies on freight charges, agricultural and veterinary services, and credit and loan facilities. [45] The near-total neglect of native farming during the first two decades of European settlement was noted by the East Africa Commission. [67]

The resentment of colonial rule would not have been decreased by the wanting provision of medical services for native Kenyans, [68] nor by the fact that in 1923, for example, "the maximum amount that could be considered to have been spent on services provided exclusively for the benefit of the native population was slightly over one-quarter of the taxes paid by them". [41] The tax burden on Europeans in the early 1920s, meanwhile, was very light relative to their income. [41] Interwar infrastructure-development was also largely paid for by the indigenous population. [69]

Kenyan employees were often poorly treated by their European employers, with some settlers arguing that native Kenyans "were as children and should be treated as such". Some settlers flogged their servants for petty offences. To make matters even worse, native Kenyan workers were poorly served by colonial labour-legislation and a prejudiced legal-system. The vast majority of Kenyan employees' violations of labour legislation were settled with "rough justice" meted out by their employers. Most colonial magistrates appear to have been unconcerned by the illegal practice of settler-administered flogging indeed, during the 1920s, flogging was the magisterial punishment-of-choice for native Kenyan convicts. The principle of punitive sanctions against workers was not removed from the Kenyan labour statutes until the 1950s. [70]

—Speech by Deputy Colonial Governor
30 November 1946

As a result of the situation in the highlands and growing job opportunities in the cities, thousands of Kikuyu migrated into cities in search of work, contributing to the doubling of Nairobi's population between 1938 and 1952. [72] At the same time, there was a small, but growing, class of Kikuyu landowners who consolidated Kikuyu landholdings and forged ties with the colonial administration, leading to an economic rift within the Kikuyu.

Mau Mau were the militant wing of a growing clamour for political representation and freedom in Kenya. The first attempt to form a countrywide political party began on 1 October 1944. [73] This fledgling organisation was called the Kenya African Study Union. Harry Thuku was the first chairman, but he soon resigned. There is dispute over Thuku's reason for leaving KASU: Bethwell Ogot says Thuku "found the responsibility too heavy" [73] David Anderson states that "he walked out in disgust" as the militant section of KASU took the initiative. [74] .</ref> KASU changed its name to the Kenya African Union (KAU) in 1946. Author Wangari Maathai writes that many of the organizers were ex-soldiers who fought for the British in Ceylon, Somalia, and Burma during the Second World War. When they returned to Kenya, they were never paid and did not receive recognition for their service, whereas their British counterparts were awarded medals and received land, sometimes from the Kenyan veterans. [75]

The failure of KAU to attain any significant reforms or redress of grievances from the colonial authorities shifted the political initiative to younger and more militant figures within the native Kenyan trade union movement, among the squatters on the settler estates in the Rift Valley and in KAU branches in Nairobi and the Kikuyu districts of central province. [76] Around 1943, residents of Olenguruone Settlement radicalised the traditional practice of oathing, and extended oathing to women and children. [77] By the mid-1950s, 90% of Kikuyu, Embu and Meru were oathed. [78] On 3 October 1952, Mau Mau claimed their first European victim when they stabbed a woman to death near her home in Thika. [79] Six days later, on 9 October, Senior Chief Waruhiu was shot dead in broad daylight in his car, [80] which was an important blow against the colonial government. [81] Waruhiu had been one of the strongest supporters of the British presence in Kenya. His assassination gave Baring the final impetus to request permission from the Colonial Office to declare a State of Emergency. [82]

The Mau Mau attacks were mostly well organised and planned.

The Mau Mau military strategy was mainly guerrilla attacks launched under the cover of dark. They used stolen weapons such as guns, as well as weapons such as machetes and bows and arrows in their attacks. In a few limited cases, they also deployed biological weapons. [86]

Women formed a core part of the Mau Mau, especially in maintaining supply lines. Initially able to avoid the suspicion, they moved through colonial spaces and between Mau Mau hideouts and strongholds, to deliver vital supplies and services to guerrilla fighters including food, ammunition, medical care, and of course, information. [87] An unknown number also fought in the war, with the most high-ranking being Field Marshal Muthoni.

The British and international view was that Mau Mau was a savage, violent, and depraved tribal cult, an expression of unrestrained emotion rather than reason. Mau Mau was "perverted tribalism" that sought to take the Kikuyu people back to "the bad old days" before British rule. [88] [89] The official British explanation of the revolt did not include the insights of agrarian and agricultural experts, of economists and historians, or even of Europeans who had spent a long period living amongst the Kikuyu such as Louis Leakey. Not for the first time, [90] the British instead relied on the purported insights of the ethnopsychiatrist with Mau Mau, it fell to Dr. John Colin Carothers to perform the desired analysis. This ethnopsychiatric analysis guided British psychological warfare, which painted Mau Mau as "an irrational force of evil, dominated by bestial impulses and influenced by world communism", and the later official study of the uprising, the Corfield Report. [91]

The psychological war became of critical importance to military and civilian leaders who tried to "emphasise that there was in effect a civil war, and that the struggle was not black versus white", attempting to isolate Mau Mau from the Kikuyu, and the Kikuyu from the rest of the colony's population and the world outside. In driving a wedge between Mau Mau and the Kikuyu generally, these propaganda efforts essentially played no role, though they could apparently claim an important contribution to the isolation of Mau Mau from the non-Kikuyu sections of the population. [92]

By the mid-1960s, the view of Mau Mau as simply irrational activists was being challenged by memoirs of former members and leaders that portrayed Mau Mau as an essential, if radical, component of African nationalism in Kenya and by academic studies that analysed the movement as a modern and nationalist response to the unfairness and oppression of colonial domination. [93]

There continues to be vigorous debate within Kenyan society and among the academic community within and without Kenya regarding the nature of Mau Mau and its aims, as well as the response to and effects of the uprising. [94] [95] Nevertheless, partly because as many Kikuyu fought against Mau Mau on the side of the colonial government as joined them in rebellion, [14] the conflict is now often regarded in academic circles as an intra-Kikuyu civil war, [96] [95] a characterisation that remains extremely unpopular in Kenya. [97] Kenyatta described the conflict in his memoirs as a civil war rather than a rebellion. [98] The reason that the revolt was majorly limited to the Kikuyu people was, in part, that they had suffered the most as a result of the negative aspects of British colonialism. [99] [100]

Wunyabari O. Maloba regards the rise of the Mau Mau movement as "without doubt, one of the most important events in recent African history". [101] David Anderson, however, considers Maloba's and similar work to be the product of "swallowing too readily the propaganda of the Mau Mau war", noting the similarity between such analysis and the "simplistic" earlier studies of Mau Mau. [46] This earlier work cast the Mau Mau war in strictly bipolar terms, "as conflicts between anti-colonial nationalists and colonial collaborators". [46] Caroline Elkins' 2005 study, Imperial Reckoning, has met similar criticism, as well as being criticised for sensationalism. [102] [103]

Broadly speaking, throughout Kikuyu history, there have been two traditions: moderate-conservative and radical. [105] Despite the differences between them, there has been a continuous debate and dialogue between these traditions, leading to a great political awareness among the Kikuyu. [105] [106] By 1950, these differences, and the impact of colonial rule, had given rise to three native Kenyan political blocks: conservative, moderate nationalist and militant nationalist. [107] It has also been argued that Mau Mau was not explicitly national, either intellectually or operationally. [108]

Bruce Berman argues that, "While Mau Mau was clearly not a tribal activism seeking a return to the past, the answer to the question of 'was it nationalism?' must be yes and no." [109] 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. [110] This neat division between loyalists and Mau Mau was a product of the conflict, rather than a cause or catalyst of it, with the violence becoming less ambiguous over time, [111] in a similar manner to other situations. [112] [113]

British reaction to the uprising Edit

Philip Mitchell retired as Kenya's governor in summer 1952, having turned a blind eye to Mau Mau's increasing activity. [114] Through the summer of 1952, however, Colonial Secretary Oliver Lyttelton in London received a steady flow of reports from Acting Governor Henry Potter about the escalating seriousness of Mau Mau violence, [79] but it was not until the later part of 1953 that British politicians began to accept that the rebellion was going to take some time to deal with. [115] At first, the British discounted the Mau Mau rebellion [116] because of their own technical and military superiority, which encouraged hopes for a quick victory. [115]

The British army accepted the gravity of the uprising months before the politicians, but its appeals to London and Nairobi were ignored. [115] On 30 September 1952, Evelyn Baring arrived in Kenya to permanently take over from Potter Baring was given no warning by Mitchell or the Colonial Office about the gathering maelstrom into which he was stepping. [79]

Aside from military operations against Mau Mau fighters in the forests, the British attempt to defeat the movement broadly came in two stages: the first, relatively limited in scope, came during the period in which they had still failed to accept the seriousness of the revolt the second came afterwards. During the first stage, the British tried to decapitate the movement by declaring a State of Emergency before arresting 180 alleged Mau Mau leaders (see Operation Jock Scott) and subjecting six of them to a show trial (the Kapenguria Six) the second stage began in earnest in 1954, when they undertook a series of major economic, military and penal initiatives. [ citation needed ]

The second stage had three main planks: a large military-sweep of Nairobi leading to the internment of tens of thousands of the city's suspected Mau Mau members and sympathisers (see Operation Anvil below) the enacting of major agrarian reform (the Swynnerton Plan) and the institution of a vast villagisation programme for more than a million rural Kikuyu (see below). In 2012, the UK government accepted that prisoners had suffered "torture and ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration". [117]

The harshness of the British response was inflated by two factors. First, the settler government in Kenya was, even before the insurgency, probably the most openly racist one in the British empire, with the settlers' violent prejudice attended by an uncompromising determination to retain their grip on power [118] and half-submerged fears that, as a tiny minority, they could be overwhelmed by the indigenous population. [119] Its representatives were so keen on aggressive action that George Erskine referred to them as "the White Mau Mau". [119] Second, the brutality of Mau Mau attacks on civilians made it easy for the movement's opponents—including native Kenyan and loyalist security forces—to adopt a totally dehumanised view of Mau Mau adherents. [118]

Resistance to both the Mau Mau and the British response was illustrated by Ciokaraine M'Barungu who famously asked that the British colonial forces not destroy the food used by her villagers, potentially starving the entire region. Instead, she urged the colonial forces guard the yams and bananas and stop the Mau Mau from killing any more residents. [120]

A variety of coercive techniques were initiated by the colonial authorities to punish and break Mau Mau's support: Baring ordered punitive communal-labour, collective fines and other collective punishments, and further confiscation of land and property. By early 1954, tens of thousands of head of livestock had been taken, and were allegedly never returned. [121] Detailed accounts of the policy of seizing livestock from Kenyans suspected of supporting Mau Mau rebels were finally released in April 2012. [122]

State of emergency declared (October 1952) Edit

On 20 October 1952, Governor Baring signed an order declaring a state of emergency. Early the next morning, Operation Jock Scott was launched: the British carried out a mass-arrest of Jomo Kenyatta and 180 other alleged Mau Mau leaders within Nairobi. [123] [124] Jock Scott did not decapitate the movement's leadership as hoped, since news of the impending operation was leaked. Thus, while the moderates on the wanted list awaited capture, the real militants, such as Dedan Kimathi and Stanley Mathenge (both later principal leaders of Mau Mau's forest armies), fled to the forests. [125]

The day after the round up, another prominent loyalist chief, Nderi, was hacked to pieces, [126] and a series of gruesome murders against settlers were committed throughout the months that followed. [127] The violent and random nature of British tactics during the months after Jock Scott served merely to alienate ordinary Kikuyu and drive many of the wavering majority into Mau Mau's arms. [128] Three battalions of the King's African Rifles were recalled from Uganda, Tanganyika and Mauritius, giving the regiment five battalions in all in Kenya, a total of 3,000 native Kenyan troops. [123] To placate settler opinion, one battalion of British troops, from the Lancashire Fusiliers, was also flown in from Egypt to Nairobi on the first day of Operation Jock Scott. [129] .</ref> In November 1952, Baring requested assistance from the Security Service. For the next year, the Service's A.M. MacDonald would reorganise the Special Branch of the Kenya Police, promote collaboration with Special Branches in adjacent territories, and oversee coordination of all intelligence activity "to secure the intelligence Government requires". [130]

—Percy Sillitoe, Director General of MI5
Letter to Evelyn Baring, 9 January 1953

In January 1953, six of the most prominent detainees from Jock Scott, including Kenyatta, were put on trial, primarily to justify the declaration of the Emergency to critics in London. [125] [132] The trial itself was claimed to have featured a suborned lead defence-witness, a bribed judge, and other serious violations of the right to a fair trial.

Native Kenyan political activity was permitted to resume at the end of the military phase of the Emergency. [133]

Military operations Edit

The onset of the Emergency led hundreds, and eventually thousands, of Mau Mau adherents to flee to the forests, where a decentralised leadership had already begun setting up platoons. [134] The primary zones of Mau Mau military strength were the Aberdares and the forests around Mount Kenya, whilst a passive support-wing was fostered outside these areas. [135] Militarily, the British defeated Mau Mau in four years (1952–56) [136] using a more expansive version of "coercion through exemplary force". [137] In May 1953, the decision was made to send General George Erskine to oversee the restoration of order in the colony. [138]

By September 1953, the British knew the leading personalities in Mau Mau, and the capture and 68 hour interrogation of General China on 15 January the following year provided a massive intelligence boost on the forest fighters. [139] [140] [141] [142] [143] Erskine's arrival did not immediately herald a fundamental change in strategy, thus the continual pressure on the gangs remained, but he created more mobile formations that delivered what he termed "special treatment" to an area. Once gangs had been driven out and eliminated, loyalist forces and police were then to take over the area, with military support brought in thereafter only to conduct any required pacification operations. After their successful dispersion and containment, Erskine went after the forest fighters' source of supplies, money and recruits, i.e. the native Kenyan population of Nairobi. This took the form of Operation Anvil, which commenced on 24 April 1954. [144]

Operation Anvil Edit

By 1954, Nairobi was regarded as the nerve centre of Mau Mau operations. [145] The insurgents in the highlands of the Aberdares and Mt Kenya were being supplied provisions and weapons by supporters in Nairobi via couriers. [146] Anvil was the ambitious attempt to eliminate Mau Mau's presence within Nairobi in one fell swoop. 25,000 members of British security forces under the control of General George Erskine were deployed as Nairobi was sealed off and underwent a sector-by-sector purge. All native Kenyans were taken to temporary barbed-wire enclosures. Those who were not Kikuyu, Embu or Meru were released those who were remained in detention for screening. [D]

Whilst the operation itself was conducted by Europeans, most suspected members of Mau Mau were picked out of groups of the Kikuyu-Embu-Meru detainees by a native Kenyan informer. Male suspects were then taken off for further screening, primarily at Langata Screening Camp, whilst women and children were readied for 'repatriation' to the reserves (many of those slated for deportation had never set foot in the reserves before). Anvil lasted for two weeks, after which the capital had been cleared of all but certifiably loyal Kikuyu 20,000 Mau Mau suspects had been taken to Langata, and 30,000 more had been deported to the reserves. [148]

Air power Edit

For an extended period of time, the chief British weapon against the forest fighters was air power. Between June 1953 and October 1955, the RAF provided a significant contribution to the conflict—and, indeed, had to, for the army was preoccupied with providing security in the reserves until January 1955, and it was the only service capable of both psychologically influencing and inflicting considerable casualties on the Mau Mau fighters operating in the dense forests. Lack of timely and accurate intelligence meant bombing was rather haphazard, but almost 900 insurgents had been killed or wounded by air attacks by June 1954, and it did cause forest gangs to disband, lower their morale, and induce their pronounced relocation from the forests to the reserves. [149]

At first armed Harvard training aircraft were used, for direct ground support and also some camp interdiction. As the campaign developed, Avro Lincoln heavy bombers were deployed, flying missions in Kenya from 18 November 1953 to 28 July 1955, dropping nearly 6 million bombs. [150] [151] They and other aircraft, such as blimps, were also deployed for reconnaissance, as well as in the propaganda war, conducting large-scale leaflet-drops. [152] A flight of DH Vampire jets flew in from Aden, but were only used for ten days of operations. Some light aircraft of the Police Air Wing also provided support. [153]

After the Lari massacre, for example, British planes dropped leaflets showing graphic pictures of the Kikuyu women and children who had been hacked to death. Unlike the rather indiscriminate activities of British ground forces, the use of air power was more restrained (though there is disagreement [154] on this point), and air attacks were initially permitted only in the forests. Operation Mushroom extended bombing beyond the forest limits in May 1954, and Churchill consented to its continuation in January 1955. [149]

Swynnerton Plan Edit

Baring knew the massive deportations to the already-overcrowded reserves could only make things worse. Refusing to give more land to the Kikuyu in the reserves, which could have been seen as a concession to Mau Mau, Baring turned instead in 1953 to Roger Swynnerton, Kenya's assistant director of agriculture. [155] [156] The primary goal of the Swynnerton Plan was the creation of family holdings large enough to keep families self-sufficient in food and to enable them to practise alternate husbandry, which would generate a cash income. [157]

The projected costs of the Swynnerton Plan were too high for the cash-strapped colonial government, so Baring tweaked repatriation and augmented the Swynnerton Plan with plans for a massive expansion of the Pipeline coupled with a system of work camps to make use of detainee labour. All Kikuyu employed for public works projects would now be employed on Swynnerton's poor-relief programmes, as would many detainees in the work camps. [158] [159]

Detention programme Edit

When the mass deportations of Kikuyu to the reserves began in 1953, Baring and Erskine ordered all Mau Mau suspects to be screened. Of the scores of screening camps which sprang up, only fifteen were officially sanctioned by the colonial government. Larger detention camps were divided into compounds. The screening centres were staffed by settlers who had been appointed temporary district-officers by Baring. [161]

Thomas Askwith, the official tasked with designing the British 'detention and rehabilitation' programme during the summer and autumn of 1953, termed his system the Pipeline. [162] The British did not initially conceive of rehabilitating Mau Mau suspects through brute force and other ill-treatment—Askwith's final plan, submitted to Baring in October 1953, was intended as "a complete blueprint for winning the war against Mau Mau using socioeconomic and civic reform". [163] What developed, however, has been described as a British gulag. [164]

The Pipeline operated a white-grey-black classification system: 'whites' were cooperative detainees, and were repatriated back to the reserves 'greys' had been oathed but were reasonably compliant, and were moved down the Pipeline to works camps in their local districts before release and 'blacks' were the so-called 'hard core' of Mau Mau. These were moved up the Pipeline to special detention camps. Thus a detainee's position in Pipeline was a straightforward reflection of how cooperative the Pipeline personnel deemed her or him to be. Cooperation was itself defined in terms of a detainee's readiness to confess their Mau Mau oath. Detainees were screened and re-screened for confessions and intelligence, then re-classified accordingly. [165]

Guardian Editorial, 11 April 2011

A detainee's journey between two locations along the Pipeline could sometimes last days. During transit, there was frequently little or no food and water provided, and seldom any sanitation. Once in camp, talking was forbidden outside the detainees' accommodation huts, though improvised communication was rife. Such communication included propaganda and disinformation, which went by such names as the Kinongo Times, designed to encourage fellow detainees not to give up hope and so to minimise the number of those who confessed their oath and cooperated with camp authorities. Forced labour was performed by detainees on projects like the thirty-seven-mile-long South Yatta irrigation furrow. [167] Family outside and other considerations led many detainees to confess. [168]

During the first year after Operation Anvil, colonial authorities had little success in forcing detainees to cooperate. Camps and compounds were overcrowded, forced-labour systems were not yet perfected, screening teams were not fully coordinated, and the use of torture was not yet systematised. [169] This failure was partly due to the lack of manpower and resources, as well as the vast numbers of detainees. Officials could scarcely process them all, let alone get them to confess their oaths. Assessing the situation in the summer of 1955, Alan Lennox-Boyd wrote of his "fear that the net figure of detainees may still be rising. If so the outlook is grim." [169] Black markets flourished during this period, with the native Kenyan guards helping to facilitate trading. It was possible for detainees to bribe guards in order to obtain items or stay punishment. [167]

—Letter from Police Commissioner Arthur Young to
Governor Evelyn Baring, 22 November 1954

Interrogations and confessions Edit

By late 1955, however, the Pipeline had become a fully operational, well-organised system. Guards were regularly shifted around the Pipeline too in order to prevent relationships developing with detainees and so undercut the black markets, and inducements and punishments became better at discouraging fraternising with the enemy. [171] The grinding nature of the improved detention and interrogation regimen began to produce results. Most detainees confessed, and the system produced ever greater numbers of spies and informers within the camps, while others switched sides in a more open, official fashion, leaving detention behind to take an active role in interrogations, even sometimes administering beatings. [171]

The most famous example of side-switching was Peter Muigai Kenyatta—Jomo Kenyatta's son—who, after confessing, joined screeners at Athi River Camp, later travelling throughout the Pipeline to assist in interrogations. [172] Suspected informers and spies within a camp were treated in the time-honoured Mau Mau fashion: the preferred method of execution was strangulation then mutilation: "It was just like in the days before our detention", explained one Mau Mau member later. "We did not have our own jails to hold an informant in, so we would strangle him and then cut his tongue out." The end of 1955 also saw screeners being given a freer hand in interrogation, and harsher conditions than straightforward confession were imposed on detainees before they were deemed 'cooperative' and eligible for final release. [171]

—A contemporary BBC-description of screening

While oathing, for practical reasons, within the Pipeline was reduced to an absolute minimum, as many new initiates as possible were oathed. A newcomer who refused to take the oath often faced the same fate as a recalcitrant outside the camps: they were murdered. "The detainees would strangle them with their blankets or, using blades fashioned from the corrugated-iron roofs of some of the barracks, would slit their throats", writes Elkins. [174] The camp authorities' preferred method of capital punishment was public hanging. Commandants were told to clamp down hard on intra-camp oathing, with several commandants hanging anyone suspected of administering oaths. [171]

Even as the Pipeline became more sophisticated, detainees still organised themselves within it, setting up committees and selecting leaders for their camps, as well as deciding on their own "rules to live by". Perhaps the most famous compound leader was Josiah Mwangi Kariuki. Punishments for violating the "rules to live by" could be severe. [167]

European missionaries and native Kenyan Christians played their part by visiting camps to evangelise and encourage compliance with the colonial authorities, providing intelligence, and sometimes even assisting in interrogation. Detainees regarded such preachers with nothing but contempt. [175]

—Memorandum to Commissioner of Prisons John 'Taxi' Lewis
from Kenya's Director of Medical Services, 18 May 1954

The lack of decent sanitation in the camps meant that epidemics of diseases such as typhoid swept through them. Official medical reports detailing the shortcomings of the camps and their recommendations were ignored, and the conditions being endured by detainees were lied about and denied. [177] [178] [179] A British rehabilitation officer found in 1954 that detainees from Manyani were in "shocking health", many of them suffering from malnutrition, [180] while Langata and GilGil were eventually closed in April 1955 [181] because, as the colonial government put it, "they were unfit to hold Kikuyu . for medical epidemiological reasons". [181]

While the Pipeline was primarily designed for adult males, a few thousand women and young girls were detained at an all-women camp at Kamiti, as well as a number of unaccompanied young children. Dozens of babies [182] were born to women in captivity: "We really do need these cloths for the children as it is impossible to keep them clean and tidy while dressed on dirty pieces of sacking and blanket", wrote one colonial officer. [183] Wamumu Camp was set up solely for all the unaccompanied boys in the Pipeline, though hundreds, maybe thousands, of boys moved around the adult parts of the Pipeline.

Works camps Edit

—One colonial officer's description of British works camps

There were originally two types of works camps envisioned by Baring: the first type were based in Kikuyu districts with the stated purpose of achieving the Swynnerton Plan the second were punitive camps, designed for the 30,000 Mau Mau suspects who were deemed unfit to return to the reserves. These forced-labour camps provided a much needed source of labour to continue the colony's infrastructure development. [185]

Colonial officers also saw the second sort of works camps as a way of ensuring that any confession was legitimate and as a final opportunity to extract intelligence. Probably the worst works camp to have been sent to was the one run out of Embakasi Prison, for Embakasi was responsible for the Embakasi Airport, the construction of which was demanded to be finished before the Emergency came to an end. The airport was a massive project with an unquenchable thirst for labour, and the time pressures ensured the detainees' forced labour was especially hard. [171]

Villagisation programme Edit

—District Commissioner of Nyeri

If military operations in the forests and Operation Anvil were the first two phases of Mau Mau's defeat, Erskine expressed the need and his desire for a third and final phase: cut off all the militants' support in the reserves. [187] The means to this terminal end was originally suggested by the man brought in by the colonial government to do an ethnopsychiatric 'diagnosis' of the uprising, JC Carothers: he advocated a Kenyan version of the villagisation programmes that the British were already using in places like Malaya. [188]

So it was that in June 1954, the War Council took the decision to undertake a full-scale forced-resettlement programme of Kiambu, Nyeri, Murang'a and Embu Districts to cut off Mau Mau's supply lines. [189] Within eighteen months, 1,050,899 Kikuyu in the reserves were inside 804 villages consisting of some 230,000 huts. [190] The government termed them "protected villages", purportedly to be built along "the same lines as the villages in the North of England", [191] though the term was actually a "euphemism for the fact that hundreds of thousands of civilians were corralled, often against their will, into settlements behind barbed-wire fences and watch towers." [137]

While some of these villages were to protect loyalist Kikuyu, "most were little more than concentration camps to punish Mau Mau sympathizers." [192] The villagisation programme was the coup de grâce for Mau Mau. [192] By the end of the following summer, Lieutenant General Lathbury no longer needed Lincoln bombers for raids because of a lack of targets, [149] and, by late 1955, Lathbury felt so sure of final victory that he reduced army forces to almost pre-Mau Mau levels. [193]

He noted, however, that the British should have "no illusions about the future. Mau Mau has not been cured: it has been suppressed. The thousands who have spent a long time in detention must have been embittered by it. Nationalism is still a very potent force and the African will pursue his aim by other means. Kenya is in for a very tricky political future." [149]

—Council of Kenya-Colony's Ministers, July 1954

The government's public relations officer, Granville Roberts, presented villagisation as a good opportunity for rehabilitation, particularly of women and children, but it was, in fact, first and foremost designed to break Mau Mau and protect loyalist Kikuyu, a fact reflected in the extremely limited resources made available to the Rehabilitation and Community Development Department. [195] Refusal to move could be punished with the destruction of property and livestock, and the roofs were usually ripped off of homes whose occupants demonstrated reluctance. [196] Villagisation also solved the practical and financial problems associated with a further, massive expansion of the Pipeline programme, [197] and the removal of people from their land hugely assisted the enaction of Swynnerton Plan. [192]

The villages were surrounded by deep, spike-bottomed trenches and barbed wire, and the villagers themselves were watched over by members of the Home Guard, often neighbours and relatives. In short, rewards or collective punishments such as curfews could be served much more readily after villagisation, and this quickly broke Mau Mau's passive wing. [198] Though there were degrees of difference between the villages, [199] the overall conditions engendered by villagisation meant that, by early 1955, districts began reporting starvation and malnutrition. [200] One provincial commissioner blamed child hunger on parents deliberately withholding food, saying the latter were aware of the "propaganda value of apparent malnutrition". [201]

—Meru's District Commissioner, 6 November 1954,
four months after the institution of villagisation

The Red Cross helped mitigate the food shortages, but even they were told to prioritise loyalist areas. [201] The Baring government's medical department issued reports about "the alarming number of deaths occurring amongst children in the 'punitive' villages", and the "political" prioritisation of Red Cross relief. [201]

One of the colony's ministers blamed the "bad spots" in Central Province on the mothers of the children for "not realis[ing] the great importance of proteins", and one former missionary reported that it "was terribly pitiful how many of the children and the older Kikuyu were dying. They were so emaciated and so very susceptible to any kind of disease that came along". [181] Of the 50,000 deaths which John Blacker attributed to the Emergency, half were children under the age of ten. [203]

The lack of food did not just affect the children, of course. The Overseas Branch of the British Red Cross commented on the "women who, from progressive undernourishment, had been unable to carry on with their work". [204]

Disease prevention was not helped by the colony's policy of returning sick detainees to receive treatment in the reserves, [205] though the reserves' medical services were virtually non-existent, as Baring himself noted after a tour of some villages in June 1956. [206]

Political and social concessions by the British Edit

Kenyans were granted nearly [207] all of the demands made by the KAU in 1951.

On 18 January 1955, the Governor-General of Kenya, Evelyn Baring, offered an amnesty to Mau Mau activists. The offer was that they would not face prosecution for previous offences, but may still be detained. European settlers were appalled at the leniency of the offer. On 10 June 1955 with no response forthcoming, the offer of amnesty to the Mau Mau was revoked.

In June 1956, a programme of land reform increased the land holdings of the Kikuyu. [208] [ citation needed ] . This was coupled with a relaxation of the ban on native Kenyans growing coffee, a primary cash crop. [208] [ citation needed ]

In the cities the colonial authorities decided to dispel tensions by raising urban wages, thereby strengthening the hand of moderate union organisations like the KFRTU. By 1956, the British had granted direct election of native Kenyan members of the Legislative Assembly, followed shortly thereafter by an increase in the number of local seats to fourteen. A Parliamentary conference in January 1960 indicated that the British would accept "one person—one vote" majority rule.

The number of deaths attributable to the Emergency is disputed. David Anderson estimates 25,000 [16] people died British demographer John Blacker's estimate is 50,000 deaths—half of them children aged ten or below. He attributes this death toll mostly to increased malnutrition, starvation and disease from wartime conditions. [203]

Caroline Elkins says "tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands" died. [209] Elkins numbers have been challenged by Blacker, who demonstrated in detail that her numbers were overestimated, explaining that Elkins' figure of 300,000 deaths "implies that perhaps half of the adult male population would have been wiped out—yet the censuses of 1962 and 1969 show no evidence of this—the age-sex pyramids for the Kikuyu districts do not even show indentations." [203]

His study dealt directly with Elkins' claim that "somewhere between 130,000 and 300,000 Kikuyu are unaccounted for" at the 1962 census, [210] and was read by both David Anderson and John Lonsdale prior to publication. [3] David Elstein has noted that leading authorities on Africa have taken issue with parts of Elkins' study, in particular her mortality figures: "The senior British historian of Kenya, John Lonsdale, whom Elkins thanks profusely in her book as 'the most gifted scholar I know', warned her to place no reliance on anecdotal sources, and regards her statistical analysis—for which she cites him as one of three advisors—as 'frankly incredible'." [3]

The British possibly killed more than 20,000 Mau Mau militants, [4] but in some ways more notable is the smaller number of Mau Mau suspects dealt with by capital punishment: by the end of the Emergency, the total was 1,090. At no other time or place in the British empire was capital punishment dispensed so liberally—the total is more than double the number executed by the French in Algeria. [211]

Wangari Maathai suggests that more than one hundred thousand Africans, mostly Kikuyus, may have died in the concentration camps and emergency villages. [212]

Officially 1,819 Native Kenyans were killed by the Mau Mau. David Anderson believes this to be an undercount and cites a higher figure of 5,000 killed by the Mau Mau. [3] [213]

War crimes have been broadly defined by the Nuremberg principles as "violations of the laws or customs of war", which includes massacres, bombings of civilian targets, terrorism, mutilation, torture, and murder of detainees and prisoners of war. Additional common crimes include theft, arson, and the destruction of property not warranted by military necessity. [214]

David Anderson says the rebellion was "a story of atrocity and excess on both sides, a dirty war from which no one emerged with much pride, and certainly no glory". [215] Political scientist Daniel Goldhagen describes the campaign against the Mau Mau as an example of eliminationism, though this verdict has been fiercely criticised. [3]

British war crimes Edit

One settler's description of British interrogation

The British authorities suspended civil liberties in Kenya. Many Kikuyu were forced to move. Between 320,000 and 450,000 of them were interned. Most of the rest – more than a million – were held in "enclosed villages" also known as concentration camps. Although some were Mau Mau guerrillas, most were victims of collective punishment that colonial authorities imposed on large areas of the country. Hundreds of thousands were beaten or sexually assaulted to extract information about the Mau Mau threat. Later, prisoners suffered even worse mistreatment in an attempt to force them to renounce their allegiance to the insurgency and to obey commands. Prisoners were questioned with the help of "slicing off ears, boring holes in eardrums, flogging until death, pouring paraffin over suspects who were then set alight, and burning eardrums with lit cigarettes". Castration by British troops and denying access to medical aid to the detainees were also widespread and common. [217] [218] [219] Among the detainees who suffered severe mistreatment was Hussein Onyango Obama, the grandfather of Barack Obama, the former President of the United States. According to his widow, British soldiers forced pins into his fingernails and buttocks and squeezed his testicles between metal rods and two others were castrated. [220]

The historian Robert Edgerton describes the methods used during the emergency: "If a question was not answered to the interrogator's satisfaction, the subject was beaten and kicked. If that did not lead to the desired confession, and it rarely did, more force was applied. Electric shock was widely used, and so was fire. Women were choked and held under water gun barrels, beer bottles, and even knives were thrust into their vaginas. Men had beer bottles thrust up their rectums, were dragged behind Land Rovers, whipped, burned and bayoneted. Some police officers did not bother with more time-consuming forms of torture they simply shot any suspect who refused to answer, then told the next suspect, to dig his own grave. When the grave was finished, the man was asked if he would now be willing to talk." [221]

In June 1957, Eric Griffith-Jones, the attorney general of the British administration in Kenya, wrote to the Governor, Sir Evelyn Baring, detailing the way the regime of abuse at the colony's detention camps was being subtly altered. He said that the mistreatment of the detainees is "distressingly reminiscent of conditions in Nazi Germany or Communist Russia". Despite this, he said that in order for abuse to remain legal, Mau Mau suspects must be beaten mainly on their upper body, "vulnerable parts of the body should not be struck, particularly the spleen, liver or kidneys", and it was important that "those who administer violence . should remain collected, balanced and dispassionate". He also reminded the governor that "If we are going to sin", he wrote, "we must sin quietly." [220] [223]

Author Wangari Maathai indicates that in 1954, three out of every four Kikuyu men were in detention, and that land was taken from detainees and given to collaborators. Detainees were pushed into forced labor. Maathai also notes that the Home Guard were especially known to rape women. The Home Guard's reputation for cruelty in the form of terror and intimidation was well known, whereas the Mau Mau soldiers were initially respectful of women. [224]

Chuka Massacre Edit

The Chuka Massacre, which happened in Chuka, Kenya, was perpetrated by members of the King's African Rifles B Company in June 1953 with 20 unarmed people killed during the Mau Mau uprising. Members of the 5th KAR B Company entered the Chuka area on 13 June 1953, to flush out rebels suspected of hiding in the nearby forests. Over the next few days, the regiment had captured and executed 20 people suspected of being Mau Mau fighters for unknown reasons. The people executed belonged to the Kikuyu Home Guard — a loyalist militia recruited by the British to fight the guerrillas. Nobody ever stood trial for the massacre. [225]

Hola massacre Edit

The Hola massacre was an incident during the conflict in Kenya against British colonial rule at a colonial detention camp in Hola, Kenya. By January 1959, the camp had a population of 506 detainees, of whom 127 were held in a secluded "closed camp". This more remote camp near Garissa, eastern Kenya, was reserved for the most uncooperative of the detainees. They often refused, even when threats of force were made, to join in the colonial "rehabilitation process" or perform manual labour or obey colonial orders. The camp commandant outlined a plan that would force 88 of the detainees to bend to work. On 3 March 1959, the camp commandant put this plan into action – as a result, 11 detainees were clubbed to death by guards. [226] 77 surviving detainees sustained serious permanent injuries. [227] The British government accepts that the colonial administration tortured detainees, but denies liability. [228]

Mau Mau war crimes Edit

Lari massacres Edit

Mau Mau militants were guilty of numerous war crimes. The most notorious was their attack on the settlement of Lari, on the night of 25–26 March 1953, in which they herded men, women and children into huts and set fire to them, hacking down with machetes anyone who attempted escape, before throwing them back into the burning huts. [229] The attack at Lari was so extreme that "African policemen who saw the bodies of the victims . . . were physically sick and said 'These people are animals. If I see one now I shall shoot with the greatest eagerness ' ", [118] and it "even shocked many Mau Mau supporters, some of whom would subsequently try to excuse the attack as 'a mistake ' ". [230]

A retaliatory massacre was immediately perpetrated by Kenyan security forces who were partially overseen by British commanders. Official estimates place the death toll from the first Lari massacre at 74, and the second at 150, though neither of these figures account for those who 'disappeared'. Whatever the actual number of victims, "[t]he grim truth was that, for every person who died in Lari's first massacre, at least two more were killed in retaliation in the second." [231]

Aside from the Lari massacres, Kikuyu were also tortured, mutilated and murdered by Mau Mau on many other occasions. [103] Mau Mau racked up 1,819 murders of their fellow native Kenyans, though again this number excludes the many additional hundreds who 'disappeared', whose bodies were never found. [213] Thirty-two European and twenty-six Asian civilians were also murdered by Mau Mau militants, with similar numbers wounded. The best known European victim was Michael Ruck, aged six, who was hacked to death with pangas along with his parents, Roger and Esme, and one of the Rucks' farm workers, Muthura Nagahu, who had tried to help the family. [232] Newspapers in Kenya and abroad published graphic murder details, including images of young Michael with bloodied teddy bears and trains strewn on his bedroom floor. [233]

In 1952, the poisonous latex of the African milk bush was used by members of Mau Mau to kill cattle in an incident of biological warfare. [234]

Although Mau Mau was effectively crushed by the end of 1956, it was not until the First Lancaster House Conference, in January 1960, that native Kenyan majority rule was established and the period of colonial transition to independence initiated. [235] Before the conference, it was anticipated by both native Kenyan and European leaders that Kenya was set for a European-dominated multi-racial government. [235]

There is continuing debate about Mau Mau's and the rebellion's effects on decolonisation and on Kenya after independence. Regarding decolonisation, the most common view is that Kenya's independence came about as a result of the British government's deciding that a continuance of colonial rule would entail a greater use of force than that which the British public would tolerate. [236] Nissimi argues, though, that such a view fails to "acknowledge the time that elapsed until the rebellion's influence actually took effect [and does not] explain why the same liberal tendencies failed to stop the dirty war the British conducted against the Mau Mau in Kenya while it was raging on." Others contend that, as the 1950s progressed, nationalist intransigence increasingly rendered official plans for political development irrelevant, meaning that after the mid-1950s British policy increasingly accepted Kenyan nationalism and moved to co-opt its leaders and organisations into collaboration. [133] [237]

It has been argued that the conflict helped set the stage for Kenyan independence in December 1963, [238] or at least secured the prospect of Black-majority rule once the British left. [239] However, this is disputed and other sources downplay the contribution of Mau Mau to decolonisation. [240]

On the 12th of December 1964, President Kenyatta issued an amnesty to Mau Mau fighters to surrender to the government. Some Mau Mau members insisted that they should get land and be absorbed into the civil service and Kenya army. On the 28th of January 1965, the Kenyatta government sent the Kenya army to Meru district, where Mau Mau fighters gathered under the leadership of Field Marshall Mwariama and Field Marshall Baimungi. These leaders and several Mau Mau fighters were killed. On the 14th of January 1965, the Minister for Defence Dr Njoroge Mungai was quoted in the Daily Nation saying: "They are now outlaws, who will be pursued and brought to punishment. They must be outlawed as well in the minds of all the people of Kenya." [241] [242]

On 12 September 2015, the British government unveiled a Mau Mau memorial statue in Nairobi's Uhuru Park that it had funded "as a symbol of reconciliation between the British government, the Mau Mau, and all those who suffered". This followed a June 2013 decision by Britain to compensate more than 5,000 Kenyans it tortured and abused during the Mau Mau insurgency. [243]

Compensation claims Edit

In 1999, a collection of former fighters calling themselves the Mau Mau Original Group announced they would attempt a £5 billion claim against the UK on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Kenyans for ill-treatment they said they suffered during the rebellion, though nothing came of it. [244] [245] In November 2002, the Mau Mau Trust—a welfare group for former members of the movement—announced it would attempt to sue the British government for widespread human rights violations it said were committed against its members. [246] Until September 2003, the Mau Mau movement was banned. [247] [248]

Once the ban was removed, former Mau Mau members who had been castrated or otherwise tortured were supported by the Kenya Human Rights Commission, in particular by the commission's George Morara, in their attempt to take on the British government [249] [250] their lawyers had amassed 6,000 depositions regarding human rights abuses by late 2002. [251] 42 potential claimants were interviewed from whom five were chosen to prosecute a test case one of the five, Susan Ciong'ombe Ngondi, has since died. [250] The remaining four test claimants are: Ndiku Mutua, who was castrated Paulo Muoka Nzili, who was castrated Jane Muthoni Mara, who was subjected to sexual assault that included having bottles filled with boiling water pushed up her vagina and Wambugu Wa Nyingi, who survived the Hola massacre. [252] [253] [254]

Ben Macintyre of The Times said of the legal case: "Opponents of these proceedings have pointed out, rightly, that the Mau Mau was a brutal terrorist force, guilty of the most dreadful atrocities. Yet only one of the claimants is of that stamp—Mr Nzili. He has admitted taking the Mau Mau oath and said that all he did was to ferry food to the fighters in the forest. None has been accused, let alone convicted, of any crime." [255]

Upon publication of Caroline Elkins' Imperial Reckoning in 2005, Kenya called for an apology from the UK for atrocities committed during the 1950s. [256] The British government claimed the issue was the responsibility of the Kenyan government on the grounds of "state succession" for former colonies, relying on an obscure legal precedent relating to Patagonian toothfish [257] and the declaration of martial law in Jamaica in 1860. [258]

In July 2011, "George Morara strode down the corridor and into a crowded little room [in Nairobi] where 30 elderly Kenyans sat hunched together around a table clutching cups of hot tea and sharing plates of biscuits. 'I have good news from London', he announced. 'We have won the first part of the battle!' At once, the room erupted in cheers." [254] The good news was that a British judge had ruled that the Kenyans could sue the British government for their torture. [259] Morara said that, if the first test cases succeeded, perhaps 30,000 others would file similar complaints of torture. [254] Explaining his decision, Mr Justice McCombe said the claimants had an "arguable case", [260] and added:

It may well be thought strange, or perhaps even dishonourable, that a legal system which will not in any circumstances admit into its proceedings evidence obtained by torture should yet refuse to entertain a claim against the Government in its own jurisdiction for that Government's allegedly negligent failure to prevent torture which it had the means to prevent. Furthermore, resort to technicality . to rule such a claim out of court appears particularly misplaced. [261]

A Times editorial noted with satisfaction that "Mr Justice McCombe told the FCO, in effect, to get lost. . Though the arguments against reopening very old wounds are seductive, they fail morally. There are living claimants and it most certainly was not their fault that the documentary evidence that seems to support their claims was for so long 'lost' in the governmental filing system." [262]

—Kenyan Attorney-General Eric Griffith-Jones

During the course of the Mau Mau legal battle in London, a large amount of what was stated to be formerly lost Foreign Office archival material was finally brought to light, while yet more was discovered to be missing. [264] The files, known as migrated archives, provided details of British human rights abuses (torture, rape, execution) [265] in its former colonies during the final stages of empire, including during Mau Mau, and even after decolonisation.

Regarding the Mau Mau Uprising, the records included confirmation of "the extent of the violence inflicted on suspected Mau Mau rebels" [266] in British detention camps documented in Caroline Elkins' study. [267] Numerous allegations of murder and rape by British military personnel are recorded in the files, including an incident where a native Kenyan baby was "burnt to death", the "defilement of a young girl", and a soldier in Royal Irish Fusiliers who killed "in cold blood two people who had been his captives for over 12 hours". [268] Baring himself was aware of the "extreme brutality" of the sometimes-lethal torture meted out—which included "most drastic" beatings, solitary confinement, starvation, castration, whipping, burning, rape, sodomy, and forceful insertion of objects into orifices—but took no action. [166] [266] Baring's inaction was despite the urging of people like Arthur Young, Commissioner of Police for Kenya for less than eight months of 1954 before he resigned in protest, that "the horror of some of the [camps] should be investigated without delay". [170] In February 1956, a provincial commissioner in Kenya, "Monkey" Johnson, wrote to Attorney General Reginald Manningham-Buller urging him to block any enquiry into the methods used against Mau Mau: "It would now appear that each and every one of us, from the Governor downwards, may be in danger of removal from public service by a commission of enquiry as a result of enquiries made by the CID." [269] The April 2012 release also included detailed accounts of the policy of seizing livestock from Kenyans suspected of supporting Mau Mau rebels. [270]

Commenting on the papers, David Anderson stated that the "documents were hidden away to protect the guilty", [273] and "that the extent of abuse now being revealed is truly disturbing". [274] "Everything that could happen did happen. Allegations about beatings and violence were widespread. Basically you could get away with murder. It was systematic", Anderson said. [97] [275] An example of this impunity is the case of eight colonial officials accused of having prisoners tortured to death going unpunished even after their actions were reported to London. [269] Huw Bennett of King's College London, who had worked with Anderson on the Chuka Massacre, said in a witness statement to the court that the new documents "considerably strengthen" the knowledge that the British Army were "intimately involved" with the colonial security forces, whom they knew were "systematically abusing and torturing detainees in screening centres and detention camps". [268] In April 2011, lawyers for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office continued to maintain that there was no such policy. [268] As early as November 1952, however, military reports noted that "[t]he Army has been used for carrying out certain functions that properly belonged to the Police, eg. searching of huts and screening of Africans", and British soldiers arrested and transferred Mau Mau suspects to camps where they were beaten and tortured until they confessed. Bennett said that "the British Army retained ultimate operational control over all security forces throughout the Emergency", and that its military intelligence operation worked "hand in glove" with the Kenyan Special Branch "including in screening and interrogations in centres and detention camps". [268]

The Kenyan government sent a letter to Hague insisting that the UK government was legally liable for the atrocities. [273] The Foreign Office, however, reaffirmed its position that it was not, in fact, liable for colonial atrocities, [273] and argued that the documents had not "disappeared" as part of a cover up. [276] Nearly ten years before, in late 2002, as the BBC aired a documentary detailing British human rights abuses committed during the rebellion and 6,000 depositions had been taken for the legal case, former district colonial officer John Nottingham had expressed concern that compensation be paid soon, since most victims were in their 80s and would soon pass away. He told the BBC: "What went on in the Kenya camps and villages was brutal, savage torture. It is time that the mockery of justice that was perpetrated in this country at that time, should be, must be righted. I feel ashamed to have come from a Britain that did what it did here [in Kenya]." [277]

Thirteen boxes of "top secret" Kenya files are still missing. [278] [279]

In October 2012, Mr Justice McCombe granted the surviving elderly test claimants the right to sue the UK for damages. [280] [281] The UK government then opted for what the claimants' lawyers called the "morally repugnant" decision to appeal McCombe's ruling. [282] In May 2013, it was reported that the appeal was on hold while the UK government held compensation negotiations with the claimants. [283] [284]

Settlement Edit

On 6 June 2013, the foreign secretary, William Hague, told parliament that the UK government had reached a settlement with the claimants. He said it included "payment of a settlement sum in respect of 5,228 claimants, as well as a gross costs sum, to the total value of £19.9 million. The Government will also support the construction of a memorial in Nairobi to the victims of torture and ill-treatment during the colonial era." [285] [286] but "We continue to deny liability on behalf of the Government and British taxpayers today for the actions of the colonial administration in respect of the claims". [285]

It is often argued that the Mau Mau Uprising was suppressed as a subject for public discussion in Kenya during the periods under Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi because of the key positions and influential presence of some loyalists in government, business and other elite sectors of Kenyan society post-1963. [288] [289] Unsurprisingly, during this same period opposition groups tactically embraced the Mau Mau rebellion. [14]

Members of Mau Mau are currently recognised by the Kenyan Government as freedom-independence heroes and heroines who sacrificed their lives in order to free Kenyans from colonial rule. [290] Since 2010, Mashujaa Day (Heroes Day) has been marked annually on 20 October (the same day Baring signed the Emergency order). [291] 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 independence struggle. [290] Mashujaa Day will replace Kenyatta Day the latter has until now also been held on 20 October. [292] In 2001, the Kenyan Government announced that important Mau Mau sites were to be turned into national monuments. [293]

This official celebration of Mau Mau is in marked contrast to a post-colonial norm of Kenyan governments rejection of the Mau Mau as a symbol of national liberation. [108] [294] Such a turnabout has attracted criticism of government manipulation of the Mau Mau uprising for political ends. [293] [295]

—Speech by Jomo Kenyatta, April 1963

  • The Black Man's Land Trilogy, series of films on Kenya , author of Gangs and Counter-gangs wa Kirima
  • Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers , author of Something of Value and Uhuru
  • Weep Not, Child

Insurgency Edit

General Edit

A The name Kenya Land and Freedom Army is sometimes heard in connection with Mau Mau. KLFA was the name that Dedan Kimathi used for a coordinating body which he tried to set up for Mau Mau. It was also the name of another militant group that sprang up briefly in the spring of 1960 the group was broken up during a brief operation from 26 March to 30 April. [296]
B Between 1895 and 1920, Kenya was formally known as British East Africa Protectorate between 1920 and 1963, as Kenya Colony and Protectorate. [297]
C "Squatter or resident labourers are those who reside with their families on European farms usually for the purpose of work for the owners. . . . Contract labourers are those who sign a contract of service before a magistrate, for periods varying from three to twelve months. Casual labourers leave their reserves to engage themselves to European employers for any period from one day upwards." [55] In return for his services, a squatter was entitled to use some of the settler's land for cultivation and grazing. [298] Contract and casual workers are together referred to as migratory labourers, in distinction to the permanent presence of the squatters on farms. The phenomenon of squatters arose in response to the complementary difficulties of Europeans in finding labourers and of Africans in gaining access to arable and grazing land. [45]
D During the Emergency, screening was the term used by colonial authorities to mean the interrogation of a Mau Mau suspect. The alleged member or sympathiser of Mau Mau would be interrogated in order to obtain an admission of guilt—specifically, a confession that they had taken the Mau Mau oath—as well as for intelligence. [299]

Notes Edit

  1. ^Page 2011, p. 206.
  2. ^ abAnderson 2005, p. 5.
  3. ^ abcdeDavid Elstein (7 April 2011). "Daniel Goldhagen and Kenya: recycling fantasy". openDemocracy.org . Retrieved 8 March 2012 .
  4. ^ abcAnderson 2005, p. 4.
  5. ^
  6. Blakeley, Ruth (3 April 2009). State Terrorism and Neoliberalism: The North in the South. Routledge. ISBN978-1-134-04246-3 .
  7. ^ In English, the Kikuyu people also are known as the "Kikuyu" and as the "Wakikuyu" people, but their preferred exonym is "Gĩkũyũ", derived from the Swahili language.
  8. ^Anderson 2005.
  9. ^The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Army (1994) p. 350
  10. ^
  11. "Kenya: A Love for the Forest". Time. 17 January 1964. ISSN0040-781X . Retrieved 12 February 2018 .
  12. ^The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Army (1994) p. 346.
  13. ^Füredi 1989, p. 5
  14. ^Mumford 2012, p. 49.
  15. ^Maloba 1998.
  16. ^ abcBranch 2009, p. xii.
  17. ^Gerlach 2010, p. 213.
  18. ^ abc
  19. "Bloody uprising of the Mau Mau". BBC News. 7 April 2011 . Retrieved 23 July 2019 .
  20. ^Kanogo 1992, pp. 23–5.
  21. ^Majdalany 1963, p. 75.
  22. ^ abKariuki 1975, p. 167.
  23. ^Kariuki 1975, p. 24.
  24. ^
  25. "MAU MAU (Religious Movement)". what-when-how.com . Retrieved 12 February 2018 .
  26. ^
  27. Wangari Maathai (2006). Unbowed: a memoir. Alfred A. Knopf. p. 63. ISBN0307263487 .
  28. ^Curtis 2003, pp. 320.
  29. ^ abCoray 1978, p. 179: "The [colonial] administration's refusal to develop mechanisms whereby African grievances against non-Africans might be resolved on terms of equity, moreover, served to accelerate a growing disaffection with colonial rule. The investigations of the Kenya Land Commission of 1932–1934 are a case study in such lack of foresight, for the findings and recommendations of this commission, particularly those regarding the claims of the Kikuyu of Kiambu, would serve to exacerbate other grievances and nurture the seeds of a growing African nationalism in Kenya".
  30. ^Anderson 2005, p. 15, 22.
  31. ^Curtis 2003, p. 320.
  32. ^Ormsby-Gore 1925, p. 149.
  33. ^Alam 2007, p. 1: The colonial presence in Kenya, in contrast to, say, India, where it lasted almost 200 years, was brief but equally violent. It formally started when Her Majesty's agent and Counsel General at Zanzibar, A.H. Hardinge, in a proclamation on 1 July 1895, announced that he was taking over the Coastal areas as well as the interior that included the Kikuyu land, now known as Central Province."
  34. ^Ellis 1986, p. 100.
    You can read Dilke's speech in full here:
  35. "Class V House of Commons Debate, 1 June 1894". Hansard. Series 4, Vol. 25, cc. 181–270 . Retrieved 11 April 2013 .
  36. ^Edgerton 1989, p. 4. Francis Hall, an officer in the Imperial British East Africa Company and after whom Fort Hall was named, asserted: "There is only one way to improve the Wakikuyu [and] that is wipe them out I should be only too delighted to do so, but we have to depend on them for food supplies."
  37. ^Meinertzhagen 1957, pp. 51–2 Richard Meinertzhagen wrote of how, on occasion, they massacred Kikuyu by the hundreds.
  38. ^Alam 2007, p. 2.
  39. ^Brantley 1981.
  40. ^Atieno-Odhiambo 1995, p. 25.
  41. ^Ogot 2003, p. 15.
  42. ^Leys 1973, pp. 342, which notes they were "always hopeless failures. Naked spearmen fall in swathes before machine-guns, without inflicting a single casualty in return. Meanwhile, the troops burn all the huts and collect all the live stock within reach. Resistance once at an end, the leaders of the rebellion are surrendered for imprisonment . . . Risings that followed such a course could hardly be repeated. A period of calm followed. And when unrest again appeared it was with other leaders . . . and other motives." A particularly interesting example, albeit outside Kenya and featuring guns instead of spears, of successful armed resistance to maintain crucial aspects of autonomy is the Basuto Gun War of 1880–1881, whose ultimate legacy remains tangible even today, in the form of Lesotho.
  43. ^Maxon 1989, p. 44.
  44. ^
  45. Robert W. Strayer (9 February 1986). "Letter: Out of Africa". The New York Times . Retrieved 20 March 2012 .
  46. ^Lapping 1989, p. 469.
  47. ^Berman 1990, p. 72 n.43.
  48. ^ abcOrmsby-Gore 1925, p. 187.
  49. ^Mosley 1983, p. 5.
  50. ^Anderson 2005, p. 3.
  51. ^Edgerton 1989, pp. 1–5.
    Elkins 2005, p. 2 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) , notes that the (British taxpayer) loans were never repaid on the Uganda Railway they were written off in the 1930s.
  52. ^ abcdefKanogo 1993, p. 8.
  53. ^ abcdeAnderson 2005, p. 10.
  54. ^Carter 1934.
  55. ^Shilaro 2002, p. 123.
  56. ^Ormsby-Gore 1925, p. 159.
  57. ^Edgerton 1989, p. 5.
  58. ^ abcdefKanogo 1993, p. 9.
  59. ^Ormsby-Gore 1925, p. 29: "This judgment is now widely known to Africans in Kenya, and it has become clear to them that, without their being previously informed or consulted, their rights in their tribal land, whether communal or individual, have 'disappeared' in law and have been superseded by the rights of the Crown."
  60. ^Emerson Welch 1980, p. 16.
  61. ^Anderson 2004, p. 498. "The recruitment of African labor at poor rates of pay and under primitive conditions of work was characteristic of the operation of colonial capitalism in Africa during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. . . . [C]olonial states readily colluded with capital in providing the legal framework necessary for the recruitment and maintenance of labor in adequate numbers and at low cost to the employer. . . . The colonial state shared the desire of the European settler to encourage Africans into the labour market, whilst also sharing a concern to moderate the wages paid to workers".
  62. ^ abOrmsby-Gore 1925, p. 173: "Casual labourers leave their reserves . . . to earn the wherewithal to pay their 'Hut Tax' and to get money to purchase trade goods."
  63. ^Shilaro 2002, p. 117: "African reserves in Kenya were legally constituted in the Crown Lands Amendment Ordinance of 1926".
    Though finalised in 1926, reserves were first instituted by the Crown Lands Ordinance of 1915—see Ormsby-Gore 1925, p. 29.
  64. ^Anderson 2004, pp. 506.
  65. ^Kanogo 1993, p. 13.
  66. ^Anderson 2004, pp. 505.
  67. ^
  68. Creech Jones, Arthur. "Native Labour House of Commons Debate, 10 November 1937". Hansard. Series 5, Vol. 328, cc. 1757-9 . Retrieved 13 April 2013 .
  69. ^Elkins 2005, p. 17 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  70. ^Anderson 2004, p. 508.
  71. ^Kanogo 1993, pp. 96–7.
  72. ^Anderson 2004, p. 507.
  73. ^Ormsby-Gore 1925, p. 166: "In many parts of the territory we were informed that the majority of farmers were having the utmost difficulty in obtaining labour to cultivate and to harvest their crops".
  74. ^
  75. "History". www.kenyaembassydc.org . Retrieved 13 May 2019 .
  76. ^Ormsby-Gore 1925, pp. 155–6.
  77. ^Ormsby-Gore 1925, p. 180: "The population of the district to which one medical officer is allotted amounts more often than not to over a quarter of a million natives distributed over a large area. . [T]here are large areas in which no medical work is being undertaken."
  78. ^Swainson 1980, p. 23.
  79. ^Anderson 2004, pp. 516–28.
  80. ^Curtis 2003, pp. 320–1.
  81. ^
  82. R. M. A. Van Zwanenberg Anne King (1975). An Economic History of Kenya and Uganda 1800-1970. The Bowering Press. ISBN978-0-333-17671-9 .
  83. ^ abOgot 2003, p. 16.
  84. ^Anderson 2005, p. 282.
  85. ^
  86. Wangari Maathai (2006). Unbowed: a memoir. Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 61–63. ISBN0307263487 .
  87. ^Berman 1991, p. 198.
  88. ^Elkins 2005, p. 25 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  89. ^Branch 2007, p. 1.
  90. ^ abcElkins 2005, p. 32 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  91. ^Edgerton 1989, p. 65.
  92. ^Füredi 1989, p. 116.
  93. ^Edgerton 1989, pp. 66–7.
  94. ^Anderson 2005, p. 252.
  95. ^Anderson 2005, p. 239.
  96. ^
  97. Van der Bijl, Nicholas (2017). Mau Mau Rebellion. Pen and Sword. p. 151. ISBN978-1473864603 . OCLC988759275.
  98. ^
  99. "When the Mau Mau Used a Biological Weapon". Owaahh. 30 October 2014 . Retrieved 12 February 2018 .
  100. ^
  101. Presley, Cora Ann (1992). Kikuyu Women, the Mau Mau Rebellion and Social Change in Kenya. Boulder: Westview Press.
  102. ^Füredi 1989, p. 4.
  103. ^Berman 1991, pp. 182–3.
  104. ^Mahone 2006, p. 241: "This article opens with a retelling of colonial accounts of the 'mania of 1911', which took place in the Kamba region of Kenya Colony. The story of this 'psychic epidemic' and others like it were recounted over the years as evidence depicting the predisposition of Africans to episodic mass hysteria."
  105. ^McCulloch 2006, pp. 64–76.
    Search Results for author Carothers JC on PubMed. includes a 1947 study of "mental derangement in Africans, and an attempt to explain its peculiarities, more especially in relation to the African attitude to life". For his "magnum opus", see Carothers 1953.
  106. ^Füredi 1994, pp. 119–21.
  107. ^Berman 1991, pp. 183–5.
  108. ^Clough 1998, p. 4.
  109. ^ abBranch 2009, p. 3.
  110. ^Anderson 2005, p. 4: "Much of the struggle tore through the African communities themselves, an internecine war waged between rebels and so-called 'loyalists' — Africans who took the side of the government and opposed Mau Mau."
  111. ^ ab
  112. "Mau Mau uprising: Bloody history of Kenya conflict". BBC News. 7 April 2011 . Retrieved 12 May 2011 . There was lots of suffering on the other side too. This was a dirty war. It became a civil war—though that idea remains extremely unpopular in Kenya today. (The quote is of Professor David Anderson).
  113. ^
  114. Newsinger, John (1981). "Revolt and Repression in Kenya: The "Mau Mau" Rebellion, 1952-1960". Science & Society. 45 (2): 159–185. JSTOR40402312.
  115. ^Füredi 1989, pp. 4–5: "Since they were the most affected by the colonial system and the most educated about its ways, the Kikuyu emerged as the most politicized African community in Kenya."
  116. ^Berman 1991, p. 196: "The impact of colonial capitalism and the colonial state hit the Kikuyu with greater force and effect than any other of Kenya's peoples, setting off new processes of differentiation and class formation."
  117. ^
  118. Thomas, Beth (1993). "Historian, Kenya native's book on Mau Mau revolt". UpDate. 13 (13): 7.
  119. ^ See in particular David Elstein's angry letters:
    • "Letters: Tell me where I'm wrong". London Review of Books. 27 (11). 2005 . Retrieved 3 May 2011 .
    • "The End of the Mau Mau". The New York Review of Books. 52 (11). 2005 . Retrieved 3 May 2011 .
    • "Letters: Tell me where I'm wrong". London Review of Books. 27 (14). 2005 . Retrieved 3 May 2011 .
    While Elstein regards the "requirement" for the "great majority of Kikuyu" to live inside 800 "fortified villages" as "serv[ing] the purpose of protection", Professor David Anderson (amongst others) regards the "compulsory resettlement" of "1,007,500 Kikuyu" inside what, for the "most" part, were "little more than concentration camps" as "punitive . . . to punish Mau Mau sympathisers". See Elstein's "Daniel Goldhagen and Kenya: recycling fantasy" and .
  120. ^ abcOgot 2005, p. 502: "There was no reason and no restraint on both sides, although Elkins sees no atrocities on the part of Mau Mau."
  121. ^Pirouet 1977, p. 197.
  122. ^ abClough 1998.
  123. ^Berman 1991, p. 197: "[D]eveloping conflicts . . . in Kikuyu society were expressed in a vigorous internal debate."
  124. ^Anderson 2005, pp. 11–12.
  125. ^ abBranch 2009, p. xi.
  126. ^Berman 1991, p. 199.
  127. ^Branch 2009, p. 1.
  128. ^Branch 2009, p. 2.
  129. ^Pirouet 1977, p. 200.
  130. ^Kalyvas 2006.
  131. ^Edgerton 1989, pp. 31–2.
  132. ^ abcNissimi 2006, p. 4.
  133. ^French 2011, p. 29.
  134. ^
  135. "Mau Mau case: UK government accepts abuse took place". BBC News. 17 July 2012.
  136. ^ abcFrench 2011, p. 72.
  137. ^ abFrench 2011, p. 55.
  138. ^
  139. "Ciokaraine: The Story of the Female Meru Diviner". Google Arts & Culture . Retrieved 8 August 2020 .
  140. ^Elkins 2005, p. 75 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) : "According to Emergency regulations, the governor could issue Native Land Rights Confiscation Orders, whereby '[e]ach of the persons named in the schedule . . . participated or aided in violent resistance against the forces of law and order' and therefore had his land confiscated".
  141. ^
  142. Wallis, Holly (18 April 2012). "British colonial files released following legal challenge". BBC News . Retrieved 29 May 2012 .
  143. ^ abAnderson 2005, p. 62.
  144. ^Elkins 2005, pp. 35–6 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  145. ^ abAnderson 2005, p. 63.
  146. ^Anderson 2005, p. 68.
  147. ^Elkins 2005, p. 38 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  148. ^Anderson 2005, p. 69.
  149. ^Anderson 2005, pp. 62–3.
  150. ^Andrew 2009, pp. 456–7.
    See also: Walton 2013, pp. 236–86.
  151. ^Andrew 2009, p. 454. See also the relevant footnote, n.96 of p. 454.
  152. ^Elkins 2005, p. 39 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  153. ^ abBerman 1991, p. 189.
  154. ^Elkins 2005, p. 37 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  155. ^Elkins 2005, pp. 37–8 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  156. ^ abClough 1998, p. 25.
  157. ^ abFrench 2011, p. 116.
  158. ^Edgerton 1989, p. 83.
  159. ^
  160. "They Follow the Dug-Out General". Sunday Mail. Brisbane. 19 April 1953. p. 15 . Retrieved 17 November 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  161. ^
  162. "END MAY BE NEAR FOR THE MAU MAU". The Sunday Herald. Sydney. 30 August 1953. p. 8 . Retrieved 17 November 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  163. ^"PSYOP of the Mau-Mau UprisingSGM" Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.) 4 Jan 2006, accessed 9 November 2013
  164. ^
  165. "MAU MAU GENERAL SURRENDERS". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 March 1954. p. 3 . Retrieved 9 November 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  166. ^French 2011, p. 32.
  167. ^French 2011, pp. 116–7.
  168. ^Elkins 2005, p. 124 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) : "There was an unusual consensus in the ranks of both the military and Baring's civilian government that the colony's capital was the nerve center for Mau Mau operations. Nearly three-quarters of the city's African male population of sixty thousand were Kikuyu, and most of these men, along with some twenty thousand Kikuyu women and children accompanying them, were allegedly 'active or passive supporters of Mau Mau'."
  169. ^Doubleday & Henderson 1958, p. 14 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFDoubledayHenderson1958 (help) : "In the first months of the emergency the Mau Mau discipline was so strong that a terrorist in the forest who gave his money to a courier could be almost certain of getting what he wanted from any shop in Nairobi."
  170. ^
  171. Cashner, Bob (2013). The FN FAL Battle Rifle. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. p. 15. ISBN978-1-78096-903-9 .
  172. ^Elkins 2005, pp. 121–5 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  173. ^ abcdChappell 2011.
  174. ^Chappell 2011, p. 68.
  175. ^Edgerton 1989, p. 86: "Before the Emergency ended, the RAF dropped the amazing total of 50,000 tons of bombs on the forests and fired over 2 million rounds from machine guns during strafing runs. It is not known how many humans or animals were killed."
  176. ^Chappell 2011, p. 67.
  177. ^ Smith, J. T. Mau Mau! A Case study in Colonial Air PowerAir Enthusiast 64 July–August 1996 pp65-71
  178. ^Edgerton 1989, p. 86.
  179. ^Anderson 1988: "The Swynnerton Plan was among the most comprehensive of all the post-war colonial development programmes implemented in British Africa. Largely framed prior to the declaration of the State of Emergency in 1952, but not implemented until two years later, this development is central to the story of Kenya's decolonization".
  180. ^Elkins 2005, p. 127 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  181. ^Ogot 1995, p. 48.
  182. ^Anderson 1988.
  183. ^Elkins 2005, pp. 128–9 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  184. ^Elkins 2005, p. 125 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  185. ^Elkins 2005, pp. 62–90 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  186. ^Elkins 2005, p. 109 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  187. ^Elkins 2005, p. 108 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  188. ^ The term gulag is used by David Anderson and Caroline Elkins. For Anderson, see his 2005 Histories of the Hanged, p. 7: "Virtually every one of the acquitted men . . . would spend the next several years in the notorious detention camps of the Kenyan gulag" for Elkins, see the title of the UK edition of her 2005 book, Britain's Gulag.
  189. ^Elkins 2005, p. 136 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  190. ^ ab
  191. Editorial (11 April 2011). "Mau Mau abuse case: Time to say sorry". The Guardian . Retrieved 14 April 2011 .
  192. ^ abcElkins 2005, pp. 154–91 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  193. ^Peterson 2008, pp. 75–6, 89, 91: "Some detainees, worried that the substance of their lives was draining away, thought their primary duty lay with their families. They therefore confessed to British officers, and sought an early release from detention. Other detainees refused to accept the British demand that they sully other people's reputations by naming those whom they knew to be involved in Mau Mau. This 'hard core' kept their mouths closed, and languished for years in detention. The battle behind the wire was not fought over detainees' loyalty to a Mau Mau movement. Detainees' intellectual and moral concerns were always close to home. . . . British officials thought that those who confessed had broken their allegiance to Mau Mau. But what moved detainees to confess was not their broken loyalty to Mau Mau, but their devotion to their families. British officials played on this devotion to hasten a confession. . . . The battle behind the wire was not fought between patriotic hard-core Mau Mau and weak-kneed, wavering, broken men who confessed. . . . Both hard core and soft core had their families in mind."
  194. ^ abElkins 2005, p. 178 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  195. ^ ab
  196. Editorial (13 April 2011). "Taking on the Boss: The quiet whistleblowers on events in Kenya deserve praise". The Times . Retrieved 13 April 2011 .
  197. ^ abcdeElkins 2005, pp. 179–91 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  198. ^Elkins 2005, p. 148 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) . It is debatable whether Peter Kenyatta was sympathetic to Mau Mau in the first place and therefore whether he truly switched sides.
  199. ^
  200. Mike Thompson (7 April 2011). "Mau Mau blame 'goes right to the top ' ". Today. BBC. 00:40–00:54 . Retrieved 12 May 2011 .
  201. ^Elkins 2005, pp. 176–7 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  202. ^Elkins 2005, pp. 171–7 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  203. ^Elkins 2005, p. 144 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  204. ^Elkins 2005, Chapter 5: The Birth of Britain's Gulag harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  205. ^Curtis 2003, pp. 316–33.
  206. ^
  207. Ian Cobain Peter Walker (11 April 2011). "Secret memo gave guidelines on abuse of Mau Mau in 1950s". The Guardian . Retrieved 13 April 2011 . Baring informed Lennox-Boyd that eight European officers were facing accusations of a series of murders, beatings and shootings. They included: "One District Officer, murder by beating up and roasting alive of one African." Despite receiving such clear briefings, Lennox-Boyd repeatedly denied that the abuses were happening, and publicly denounced those colonial officials who came forward to complain.
  208. ^Peterson 2008, p. 84.
  209. ^ abcElkins 2005, p. 262 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  210. ^Elkins 2005, pp. 151–2 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  211. ^Elkins 2005, p. 227 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  212. ^Curtis 2003, p. 327.
  213. ^Elkins 2005, p. 153 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  214. ^Elkins 2005, pp. 240–1 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  215. ^French 2011, pp. 116–37.
  216. ^McCulloch 2006, p. 70.
  217. ^Elkins 2005, pp. 234–5 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) . See also n.3 of p. 235.
  218. ^Elkins 2005, p. 235 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) . , gives a slightly lower figure (1,007,500) for the number of individuals affected.
  219. ^Elkins 2005, p. 240 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  220. ^ abcAnderson 2005, p. 294.
  221. ^Nissimi 2006, pp. 9–10.
  222. ^Elkins 2005, p. 239 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  223. ^Elkins 2005, pp. 236–7 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  224. ^French 2011, p. 120.
  225. ^Elkins 2005, p. 238 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  226. ^Anderson 2005, p. 293.
  227. ^Elkins 2005, p. 252 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  228. ^Elkins 2005, pp. 259–60 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  229. ^ abcElkins 2005, p. 260 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  230. ^Elkins 2005, p. 263 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  231. ^ abcBlacker 2007.
  232. ^Elkins 2005, pp. 260–1 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  233. ^Elkins 2005, p. 263 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) : "It is accepted policy that cases of pulmonary tuberculosis . . . be returned to their reserve to avail themselves of the routine medical control and treatment within their areas". (The quote is of the colony's director of medical services).
  234. ^Elkins 2005, pp. 263–4 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) : "The financial situation has now worsened. . . . Schemes of medical help, however desirable and however high their medical priority, could not in [these] circumstances be approved". (The quote is of Baring).
  235. ^
  236. Gadsden, Fay (October 1980). "The African Press in Kenya, 1945–1952". The Journal of African History. 21 (4): 515–535. doi:10.1017/S0021853700018727. ISSN0021-8537.
  237. ^ ab
  238. Pinckney, Thomas C. Kimuyu, Peter K. (1 April 1994). "Land Tenure Reform in East Africa: Good, Bad or Unimportant?1". Journal of African Economies. 3 (1): 1–28. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.jae.a036794. ISSN0963-8024.
  239. ^Elkins 2005, p. xiv harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  240. ^Elkins 2005, p. 366 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  241. ^Anderson 2005, p. 7.
  242. ^
  243. Maathai, Wangari (2006). Unbowed: a memoir. Alfred A. Knopf. p. 68. ISBN0307263487 .
  244. ^ abAnderson 2005, p. 84.
  245. ^
  246. Gary D. Solis (15 February 2010). The Law of Armed Conflict: International Humanitarian Law in War. Cambridge University Press. pp. 301–303. ISBN978-1-139-48711-5 .
  247. ^Anderson 2005, p. 2.
  248. ^Elkins 2005, p. 87 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  249. ^
  251. ^
  252. Caroline Elkins (2005). Britain's gulag: the brutal end of empire in Kenya. Pimlico. pp. 124–145.
  253. ^
  254. David Anderson (23 January 2013). Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire. W. W. Norton. pp. 150–154.
  255. ^ ab
  256. "Kenya: UK expresses regret over abuse as Mau Mau promised payout". The Guardian. London. 5 June 2013.
  257. ^
  258. R. Edgerton. Mau Mau: An African Crucible, London 1990. pp. 144–159.
  259. ^Elkins 2005, p. 66 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  260. ^
  261. "Sins of colonialists lay concealed for decades in secret archive". The Guardian. London. 18 April 2012.
  262. ^
  263. Wangari Maathai (2006). Unbowed: a memoir. Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 65, 67. ISBN0307263487 .
  264. ^
  265. Lewis, Joanna (April 2007). "Nasty, Brutish and in shorts? British colonial rule, violence and the historians of Mau Mau". The Round Table. 96 (389): 201–223. doi:10.1080/00358530701303392. ISSN0035-8533. S2CID154259805.
  266. ^ Maloba, Wunyabari O. Mau Mau and Kenya: An Analysis of a Peasant Revolt. (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana: 1993) pp. 142-43.
  267. ^
  268. "indepth/special-report-3". ogiek.org. Archived from the original on 21 October 2004 . Retrieved 28 July 2016 .
  269. ^
  270. "Mau Mau massacre documents revealed". BBC News. 30 November 2012 . Retrieved 6 December 2013 .
  271. ^Anderson 2005, pp. 119–180.
  272. ^Anderson 2005, p. 127.
  273. ^Anderson 2005, p. 132.
  274. ^Anderson 2005, p. 94.
  275. ^Elkins 2005, p. 42 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .
  276. ^
  277. Carus, W. Seth (2002). Bioterrorism and Biocrimes: The Illicit Use of Biological Agents Since 1900 (Reprint of 1st ed.). Amsterdam: Fredonia Books. pp. 63–65. This episode is not mentioned in histories of the Mau Mau revolt, suggesting that such incidents were rare.
  278. ^ abWasserman 1976, p. 1.
  279. ^Nissimi 2006, p. 2.
  280. ^Branch & Cheeseman 2006, p. 11: "The co-option of sympathetic African elites during the colonial twilight into the bureaucracy, the legislature and the private property-based economy meant that the allies of colonialism and representatives of transnational capital were able to reap the benefits of independence. . . . The post-colonial state must therefore be seen as a representation of the interests protected and promoted during the latter years of colonial rule. Under Jomo Kenyatta, the post-colonial state represented a 'pact-of-domination' between transnational capital, the elite and the executive."
  281. ^Percox 2005, pp. 752.
  282. ^Lonsdale 2000, pp. 109–10. "Mau Mau, despite its problematic claims to be called 'nationalist' . . . forced the issue of power in a way that KAU had never done. It was not that Mau Mau won its war against the British guerrilla movements rarely win in military terms and militarily Mau Mau was defeated. But in order to crown peace with sustainable civil governance—and thus reopen a prospect of controlled decolonization—the British had to abandon 'multiracialism' and adopt African rule as their vision of Kenya's future. . . . The blood of Mau Mau, no matter how peculiarly ethnic in source and aim, was the seed of Kenya's all-African sovereignty."
  283. ^Wasserman 1976, p. 1: "Although the rise of nationalist movements in Africa was certainly a contributing factor in the dismantling of the colonial empires, one cannot wholly attribute the 'demise of colonialism' to the rise of nationalism. . . . [T]he decolonization process was shaped by an adaptive reaction of colonial political and economic interests to the political ascendency of a nationalist elite and to the threat of disruption by the masses."
  284. ^ Anaïs Angelo (2017) Jomo Kenyatta and the repression of the ‘last’ Mau Mau leaders, 1961–1965, Journal of Eastern African Studies, 11:3, 442-459, DOI: 10.1080/17531055.2017.1354521
  285. ^ Kenya National Assembly Official Record. 12 July 2000. Parliamentary debates. page 1552-1553
  286. ^
  287. "British-backed Mau Mau memorial set to open in rare colonial apology". The Economic Times. AFP. 11 September 2015.
  288. ^
  289. "Former guerrillas seek damages". The Irish Times. 8 August 1999 . Retrieved 30 May 2012 .
  290. ^
  291. "Mau Mau compensation demand". BBC News. 20 August 1999 . Retrieved 30 May 2012 .
  292. ^
  293. Thompson, Mike (9 November 2002). "Mau Mau rebels threaten court action". BBC News . Retrieved 30 May 2012 .
  294. ^
  295. Plaut, Martin (31 August 2003). "Kenya lifts ban on Mau Mau". BBC News . Retrieved 30 May 2012 .
  296. ^
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  305. " ' He came with pliers'—Kenyan alleges torture by British colonial authorities". BBC News. 7 April 2011 . Retrieved 30 May 2012 .
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  309. McConnell, Tristan (21 July 2011). "Kenyan veterans celebrate first victory in compensation claim". The Times . Retrieved 29 May 2012 .
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  315. Owen Bowcott (5 April 2011). "Kenyans sue UK for alleged colonial human rights abuses". The Guardian . Retrieved 11 February 2012 .
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  317. Owen Bowcott (7 April 2011). "Mau Mau victims seek compensation from UK for alleged torture". The Guardian . Retrieved 11 February 2012 .
  318. ^
  319. Owen Bowcott (21 July 2011). "Mau Mau torture claim Kenyans win right to sue British government". The Guardian . Retrieved 21 July 2011 .
  320. ^
  321. Dominic Casciani (21 July 2011). "Mau Mau Kenyans allowed to sue UK government". BBC News . Retrieved 21 July 2011 .
  322. ^
  323. Macintyre, Ben Ralph, Alex McConnell, Tristan (21 July 2011). "Kenyans can sue over 'colonial torture ' ". The Times . Retrieved 29 May 2012 .
  324. ^
  325. Editorial (22 July 2011). "Good News from London". The Times . Retrieved 29 May 2012 .
  326. ^
  327. Ben Macintyre (12 April 2011). "Torture device No 1: the legal rubber stamp". The Times . Retrieved 12 April 2011 .
  328. ^Elkins 2011.
  329. ^
  330. "Kenyans were tortured during Mau Mau rebellion, High Court hears". telegraph.co.uk. London. 18 July 2012 . Retrieved 18 March 2013 .
  331. ^ ab
  332. Ben Macintyre Billy Kenber (13 April 2011). "Brutal beatings and the 'roasting alive' of a suspect: what secret Mau Mau files reveal". The Times . Retrieved 13 April 2011 . Sir Evelyn Baring, the Governor of Kenya, in a telegram to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, reported allegations of extreme brutality made against eight European district officers. They included 'assault by beating up and burning of two Africans during screening [interrogation]' and one officer accused of 'murder by beating up and roasting alive of one African'. No action was taken against the accused.
  333. ^
  334. Caroline Elkins (14 April 2011). "My critics ignored evidence of torture in Mau Mau detention camps". The Guardian . Retrieved 14 April 2011 .
  335. ^ abcd
  336. Kenber, Billy (19 April 2011). "New documents show how Britain sanctioned Mau Mau torture". The Times . Retrieved 29 May 2012 .
  337. ^ ab
  338. Andy McSmith (8 April 2011). "Cabinet 'hushed up' torture of Mau Mau rebels". The Independent. London . Retrieved 10 February 2012 .
  339. ^
  340. Wallis, Holly (18 April 2012). "British colonial files released following legal challenge". BBC News . Retrieved 29 May 2012 .
  341. ^ Question, House of Lords, London 12 May 1959 – 'Whether the Government will make available to this House the text of the Cowan plan'
  342. ^
  343. Dominic Casciani (12 April 2011). "British Mau Mau abuse papers revealed". BBC News . Retrieved 12 May 2011 .
  344. ^ abc
  345. Ben Macintyre (5 April 2011). "Tales of brutality and violence that could open the claims floodgate". The Times . Retrieved 6 April 2011 . A letter was sent to William Hague on March 31 stating: 'The Republic of Kenya fully supports the claimants' case and has publicly denied any notion that responsibility for any acts and atrocities committed by the British colonial administration during the Kenya 'Emergency' was inherited by the Republic of Kenya.'
  346. ^
  347. David Anderson (25 July 2011). "It's not just Kenya. Squaring up to the seamier side of empire is long overdue". The Guardian . Retrieved 27 July 2011 .
  348. ^ For more on Anderson's reaction to the 'missing' papers, see:
    • "Colonial secret papers to be made public". BBC News. 6 May 2011 . Retrieved 12 May 2011 .
    • Mark Thompson (7 April 2011). "Mau Mau blame 'goes right to the top ' ". Today. BBC. 02:38–03:31 . Retrieved 12 May 2011 . These new documents were withheld because they were considered to be particularly sensitive, so we can but imagine what will be in these documents. . . . Senior members of the Commonwealth Office in London did know what was happening senior legal officials in London did, to some extent, sanction the use of coercive force and also, at Cabinet level, the Secretary of State for the Colonies certainly knew of the excesses that were taking place. (The quote is of Anderson).
  349. ^
  350. James Blitz (5 April 2011). "Mau Mau case casts light on colonial records". Financial Times . Retrieved 9 April 2011 .
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  352. McGhie, John (9 November 2002). "Kenya: White Terror". Correspondent. BBC . Retrieved 26 May 2012 .
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  354. Macintyre, Ben Kenber, Billy (15 April 2011). "Hundreds more top secret files missing in Mau Mau abuse case". The Times . Retrieved 26 May 2012 . In a statement to the court dated March 8, released to The Times yesterday, Martin Tucker, head of corporate records at the Foreign Office, reported that the 13 missing boxes could not be found. 'There were at one time a further 13 boxes of material retrieved from Kenya at independence which are additional to the documents discovered in Hanslope Park [the closed Foreign Office repository in Buckinghamshire] in January of this year', he wrote. He found evidence that the files had once been stored in the basement of the Old Admiralty Building in Whitehall, but traces of them had vanished after 1995.
  355. ^
  356. Elkins, Caroline (18 April 2012). "The colonial papers: FCO transparency is a carefully cultivated myth". The Guardian . Retrieved 7 May 2012 .
  357. ^
  358. Cobain, Ian (5 October 2012). "Mau Mau torture case: Kenyans win ruling against UK". theguardian.com . Retrieved 6 May 2012 .
  359. ^
  360. Day, Martyn Leader, Dan (5 October 2012). "The Kenyans tortured by the British must now be justly treated". theguardian.com . Retrieved 6 May 2012 .
  361. ^
  362. Townsend, Mark (23 December 2012). "Fury as Britain fights ruling on Kenya torture victims". theguardian.com . Retrieved 6 May 2013 .
  363. ^
  364. Cobain, Ian Hatcher, Jessica (5 May 2013). "Kenyan Mau Mau victims in talks with UK government over legal settlement". theguardian.com . Retrieved 6 May 2012 .
  365. ^
  366. Bennett, Huw (5 May 2013). "Kenyan Mau Mau: official policy was to cover up brutal mistreatment". theguardian.com . Retrieved 6 May 2013 .
  367. ^ ab
  368. "Statement to Parliament on settlement of Mau Mau claims". GOV.UK . Retrieved 22 March 2019 .
  369. ^
  370. "Mau Mau abuse victims to get payouts". 6 June 2013 . Retrieved 22 March 2019 .
  371. ^Lonsdale 2003, p. 47.
  372. ^Elkins 2005, pp. 360–3 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) : "During the run-up to independence and the years that followed, former loyalists also wielded political clout to consolidate their own interests and power. Under Kenyatta many became influential members of the new government. . . . This system of loyalist patronage percolated all the way down to the local level of government, with former Home Guards dominating bureaucracies that had once been the preserve of the young British colonial officers in the African districts. Of the numerous vacancies created by decolonization—powerful posts like provincial commissioner and district commissioner—the vast majority were filled by one time loyalists."
  373. ^Branch 2009, pp. xii–xiii.
  374. ^ ab
  375. Jacob Ole Miaron, Permanent Secretary of the Vice President Ministry of State for National Heritage and Culture (26 February 2009). "Speech to the 52nd Commemoration of the Memory of Dedan Kimathi". Archived from the original (pdf) on 9 October 2011 . Retrieved 14 April 2011 .
  376. ^
  377. "Chapter Two—The Republic" (PDF) . Constitution of Kenya, 2010. National Council for Law Reporting. Article 9, p. 15. The national days . . . [shall include] Mashujaa Day, to be observed on 20 October .
  378. ^
  379. Dominic Odipo (10 May 2010). "Who are Kenya's real heroes?". The Standard. Nairobi: Standard Group. Archived from the original on 21 January 2012 . Retrieved 7 June 2010 . Changing Kenyatta Day to Mashujaa Day is not just an innocuous and harmless exercise in constitutional semantics.
  380. ^ ab
  381. Jenkins, Cathy (22 March 2001). "Monuments for the Mau Mau". BBC News . Retrieved 30 May 2012 .
  382. ^Anderson 2005, pp. 335–6: "[Kenyatta] often spoke of the need to 'forgive and forget', and to 'bury the past'. He acknowledged the part the freedom fighters had played in the struggle, but he never once made any public statement that conceded to them any rights or any genuine compensation. Mau Mau was a thing best forgotten. . . . In Kenyatta's Kenya there would be a deafening silence about Mau Mau".
  383. ^Branch 2009, pp. xiii–xiv.
  384. ^Nissimi 2006, p. 11.
  385. ^Ormsby-Gore 1925, p. 148.
  386. ^Kanogo 1993, p. 10.
  387. ^Elkins 2005, p. 63 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFElkins2005 (help) .

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Gikuyu Clans

According to the mythology of the Gikuyu, the first parents Gikuyu and Mumbi after arriving at Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga begat “nine” daughters who were the subsequently the mothers of the “nine” Kikuyu clans that bear their name. This is what Father Cagnolo writing in his book “The Akikuyu” published in 1933 wrote.

“Every Kikuyu states that the clans of the tribe are nine, but at the same time he enumerates ten names. Some of them will be unable to explain their incoherency: somebody else says: “Meherega ne kenda eyoire” -The clans are nine with the fill:- what explains the whole thing. The number ten is complete, and if they said plainly that the clans are ten, they would feel as they omened the end of the tribe. They result therefore to a periphrase.”

Cagnolo had a knack for detail and although he was a white man, he was able to record a vital point that has caused a lot of confusion. Many including the “authoritative” Kenyatta have not clarified this point as he does. StanleyKiama Gathigira in his Gikuyu 1933 authorititive response to Cagnolo’s foreign anthropology writes,

“Ni wega kumenyuo ati ruriri rwa Gikuyu ruri mihiriga kenda uiyuire – kenda uiyuire ni ikumi uhoroini wa kugera andu tondu Agikuyu matigeraga muigana wa andu, matigathire” – “It is well to note that the Gikuyu tribe has nine full clans – nine full is ten in the manner of counting people as the Agikuyu do not number people in case they perish”

He then goes on to enumerate their names which correspond nearly exactly with Cagnolos list. Fred K Kago (1954) also states,

“Mihiriga ya Gikuyu ni kenda, kenda muiyuru” “The Gikuyu clans are nine, nine full”

He then lists them from 1-9 but uses an asterisk instead of the number 10. (Though Fred was a converted Christian, the Gikuyu in him couldn’t allow him to put it plainly as 10, so he resulted to the asterisk subterfuge.)

M. N. Kabetu in “Kirira Kia Ugikuyu” writes,

“Mugwetere wa mihiriga io-ri, ihuthiire kuguetwo ta iri Kenda, na kaingi andu maagiite kumithuthuria wega, maahota gutuura mehokete ati no kenda ni undu hitho ya Agikuyu ya mutarire wa andu twahota gukoruo tutekumimenya. Ikigwetagwo ati ni kenda ni undu Agikuyu kuuma tene, matiitikagirakugweta muigana wa andu ni gwitigira gukua, moigaga ati gutara andu – undi, na eri na atatu ni kumareher gikuu.” – Normally these clans are mentioned as if they are nine and sometimes those who have not studied them in detail will always believe them to be nine because we may not understand the secret of the Agikuyu way of counting people. They are stated to be as if they were nine, because the Agikuyu from time immemorial have never agreed to enumerate people for fear they may perish. They say that enumerating people – one, two three, is to bring death to them.” He continues, “Ikigwetagwo ati ni kenda muiyuru…” – “They are therefore said to be nine-full ….”

E. N. Mugo in 1982 writes in his “Kikuyu People – A brief outline of their customs and traditions”,

“Kikuyus were not used to mention living things by exact numbers, for they argued that it would possibly have brought a bad omen, or an ill taboo, to whatever was being counted. Hence people were discouraged to say that the clans were ten, for fear that they would very likely bring a slow death to the whole tribe.”

Gakaara wa Wanjau writes in Mihiriga ya Agikuyu,

Ona gutuika Agikuyu moigaga ati mihiriga yao ni kenda, ni kuri hitho yuikaine wega ati mihiriga yothe ni ikumi. Agikuyu ni matuuraga mari na mugiro wa kugera andu kana mahiu imwe nginya ikumi, na tondu ucio matigitikagira gutengura ati mihiriga yao ni ikumi tondu ni mehokete ati gwika uguo ni gutuma andu ao mathire. Handu ha kugweta ikumi magwetaga “kenda muiyuru.” – Even if the Kikuyu say that their clans are nine, there is a well known secret that the the clans are ten. The Kikuyu have lived with the taboo of counting people or domestic animals one to ten, and because of this they do not agree to state that their clans are ten because they believe that doing this will bring their demise. Instead of stating ten they say “nine full”

Professor Wangari Maathai in her very well written autobiography “Unbowed” recaptures the true tradition of Gikuyu storytelling by giving a colourful snapshot of the Gikuyu cultural traditions she grew up in. She enumerates ten clans saying she herself was from the Anjiru clan like this blogger.

Other sources confirm the above cited and the conclusion when comparing all of them is that there were nine plus one daughters who were the mothers of the nine plus one clans. It is clear that the notion by some people (like Kenyatta) that the tenth clan was a minor clan has no basis as the superstition of numbering was the principle motive behind saying that they were nine. Kenyatta has actually contributed greatly to the confusion as he is taken as an authority merely because of his stature but he ignorantly wrote in his 1942 “My People of Kikuyu”

“So it came about that the nine clans of the Kikuyu tribe were founded, and took their names from the nine daughters of the Kikuyu ….”

It is in his later and more influential “Facing Mount Kenya” that he conceded that there were nine major clans, suggesting erroneously that there were major and minor clans. I find his thesis unacceptable because it flies in the face of the more powerful facts regarding enumeration and furthermore, the order of the names changes all the time according to who is enumerating though it is normal to end with Warigia.

The name, Warigia means ‘the last’ and it may very likely be that she was the last born. However the name Warigia also meaning ‘left behind’ suggests she is the one who remained in the original Gikuyu homestead and inherited her father’s property after the rest had left to establish their homes and clans. She may not necessarily have been the last born as the order the girls were born is unknown.

Most of the daughters and clans have multiple names and which name is predominantly used depends on geographical location. Generally there are two major variations theNyeri/Kirinyaga (Northern Gikuyu) versions and the Murang’a/Kia Mbu (Southern Gikuyu) versions. The use of various alternative names was what caused Routledge writing in 1910 to erroneously enumerate 13 clans.

Below in bullets, are the names of the daughters and their corresponding derivative clan names. The name starting with the prefix Wa is certainly the main name. Each may have more variants depending on location but the main names prefixed WA are conclusive.

  • Wanjiru, mother of Anjiru
  • Wambui, mother of Ambui
  • Wanjiku, mother of Agaciku
  • Waceera or Njeri mother of the clan Aceera
  • Wangari, mother of Angari or Aithekahuno
  • Wakiuru or Wambura mother of Akiuru or Ambura or Ethaga
  • Wangeci or Waithira, mother of Angeci or Aithirandu
  • Wairimu or Gathigia, mother of Airimu or Agathigia
  • Wangui or Waithiegeni, mother of Angui or Aithiegeni
  • Wamuyu or Warigia or Wanjugu mother of Aicakamuyu

When the girls became of age and began to have yearnings for their own husbands, they went to their mother and asked her where she got her’s. She took the problem to her husband Gikuyu. Gikuyu consulted Ngai, God and Ngai asked him to make a sacrifice of a spotless ram under the fig tree “Mugumo”. He called his daughters and asked them to go to the Mukuyu and for them to cut for each a straight rod of her own height. Nine of the girls brought the rods and their father placed them on top of the fire as ndara and then placed the sacrifice on them. In the morning NINE young men appeared and each of the daughters took a mate her own height. Apparently, there is confusion in the myths as to whether nine, relating to the young men means nine in the real sense or it meant “nine full”. What seems to emerge from the various stories is that one of the daughters, Wamuyu was too young to take part in the rods’ business and their heating (ahem! Let me swallow that one) but nevertheless later had children and descendants.

The interesting story of this daughter, Wamuyu, who remained unmarried but nevertheless as a single mother became the mother of the Aicakamuyu clan deserves to be dealt with separately in another post here.

– Post updated 21st March 2009 (Main changes: Evidence from Gakaara Wanjau inserted)

To listen to the explanation of clans in Kikuyu by Joseph Kamaru go to the link below. Start with the question by Nduru.


We have seen that the Kikuyu myth of origin does not include Egypt as a possible location. After focussed scrutiny, the nine names given in a 30-year cycle in Ituĩka ceremonies of handing over power indicate that the Kikuyu had something to hide. Readers should ask themselves why the coincidences seem to revolve around the life of Akhenaten and his relatives when a comparison is made with the history of 18 th Dynasty Egypt. I would conclude that the coincidences are not to be taken as chance occurrences.

In regard to the nine Ituĩka ceremony names, I maintain that a tenth generation was hidden in the same way that the Kikuyu only talked of nine clans. Most writers agree that the clans were ten. The reason for hiding the tenth clan is that counting people to the exact number would cause them to perish. Since the tenth clan name is said to be the entire house of Mumbi, it is a symbolic clan – that of completing the bundle, i.e. 10. Using the same argument, the tenth generation name would be symbolic to complete the bundle and it should not be surprising if it sounds a bit like ten (10). The word ten in English is thousands of years old as we shall see.

Nine Generations at 30-year intervals would give a total of 270 years at the end of the cycle. They would also make the use of the generic names Maina and Mwangi lose rhythm at some point since 2 is an even number while 9 is an odd number.

Ten Generations at 30-year intervals would give a total of 300 years, a figure that has the magical number 3, and a round figure.

With a tenth clan, we would not have a situation where Maina’s generic name is Mwangi or vice versa, which would be unacceptable, since “the Maina beget the Mwangi and the Mwangi beget the Maina in perpetuity. After the tenth Generation, the Kikuyu in their wisdom decided that the cycle would be repeated without further changes since they too had gone a full circle – from Mount Kenya to Egypt and back. Only the annual initiation names were subject to change as warranted by the major occurrences each year.

I suggest that the tenth Ituĩka was called Tene na Ago. This is a common phrase that also means long ago in Kikuyu. Note that Ten in English and Tene na ago for long ago in Kikuyu and long Ago (English) are mere semantics for number ten and long ago.

During the Ituĩka power handing over ceremony, the secrets of the tribe were handed over to the new rulers. In 1939, the British Government proscribed the ceremony so the generation that was to hand over went to their graves with all the secrets of the Kikuyu. According to LSB Leakey, the ceremony was already very late. The payment to the retirees had been greatly delayed, possibly due to the transition from self-government to colonialism. Unknown to the British, the ceremony had continued among the Kikuyu uninterrupted for roughly 3,300 years. But if it is assumed that the ceremony had started with King Menes in 3100 BC, then 5,000 years would be closer to the truth. The people of England may one day discover that the story of the Hebseds, the Ituĩka and their story too, since little is known of pre-Roman times.


The Kikuyu were originally hunter-gatherers, but they gradually adopted horticultural practices. The first crops grown by the Kikuyu were cocoyams, sweet potatoes, bananas, and millet. The cultivation of crops was traditionally segregated by gender. Men cultivated yams and bananas, whereas women grew sweet potatoes and millet. Women also gathered a variety of wild spinachlike greens, tubers, such as arrowroot (taro), and berries. Sugarcane was grown and honey collected from hives in the forest for the production of beer. Maize was introduced early in the nineteenth century and has become a major staple crop. When it is used for domestic consumption, it is usually grown by women, but when it is sold as a commodity, it is more often grown by men.

Many foods have been added to the traditional crops of the Kikuyu. European potatoes, cassava, and rice have been added to the cultivated crops, as well as legumes, which include dwarf beans, cowpeas, pigeon peas, kidney beans, lentils, and garden peas. Today Kikuyu also grow cabbage, tomatoes, onions, carrots, kale, and swiss chard. They season their foods with salt, chili peppers, or curry. A great variety of fruits is grown in the area. In addition to bananas, these include passion fruits, mangoes, papayas, loquats, plums, pineapples, oranges, and avocado pears. Women and children especially enjoy fruits, which they sell in local markets.

Although Kikuyu were formerly hunters, Kenyan game laws prohibit them from hunting today. Meat of wild game (antelope, impalas, bushbucks) and from herd animals (goats, sheep, and African cattle) was the prerogative of men. Pork and fish were prohibited, and game birds and other fowl were eaten only occasionally eggs were not a part of the diet. Women rarely ate meat and then only when it was handed to them by their husbands. Today meat is served only on special occasions — to celebrate a ceremony, such as Irua (circumcision), or to welcome an important visitor. Cash crops, such as tea, coffee, and rice, were not grown until the 1940s, and, in some areas of Kenya, much later, but they have become an important part of the economy.

Boniface Gichomo Mwangi

The Kikuyu tribe, also spelled as Gikuyu, is the largest ethnic group in Kenya, making up about 22% of the countries total population.The Kikuyu came into Kenya during the Bantu migration and nowadays make up Kenya's most populous ethnic group (7.5 million). Traditionally, the Kikuyu are farmers their homelands in the foothills of Mount Kenya are some of the most intensively farmed areas of the country. Many of Kikuyu have also become involved in business and politics.

The ancestors of the Kikuyu can be said with some certainty to have come from the North, from the region beyond the Nyambene Hills to the northeast of Mount Kenya (Kirinyaga), which was the original if not exclusive homeland of all of central Kenya’s Bantu-speaking peoples, viz. the Meru, Embu, Chuka, Kamba and possibly Mbeere. The people are believed to have arrived in the hills as early as the 1200s.

From where they came, though, is a matter subject to a lot of controversy (ie. speculation based on few facts): one theory argues that they came from Axum(Ethiopia) migrating when the Aksumite Empire or Axumite Empire fell, another the mythical ‘Shungwaya’, presumably in Somalia, from which the nine tribes of the coastal Mijikenda also say they came.

The other main theory posits that they came from the west, having split from the proto-Bantu of central Africa. Whatever their early origins, it is generally accepted that starting from around the 1500s, the ancestors of the Kikuyu, Meru (including the Igembe and Tigania), Kamba, Embu and Chuka, began moving south into the richer foothills of Mount Kenya. By the early 1600s, they were concentrated at Ithanga, 80km southeast of the mountain’s peaks at the confluence of the Thika and Sagana rivers.

As Ithanga’s population increased, oral traditions of all the tribes agree that the people began to fan out in different directions, eventually becoming the separate and independent tribes that exist today. The theory that the Chuka, Embu, Mbeere, Gicugu and Ndia ‘broke away’ from the main Kikuyu group before arriving at Ithanga is plausible, but is contradicted by the oral traditions of various tribes, many of which include Ithanga in their histories.The Kikuyu themselves moved west to a place near present-day Murang’a, from where the Kikuyu creation myth picks up the story.

Gikuyu and Mumbi
The actual point at which the Kikuyu became a separate and independent people with their own and unique sense of identity is fairly clearly stated in oral tradition, which says that the founder of the Kikuyu was a man named Gikuyu.One day, Ngai (God) gave him a wife called Mumbi, and commanded them to build a homestead near Murang’a, to the southwest of Kirinyaga (Mount Kenya).

Some versions of the myth say that Ngai first took Gikuyu to the top of Kirinyaga to behold the land that he was giving them.[ *Please note that the Bantu,Cushites Nilotes & Semites worshiped the same God] Europeans by then where still worshiping idols]

The place that Gikuyu and Mumbi settled in was full of wild fig trees (sacred among many Kenyan peoples, not just Bantu), and was called Mukurue wa Gathanga, which loosely translated means ‘Tree of the Building Site’, and even more loosely ‘the Kikuyu Garden of Eden’. The location is still sacred, even though the fig tree – which was believed to have been as old as the Kikuyu themselves – disappeared a few decades ago.

Mumbi bore nine daughters, who married and had families, and which eventually became clans. Ngai gave them the highly fertile lands to the southwest of the mountain to live in. These clans – the true ancestors of the Kikuyu – are actually called the ‘full nine’ or ‘nine fully’ (kenda muiyuru), for there also was a tenth daughter, who descended from an unmarried mother in one of the other nine clans (which suggests the later amalgamation of at least one other people into the Kikuyu). Until recently, it was a common taboo for anyone to give the exact number of their children violating the taboo – any taboo – would portend a bad omen.

Virtually every Kikuyu woman is named after one of the ‘nine’ daughters of Mumbi, and the creation myth – like many others among Bantu-speaking people – suggests that ancient Kikuyu society was originally matriarchal. According to some, the men grew tired of their treatment by the women and rebelled.

The Kikuyu is formed into nine clans. According to the tribe’s traditions, these clans are the descendants of each of Gikuyu’s nine daughters, reflecting a history where the tribe had always been matriarchal. But by the time, the colonialists installed Wangu Wa Makeri as location head in Weithaga Muranga the tribe had become patriarchal.

The fable goes that one day, Ngai called Gikuyu up to Kirinyaga the religious mountain and from that high point Ngai showed Gikuyu the beautiful earth he had created.“ I will give you whatever land you ask for. ” Gikuyu picked an area that had many Mugumo (fig trees). So Ngai let him build his home there. He called the place where the Mugumo trees grew Mukurwe wa Gathanga. This translates loosely as 'Tree of the Building Site', or more loosely still as 'the Kikuyu Garden of Eden'.

The site still exists today, to the south-west of Mount Kenya, as the present day Murang’a town.

Then Ngai said: “You will at times be in need of my help, when the time arises, slaughter a goat for sacrifice, then raise your hands towards Kirinyaga. I Ngai will come to your help.” When Gikuyu went to the chosen spot, he found a beautiful woman whom he took as his wife. He named her Mumbi (Molder or Creator). Ngai gave them nine daughters.

Nine Daughters
Now Gikuyu went to Ngai seeking sons to marry his daughters. Ngai said: "Go, take a lamb and a kid. Kill these under the big Mugumo tree near the homestead and the blood and the fat pour them on the trunk of the tree. Let the family make a big fire under the tree. The meat will burn as a sacrifice to me. When you take your wife and daughters home, go back alone to the Mugumo tree. There you will find nine very handsome men who are willing to marry your daughters. Then your people will increase and multiply and fill all the land."

These nine daughters became the nine clans of the Kikuyu tribe. They were known as kenda muiyuru or the full nine. Legend goes that there was a tenth daughter who was born of an unmarried mother in one of the other nine clans. This tenth daughter is thought to have been the Kikuyu’s way of fusing another tribe into the fable, and their historical line. As a legend, it left behind it, a cultural twist too. The Kikuyu consider it a taboo and bad omen to tell anyone the exact number of children you have.

The matriarchal traditions of ancient Kikuyu society were history when Wangu wa Makeri a woman leader who was being overthrown by the men of the Kikuyu.

However, the daughters’ names live on, through every generation. The first-born daughter is named after the father’s mother. The second-born daughter is named after the mother’s mother.

The names of the nine daughters were Wangui, Wangari, Wambui, Waithira, Wanjiku, Waceera, Wanjiru, Wangeci and Wamuyu.

The Kikuyu clans are borrowed from these nine names, Angui, Angari, Aithera or aitherando, Anjiku, Aceera, Anjiru, Angeci, and Aicakamuyu.

Once a Kikuyu woman is married , she moves to her husband’s clan and all their children also belong to the same clan until they get married.

Consolidation and Expansion
As can be guessed from the above, the early history of the Kikuyu is certainly not simple, and things become further complicated for historians and anthropologists with the inevitable intermarriage and interaction that occurred (and still occurs) between the various tribes and groups that had parted ways at Ithanga, and which continued as the Kikuyu spread out from Mukurue wa Gathanga to cover their present terrain.

The Kikuyu have always been happy to adapt and, in terms of territorial expansion, were by far the most successful of the groups that had originally migrated south from the Nyambene Hills, relying on a combination of land purchases, blood-brotherhood (partnerships), intermarriage with other people, and their adoption and absorption. Only occasionally did warfare figure in this expansion, such as in the early 1800s when a combined Kikuyu, Maasai and Athi force defeated (annihilated?) the hunter-gathering Gumba (or Agumba), a people which one Kikuyu legend refers to as pygmies.

The original inhabitants of Kikuyu-land, it is said, were the Thagicu, who practised iron-working, herded cattle and sheep and goats, and hunted. The similarity in name between Thagicu and Gikuyu would suggest that they were in fact the Kikuyu’s earliest known ancestors, if not their primary lineage. They may indeed have been the ‘tenth’ of the ‘fully nine’ clans, though I admit that that is merely speculation.

Sources differ on the ethnic identity of the Thagicu – some say they were Bantu-speaking, others that they came from Cushitic peoples.(It would be interesting to do a complete DNA analysis of the modern Kikuyu)

As the land was fertile and ideally suited to agriculture, the population increased rapidly, causing further waves of migration which lasted until the eighteenth century: west into the Aberdares (Nyandarua Mountains), south to the present site of Nairobi, and north to the Nyeri plains and the Laikipia Plateau, where the Kikuyu came into contact with the cattle-herding Maasai (who were evicted from the area by the British early in the twentieth century).

Unusually in contacts with the Maasai, the Kikuyu were neither conquered nor assimilated by them, but instead engaged in trade (as well as sporadic cattle raiding), which led to a deep and long-lasting social interaction which especially affected the Kikuyu. During the Maasai civil wars at the end of the nineteenth century, hundreds of Maasai refugees were taken in and adopted by the Kikuyu, particularly those in Kiambu.

In consequence, Nilotic(Plain not River-lake Nilotes) social traits such as circumcision clitoridectomy and the age-set system, were adopted the taboo against eating fish was also accepted and people intermarried, so much so that more than half of the Kikuyu of some districts are believed to have Maasai blood in their veins (including Jomo Kenyatta himself, whose paternal grandmother was Maasai). From other peoples came loanwords for ceremonial dances, plants and animals, and the concept of irrigation as an agricultural technique.

Although the Kikuyu were a formidable fighting force, the agricultural nature of their lives meant that violence was generally only used for defence, for they lacked the mobility of pastoralists such as the Maasai and Samburu, who lived to the north and west.

Geographically, the Kikuyu were relatively well protected, with the Ngong Hills so the south, the Nyandarua Mountains to the west, and Mount Kenya to the northeast. To the east, also, were the related Meru, Embu and Kamba people, with whom relations were generally friendly, replying as they did on their trade with the Kikuyu. Defence was thus a primary concern only in the west, where the Kikuyu were wary of settling or venturing out onto open plains for fear of the Maasai, who were interested in controlling the widest possible areas for their herds.

Greater defence was necessary only close to the Maasai border, with the result that villages there were in effect forts and were built for maximum protection. Generally, only those family groups (mbari) with “many warrior sons” or which had attracted a clientele of fighting followers could muster the defence necessary to settle these new areas.(Explains why Kabete Kikuyus(kikuyus from kiambu) have large families .These villages were also well concealed: Europeans found they could be walking only metres from a settlement without knowing of its existence.

Economically, the Kikuyu were blessed with some of the most fertile land in Kenya, their ‘work ethic’, and their willingness to adapt and adopt to new situations. This made them ideally suited as traders, so much so that the majority of Kenyan businesses today are run by Kikuyu.

Having settled in an environment ideal for agricultural pursuits, the Kikuyu exploited it to the full, producing food far in excess of what they needed to feed themselves. This was in stark contrast to the Embu, Mbeere, Chuka, Kamba and the hunter-gathering Okiek (Ndorobo), whose lands were far less fertile, and were prone to drought and famine. At those times, when trade became a necessity for their survival, it was to the Kikuyu that they turned.

In return for supplying food, the Kikuyu received all manner of goods, ranging from skins, medicine and ironwork from the Mbeere, livestock and tobacco from the Embu, and salt and manufactured trade goods brought up from the coast by the Kamba, with whom the Kikuyu had their most important trading relationship. Trade also occurred with the Maasai, who may well have introduced elements of cattle culture to the Kikuyu. Even as the men were engaged in raiding each other’s livestock, Kikuyu women continued to trade with Maasai women.

Local markets proliferated in populated areas, as they do today. Women transported barter goods in caravans and were generally safe under the protection of middlemen (hinga), who represented the group with whom they intended to trade. By the nineteenth century, the Kikuyu had become so adept at trade that they became involved in supplying the Swahili ivory and slave trade with food, eventually – as the Kamba trade declined – usurping the role of the Kamba as intermediaries between the coast and the hinterland.

Judiciary & Customary Law
Every household head, the man of the house acted as the first instance in disputes arising around his homestead. If there was a big dispute, then he called on heads of the family within his family unit, mbarĩ. If this failed then it was time to move to the highest court of the land.

The highest court of the land consisted of the elders of three stages, junior elders called kiama kĩa kamatimo, who were mainly there as trainees of law and had such functions as to fetch firewood and water and light fires. They could not yet judge a case. The next council of elders kiama kĩa mataathi were the main judges. Other than that there was a council of elders called kiama kĩa maturanguru who were the eldest and most experienced and were called upon to assist in intricate parts of the law. A man entered this council when practically all his children were circumcised and his wife or wives were past child bearing age.

Cases brought before the council of elders were heard in the meeting space also known as kĩhaaro( today nicknamed Hague-see story on Mungiki membership trials in Kirinyaga). The elders heard from both parties. In making a case the concerned parties would use twigs given to the elders after each concrete complaint was made. After the arguments were made, an open session followed in which elders expressed their opinions for or against either party. At the end of this a special committee, ndundu, was formed that would deliver judgement. This retired to a place where no one could here their deliberations and only came out when a decision was reached. An appeal was possible if one of the parties didn’t agree with the ruling.

Oaths played a significant part in the judicial process. Fear of breaking the oath and the misfortunes that would befall one prevented people from giving false testimonies, as well as brought defenders to justice by means of a guilty conscience and confession. Curses acted as good deterrents against crime. Most cases heard by the kiama involved debts resulting from transactions of sheep, goats or cattle, exchanged in buying land or paying marriage insurances (rũracio). There were also a few criminal cases involving murder, trespass, assault, theft and witchcraft. The last two were the worst crimes. Theft for first time offenders was not serious but perpetual offenders would face death just like proven witch-doctors.

Fees to the council was a ram. Beer would also have to be brewed and offered when a case was being opened. Interestingly for murder cases the compensation for a mans life and a womans life varied greatly. The loss of a mans life was fixed at one hundred sheep or goats or ten cows. That of a womans life was fixed at thirty sheep or goats or three cows

In the traditional religion of the Kikuyu, the elders, or the older people within a clan, were considered to be the authority of God (Ngai). They used to offer to Ngai propitiatory sacrifices of animals, in chosen places that were considered sacred, usually near a fig tree or on the top of a hill or mountain. Even today there are large sacred trees where people sometimes gather for religious or political meetings or particular feasts. Mount Kenya, especially for the clans who live on its slopes, is considered the home of God.

The medicine man was a powerful person in traditional Kikuyu society. People would come to him to learn the future, to be healed, or to be freed from ill omens. The primary apparatus of the medicine man consisted of a series of gourds, the most important of which was the mwano, or divination gourd. It contained pebbles picked up from the river during his initiation, as well as small bones, marbles, small sticks, old coins, pieces of glass and any other object that might instill wonder in the eyes of his patients.

With European contact and the arrival of missionaries at the end of the nineteenth century, conversion of the Kikuyu to Christianity began with the establishment of missions throughout Kenya. Conversion was slow for the first thirty or forty years because of the missions' insistence that the Kikuyu give up a large part of their own cultures to become Christians.

Although many Kikuyu became Christians, resistance to changing their customs and traditions to satisfy Western religious standards was very strong. Many Kikuyu took a stand over the issue of female circumcision. Missionaries insisted that the practice be stopped, and the Kikuyu were just as adamant that it was an integral part of their lives and culture. The issue eventually became tied to the fight for political independence and the establishment of Kikuyu independent schools.

The Kikuyu have no unique written language therefore, much of the information on their traditional culture has been gleaned from their rich oral traditions. The oral literature of the Kikuyu consists, in part, of original poems, stories, fables, myths, riddles, and proverbs containing the principles of their philosophy, system of justice, and moral code. An example of Kikuyu music is the Gicandi, which is a very old poem of enigmas sung by pairs of minstrels in public markets, with the accompaniment of musical instruments made from gourds.

Shortly after having given birth, the mother announces the child by screaming: four times if the child is a girl, and five times if it is a boy. The numbers are no coincidence, for they total nine, which is the sacred number of the Kikuyu, and they appear again in the preparations made immediately after birth, when the father of the child cuts four sugar canes if the child is a girl, or five if it is a boy. The juice from these sugar-canes is given to the mother and child and the waste scraps from the sugar-cane are placed on the right-hand side of the house if the child is a boy, or left-hand side if it is a girl. Right is the symbol of man, and left of woman.

The placenta(thigira) and umbilical cord are powerful symbols of the child's attachment to the mother, and are therefore the object of special treatment in most African societies. The Kikuyu deposit the placenta in an uncultivated field and cover it with grain and grass, symbolizing fertility. The uncultivated field itself is also a symbol of fertility, strength and freshness and using it is like a silent prayer that the mother's womb should remain fertile and strong for the birth of more children.

After the birth, the child is then washed and oiled. If the birth has been difficult, the father sacrifices a goat and a medicine-man is called to purify the house. The mother and child are kept in seclusion for four days if the child is a girl, or five days if it is a boy. During seclusion only close women relatives and attendants may visit the house, and for the duration of seclusion no member of the family is allowed to wash himself in the river, no house is swept, and no fire may be fetched from one house to another.

Seclusion symbolizes the concept of death and resurrection: death to one state of life, and resurrection to a fuller state of living. It is as if the mother and child 'die' and 'rise again' on behalf of everyone else in the family.

When the period of seclusion is over, the mother is shaved on the head, and the husband sacrifices a sheep in thanksgiving to God and the living-dead: this ceremony was called Kumathithia mwana.

The shaving of the mother's hair is another act symbolizing and dramatizing the death of one state and the rising of another. The hair represents her pregnancy, but now that this is over, old hair must be shaved off to make way for new hair, the symbol of new life. She is now a new person, ready for another child to come into her womb, and thus allow the stream of life to continue flowing.

The hair also has the symbolic connection between the mother and child, so that shaving it indicates that the child now belongs not only to her but to the entire body of relatives, neighbours and other members of the society. She has no more claims over the child as exclusively her own: the child is now 'scattered' like her shaven hair.
When seclusion is over, the mother pays a symbolic visit to the fields and gathers sweet potatoes. Thereafter normal life is resumed by everybody in the village, renewed, it is revived and revitalized.

Child naming
This is not however the end of the rituals concerned with childbirth. While the child is still small, they perform other rites which they consider necessary before the child can be a full member of their society.

The Kikuyu observe a unique ritual pattern of naming children, still followed strongly today. The family identity is carried on in each generation by naming children in the following pattern: the first boy is named after the father's father, the second boy after the mother's father. The first girl is named after the father's mother, the second after the mother's mother.
Subsequent children are named similarly after the brothers and sisters of the grandmother and grandfather, from eldest to youngest, alternating from father's to mother's family. This pattern also serves to incorporate new lineages as refugees are accepted into a clan or as young people now more commonly marry spouses from other tribes. The naming ritual intimately involves the father, whose status is enhanced by proper naming of the child. The father would place a small wristlet made of goatskin on the child's arm, which symbolized the bond between the child and the entire nation: the wristlet is a link in the long chain of life, linking the child with both the living and the departed. It is a sacred link which must never be broken.

Ear-piercing and the second birth
Around the age of five or six years, another rite is performed, gutonywo matu, which involved piercing the child's ears, which were subsequently fitted with decorations in a ceremony called gutonywo ndurgira. This entitled the child to start looking after goats.

A few years later, generally between the ages of six and ten but before the child is initiated into adulthood through circumcision, another rite was performed. Known as 'the second birth' (kuciaruo keri, literally 'to be born twice'), or 'to be born again' (kuciaruo ringi), or 'to be born of a goat' (kuciareiruo mbori), the child metaphorically returns to the womb to be born again. Unless the child has gone through this 'second birth', he or she cannot participate fully in the life of the community. They will be forbidden to assist in the burial of their own father, to be initiated, to get married, to inherit property and to take part in any ritual.

During the rite, the child is placed between the legs of its mother, and is bound to her by a goat intestine. If the mother is deceased, another woman is substituted, and will henceforth be regarded as the child's mother. Then, the intestine is cut through, and the child imitates the cry of a baby. The mother is shaved, her house is swept and she visits the fields to collect food, just as she did after the period of seclusion that followed the physical birth.

The rite brings with it a conscious awareness in the child of its own birth, and ends the child's 'babyhood'. Now the child is ready to enter the stage of initiation: it has passed from a state of ignorance to one of knowledge, from the state of being a passive member of society to being an active and responsible member.

The idea of 'rebirth' appears to be similar to the Turkana practice of ratifying marriages when when the first child reaches walking age (see under Turkana Marriage).

The idea that a child is not quite alive until then is prevalent throughout Africa, and seems to stem from the fact that fatal diseases were much more likely to claim a child at an early age than later. The rebirth ceremony appears to be a similar passage.

'Rebirth' is now condemned by the church, who of course prefer their own versions of the rite (whether baptism, or being 'born again' by evangelical Christians).

After their period of warrior-hood, men became eligible to become members of the council of elders (kiama), to which women could also be admitted.

Traditionally, the elders served as the custodians of ancestral land and, by extension, as the keepers of social cohesion within the community. The kiama also deliberated over judicial, religious and political matters, although their rule was limited to the length of their respective age-sets. Their eligibility was dependent on their having raised children, and on at least one of their children having successfully married.

The council settled disputes, and with those that it could not resolve the outcome was determined by the "ordeal of the hot knife", the extent of blistering on the tongue being used to determine guilt or innocence. Alternatively, an oath was taken on the githathi stone (this appears to be similar to the 'white stone' in this article about an Mbeere sacred grove), although nowadays the entire concept of oathing is treated with grave suspicion by the government, which is keen to avoid a re-run of Mau Mau in post-independence Kenya

A further stage to their membership was to become a member of a secret council called njama (a word deriving from the Kiswahili, and in turn from the Arabic word jamma). For these purposes, the candidate would be approached by community leaders and other regional elders who had polled community opinion as a basis for his eventual appointment to the role of 'regional elder', virtually the highest level of Kikuyu elderhood today.
An ideal elder was known as a muthamaki, derived from the word guthamaka, meaning to choose, to reign and rule distinctively. His qualities would include the ability to listen, the ability to keep secrets, and the ability to make decisions on behalf of the people in a manner reflecting consensus and serving the well being of all.

In the past, a paramount or senior Kikuyu Council of Elders was formed on the basis of representation from the nine (or ten) clans. This no longer functions today, and today's "council of elders" functions as an informal collectivity of regional elders who confer with each other on issues of broad concern. "Governorship" is no longer permitted by the post-independence constitution of Kenya, and the role of the Kikuyu elder is perceived to have been restricted. Nonetheless, it has been estimated that 90 percent of Kikuyu Catholic priests in the Nairobi Diocese, for example, have been consecrated as Kikuyu elders: the system of elderhood may have changed, but it seems that aspects of their leadership .

Kikuyu Rite of Passage
Male circumcision
Traditionally, there was a circumcision ceremony for boys organised by age-sets of about five-year periods. Although boys could be circumcised throughout that period, they would become part of the same age-set, and all the men in that circumcision group would take an age-set name. Times in the history of Kikuyu society could be gauged by age-set names.

Circumcision was traditionally a public affair, which only added to the anxiety - and determination - of the boys to pass the ordeal without showing the slightest trace of fear. The practice of circumcision is still followed, although is nowadays more likely to be performed in hospitals. Traditionally, boys who underwent circumcision became warriors (anake), although this institution is now defunct. As in so many societies all over the world, sex was seen as a weakness, both spiritual and physical. For this reason, junior warriors were barred from sexual relations, though in compensation they were also given a lot of food to make them strong. Only senior warriors, who were preparing to leave warriorhood, were allowed to marry and raise children.

Female circumcision
Although still widespread (around 30% of Kenyan women are thought to have been circumcised), the practice of female circumcision is gradually becoming less common, especially as traditional social structures break down and women gain increasing access to modern western education, and indeed the cash economy.

Nonetheless, clitoridectomy is far from eradicated, and as long as the antagonistic attitude from outsiders against it prevails, it seems likely - somewhat perversely - that it will survive - for to attack clitoridectomy is, for many, an attack on their own society as a whole.

Among the Kikuyu, as among all the tribes which practice it, clitoridectomy marks a girl's transition from childhood to womanhood. With it comes the lifting of the taboo on pregnancy, and usually marriage is swift to follow.

A sexual as well as a social act (although the circumcision itself is done in private), the circumcision marks a woman's assumption of her female identity, allowing her both to procreate, and to take part in traditional rituals and traditional governing councils. It is also the time when initiates are instructed in the rules and regulations of their society, and their responsibilities within it. Kikuyu traditional dancers ready to do their thing

Christian missionaries and other Westerners have invariably looked down on circumcision, of both men and women but especially of women, as being repugnant. Given the Christian belief that the body is the temple of God, this apparent act of mutilation was seen - and still is seen - as sacrilege. And thus, with their typical open-mindedness, the ceremonies that surrounded circumcision were condemned by the missionaries to be heathen and anti-Christian.

It was not so much the cutting of the clitoris that outraged them, but the excision of the labia and other parts which were prevalent before colonisation, and which were viewed as being abhorrent and barbaric in the extreme, and as an unwarranted mutilation of a woman's body. The term female genital mutilation itself (FGM) bears this up, as does the paradoxical absence of the term 'male genital mutilation'.

Kikuyus like to make speeches by using proverbs often. A Kikuyu cannot make complete a full conversation without making use of proverb.

1. Agikuyu moi kuhitha ndia, matiui kuhitha uhoro
The Kikuyu know how to conceal their quiver, but do not know how to conceal their secrets.

The Kikuyu, though very clever in concealing their arms, cannot keep secrets from the members of their tribe. 2. Ageni eri matiri utugire
Two guests (at the same time) have no welcome.

3. Ageni eri na karirui kao
Two guests love a different song. When you receive two visitors at the same time, you cannot treat them in the same manner, because they have different tastes. Every man has his hobby horse.

4. Aikaragia mbia ta njuu ngigi
He is a man that looks after money as ‘njuu’ looks after locusts.
‘Njuu’ is a bird which accompanies migrating locusts to feed on them. Much wants more

5. Aka eri ni nyungu igiri cia utugi
Two wives are two pots full of poison The more women you have in your house, the more troubles you must expect Women’s jars breed men’s wars.

Collapse of Traditional Political Structure
The ruling generations [riika] according to historians can be traced back to the year 1512 or there abouts and were as follows: Manjiri 1512 – Mamba 1547 – Tene 1582 – 1616 Agu 1617 – 52. Manduti 1652 – 86 Cuma 1687 – 1721 Ciira 1722 – 56 Mathathi 1757 – 1791 Ndemi 1792 – 1826 Iregi 1827 – 1861 Maina 1862 – 97 Mwangi 1898 .The last Ituĩka ceremony where the riika of Maina handed over power to the Mwangi generation, took place in 1898-9 [Hobley].

The next one was supposed to be held in 1925 – 1928 [Kenyatta] but was thwarted by the colonial government. And one by one Gĩkũyũ traditional political structures and institutions crumbled.Each generation ruled for a period of 30 or so years.Responsibility was staggered between age sets.A member of the Tene generation could have held a junior apprentice elders position called kiama kĩa kamatimo during the earlier Mamba generation reign.That way smooth transitions were ensured.

Why Mau Mau Fought
For Africans, land meant more than food and a house. It was their permanent residence before, during and after life. To fight for land and freedom, Mau Mau was trying to secure their eternal existence. Refusing to understand this, the British subjected them to a great misrepresentation. They were called the itoi (rebels), imaramari (terrorists), washenzi (primitive people), as we well as atavistic, cannibalistic and beastly. In the minds of the British, Mungai and his comrades were not fighting for freedom. Africans knew of no freedom. They were fighting to return to a past of primitiveness, darkness, death and evil. The British accused Mungai and his comrades of foolishly sacrificing their lives for death.

Mungai went to the forest not to lose his own life, but to protect African life from being snuffed out by British colonialism. He went to the forest not because he loved going for days without food as a guerilla, but because he wanted to recapture stolen lands and end hunger for himself and other Kenyans…

Contrary to British propaganda, Mungai did not love the cold and rain of forest life. He went to the forest because the cold of colonial racism and the color bar was greater. He was willing to freeze in the jungle to end the cold and rain of racial discrimination, unemployment and the hunger of the perennially underfed Africa child. Like other young men, Mungai was married and wanted to have a family but he did not want to be a father whom white people called mboi, a boy, and humiliated before his own children.

He did not want to be a father and a husband who begged the white man for the food of his family. He died for the security of his wife and children against colonial rape and assault. He went to the forest to fight for human rights of his people. . . .

The Second World War had taught Africans two lessons: With guns, they could kill white people. If the German Hitler could be fought, so could the British Hitler. After the war, British soldiers had come to Kenya to be rewarded with land. African soldiers had returned home, not to be given land, but for the lucky ones to be hired as laborers of those who fought with them in the same trenches in Europe and Burma. This was the injustice that had driven Mungai and the Mau Mau to the forests.

The Mau Mau were a part of the Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest ethnic group. They started an uprising in 1952 in an attempt to reclaim their “land and freedom.”

Watch the video: The Kikuyu Creation Story and Origin of Death - Stories From KENYA (December 2021).