Academic journal article African Studies Review

A History of the Kikuyu Guard

Academic journal article African Studies Review

A History of the Kikuyu Guard

Article excerpt

HISTORY J. A. Rutherford, W. H. Thompson, and A. F. Simmance. A History of the Kikuyu Guard. Herstmonceux: David Lovatt Smith, 2003. 47 pp. Photographs. £4.00. Paper. (Copies can be ordered from lovattsmith@amboseli.org.)

This concise volume contributes significantly to the historiography of the Mau Mau movement among the Kikuyu of Kenya and the colonial administration's response to it. This response, known as the Emergency, consisted of a variety of measures to contain the political and military activities of the Mau Mau, which ascended to prominence in 1952 with a rash of murders, cattle maimings, and arson. As Bennett and Smith have noted, while Mau Mau's essential concern was with a rejection of colonial status, it also represented, "an embittered continuation of the rift which had opened during the preceding years... between militants on the one hand, and 'establishment' Kikuyu on the other" (in History of East Africa, edited by D. A. Low and A. Smith, vol. 3 [Oxford: Clarendon, 1976], 132). Mau Mau adherents were, for the most part, the "have-nots" of Kikuyu society who lacked "the benefits of association with the establishment" (134). Thus the struggle became, as some have observed, a civil war among the Kikuyu themselves, as Mau Mau militants attacked loyalists who in time were organized to defend themselves. It is this self-defense effort of loyalist Kikuyu that is the focus of this volume.

Kikuyu resistance to Mau Mau was motivated by several factors, including a revulsion with oathing ceremonies, vested interests in continued association with the colonial administration, and an assessment that the movement would eventually fail. Those Kikuyu chiefs and headmen who resisted placed themselves and their families at very high risk for reprisals from the Mau Mau. In an effort to protect them from Mau Mau attack as well as to free the King's African Rifles and the Kenya police to operate against the some fifteen thousand active militants, the colonial administration in 1953 established a Home Guard, later known as the Kikuyu Guard. …

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