Control & Crisis in Colonial Kenya: The Dialectic of Domination

By Bruce Berman | Go to book overview

Nine
The Eclipse of the Colonial State
The Political Economy of Decolonization, 1954-63

By the mid- 1950s the colonial state appeared once again to be firmly in control of the situation in Kenya, with the Provincial Administration restored to its predominant place within the state apparatus. Colonial officials spoke of another generation, at least 20 to 25 years, of colonial rule before Kenya could move to self-government or independence. As late as January 1959 the metropolitan authorities also believed that colonial rule would last for a considerable time. 1 Nevertheless, little more than a year later at the first Lancaster House Conference in London, the British government committed itself to the independence of Kenya under an African majority regime, and the colony became an independent and ostensibly sovereign state less than four years later.

What were the reasons for this sudden turnaround and abandonment of earlier expectations? What was the actual significance of the events of 1960-3, indeed what really happened during those years? If we extend the modes of analysis developed in this study into this period, the years of decolonization in the early 1960s become less of a dramatic turning point and more the mid-point of an extended period of change within the political economy and state of colonial Kenya that began during the Emergency and actually culminated at the end of the 1960s, several years after formal independence. The nature and significance of these changes tend to be obscured, however, in earlier analyses of the period. Explanations that focus on constitutional changes, political organizations and the struggles of the last years of colonial rule tend to overemphasize the instrumental impact of African nationalism in forcing the pace of decolonization and to neglect or totally ignore the changes in the political economy of Kenya that preceded and largely determined the very possibility and form of decolonization. 2 Conversely, although explanations that emphasize the continuity of the colonial political economy and external dependence as the reasons for and outcome of decolonization deal with underlying social forces, they miss the crucial

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