Decolonization & Independence in Kenya, 1940-93

By B. A. Ogot; W. R. Ochieng | Go to book overview
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accumulation for this bourgeoisie was trade, land and agriculture. Before independence its development was impeded by the limits imposed on it by settler capitalism, but by 1960 the economic and political weight of the indigenous owners of capital was already decisive. 12 We are told, for example, that between 1955 and 1964 their capital accumulation increased from £5.2 million to £14.0 million per annum.

But, while the above motif represents the general picture of Kenya's class composition and economic differentiation on the eve of independence, it should also be noted that in the period between 1960 and 1963 -- with independence in sight -- the configuration of Kenya's class society had begun to markedly transform, with political power gradually shifting into the hands of the African petty bourgeoisie. This period was characterized by a huge exodus of former European settlers and civil servants and Asians, who sold their property and left in fear of what uhuru portended. It was also characterized by 'flight' of capital out of the country. 'Only a damn fool would not sell,' said Colonel Grogan, the doyen of European settlers and their most outspoken mouthpiece.

The incoming African government responded to the inevitability of uhuru and European and Asian exodus by promoting the African petty bourgeoisie into important and key posts in the civil service, the military, educational institutions and industries. This Africanization of key posts in the civil service would be of crucial significance in the future economic and social development of the postcolonial state. In her book The Development of Corporate Capitalism in Kenya, 13 Nicola Swainson tells us that this petty-bourgeois class, in collaboration with its ruling counterparts in the government, would use the power of the state through the mechanism of licensing to acquire private capital to effect access into certain areas of the economy, such as trade, land and good jobs.

Thus, independent Kenya inherited the colonial economic structures and classes. During the short period of independence these structures and classes would undergo rapid transformations -- disintegration of some, formation of others and new realignments.

C. Leys, Underdevelopment in Kenya: The Political Economy of Neo-Colonialism ( London, Heinemann, 1975; James Currey 1988).
A. I. Salim, State Formation in Eastern Africa ( Nairobi, Heinemann, 1984), pp. 1-5.
C. Mathema, Wealth and Power: An Introduction to Political Economy ( Harare, Zimbabwe Publishing House, 1988), p. 16.
F. Engels, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 3 ( Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House 1966), p. 327. Also see V. I. Lenin, The State ( Peking, 1970), p. 14.
F. Engels, quoted in Neil J. Smelser (ed.), Karl Marx on Society and Social Change (Illinois, University of Chicago Press, 1973), p. 21.
Ibid., p. 20.


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