The Mau Mau War in Perspective

The Mau Mau War in Perspective

The Mau Mau War in Perspective

The Mau Mau War in Perspective


Although Mau Mau was militarily crushed in the mid-fifties, the struggle for land rights was only contained in Kenya's post-independence era. Kikuyu squatters on European estates who formed the backbone of this movement are the main subject of this book. Furedi breaks new ground in following the story of the participants of the rural movement during the decade after the defeat of Mau Mau. New archival sources and interviews provide exciting material on the mechanics of decolonisation and on the containment of rural radicalism in Kenya. North America: Ohio U Press; Kenya: EAEPBR>


The aim of this work is twofold. It is, first of all, an attempt to analyse the dynamic and social basis of the Mau Mau revolt. Secondly, through a discussion of Mau Mau it seeks to throw light on the subsequent process of decolonization and the consolidation of post-colonial domination in Africa.

Mystery still shrouds the Mau Mau revolt. Existing literature on the subject has a provisional character and cautiously stresses 'that more work needs to be done'. In this vein, R. Buijtenhuijs, the author of a recent essay on Mau Mau historiography argues that 'it is my impression that although we know much more about Mau Mau today than we did ten years ago, we do not understand the phenomenon any better; indeed, perhaps we understand it less well.' To anticipate one of our arguments, this problem of 'understanding' is in no small part due to the fact that students of Mau Mau are often looking for something that isn't there.

There are a number of other reasons for the mystery that still surrounds Mau Mau. Unlike other liberation movements, such as those in Algeria or Zimbabwe, it was defeated almost a decade before the formal transfer of power to an African government. By the end of 1954 the British colonial authorities had the situation more or less under control -- nine years before Kenya achieved formal independence. During the interregnum the colonial administration was able to construct what it considered to be a legitimate African leadership. The British administration and its moderate African allies had a common interest in mystifying the Mau Mau revolt.

The colonial regime had every reason to obscure the issue. Although the Declaration of Emergency in Kenya occurred in October 1952, the colonial government had been on the offensive for some time before. Throughout 1952 it had used exceptional measures to provoke and crush its militant opponents. Parallel to this police offensive was the public relations campaign aimed at presenting Mau Mau as a criminal . . .

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