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Control & Crisis in Colonial Kenya: The Dialectic of Domination

By Bruce Berman | Go to book overview

Eight
The Colonial State and the Emergency
The Renaissance of Provincial Administration, 1952-60

The declaration of the State of Emergency signified official recognition of the evaporation of the legitimacy of the colonial state and the virtual collapse of its effective control in the Kikuyu reserves, the African locations of Nairobi and wide areas of the countryside in the settled districts of the Highlands. The colonial authorities confronted not only an anti- colonial resistance movement, but also a growing class struggle in the reserves. This radical challenge swept aside the moderate nationalism of the petty-bourgeois leaders of the Kenya African Union to threaten settler landed property in the Highlands, emergent indigenous agrarian capitalism in the reserves and developing industrial capital in the urban centres.

The Emergency in Kenya was the violent culmination of the contradictions and struggles built into the distribution of land, relations of production, and processes of class formation over the previous half- century and reproduced within the very structures and policies of the colonial state. It forced the authorities in Nairobi and London to confront critical decisions about the development of the state and political economy in Kenya that had been avoided for more than a generation. At first frantic and ad hoc, their responses to the Emergency cumulatively acquired a structure and direction, not completely foreseen or intended, that provided the basis for the 'logic' of decolonization in the 1960s.

The first phase of the reaction to the Emergency held centre stage in Kenya from the end of 1952 until the late 1950s. With metropolitan political and military backing, the colonial state moved to crush the radical challenge through massive force and the imposition of an extraordinary degree of direct administrative control. At the same time, the Provincial Administration became once more the dominant and most important element of the state apparatus. With substantial political and economic resources at its disposal, it moved to restore the traditional patterns of domination, cooptation and containment by instituting

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