Decolonization & Independence in Kenya, 1940-93

By B. A. Ogot; W. R. Ochieng | Go to book overview

Conclusion: Towards an Alternative Future

In 1946 the Labour Government in Britain initiated those changes that were to transform African cultivators into peasants and European farmers into capitalists, through the injection of over £3 million into Kenya's agriculture. This funding enabled some Africans to enter into the petty commodity production of tea and coffee in Gusii and Meru. By 1952 there were 10,069 Africans licensed to grow coffee. These numbers were to swell as a result of the Swynnerton Plan, a move aimed at 'capturing' more of the cultivators and transforming them into peasants. With funding to the tune of £7.95 million, Swynnerton recognized the challenge of agrarian unrest, but turned it on itself by planning and dividing Africans along class lines: the landed yeomanry on the one hand and the landless would-be labourer/proletariat on the other. The Swynnerton Plan was significant in that it pulled the rug from under the Mau Mau's feet: it gave land to the Home Guard, the collaborators, those who stayed at home, the wo/men in the middle, and for the first time destroyed the muhoi option for the landless Agikuyu. It amounted to a mental revolution for those at the bottom: henceforth they had no kin, no ancestral land, no marginal marshlands in the reserves to go to. Swynnerton said this to nearly one-third of the Agikuyu population. A new Gikuyu society was born -- propertied and propertylessness -- and left to face an uncertain future, with different inputs into the politics of independence in the 1956-63 period, and into the Gikuyu reconquest of the Rift Valley under Kenyatta's leadership afterwards.

The propertied Agikuyu fell back on the politics of moderation, progress and representation. They were at their most eloquent in the representations they made to the East Africa Royal Commission in the 1953-55 period. In this they were not alone: the appendix to the report lists virtually anyone who was anyone among the Africans of Kenya as having given evidence. The report led the imperial government to an appreciation of the deepening colonial crisis in East Africa, and strengthened the case for a developmental strategy. Again, this would have a bearing on the World Bank approach to Kenya's future, as evidenced in the bank's involvement in 'land reform' in the 1960s ( Leo, 1984: 69-118). Swynnerton thus captured the peasantry for the World Bank and the capitalist world system.

The colonial state, for the umpteenth time, also faced up to the question of an alternative future ( Gordon, 1986). First, ' Mau Mau revealed to the British government that Kenya's metaphorical handful of Whites -- comprising throughout the colonial period a mere one per cent of the total population -- was unable to control burgeoning mass nationalism' ( Youe, 1987: 209). The imperial army had intervened to suppress Mau Mau, but both General Erskine and General Lathbury, the successive British commanders, were clear that the ultimate solution


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Decolonization & Independence in Kenya, 1940-93
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Contributors viii
  • Prologue on Decolonization xi
  • Notes xvii
  • Introduction the Invention of Kenya 1
  • Note 3
  • Part One the Decolonization of Kenya 1945-63 5
  • One Decolonization: A Theoretical Perspective 7
  • Conclusion 21
  • Notes 22
  • Two the Formative Years 1945-55 25
  • Conclusion: Towards an Alternative Future 43
  • Bibliography 44
  • Three: The Decisive Years 1956-63 48
  • Part Two the Kenyatta Era 1963-78 81
  • Four Structural & Political Changes 83
  • Conclusion 106
  • Appendix: Constitutional Amendments Under Kenyatta 107
  • Notes 108
  • Five - Social & Cultural Changes 110
  • Conclusion 143
  • Notes 144
  • Part Three the First Nyayo Decade 1978-88 149
  • Six the Economics of Structural Adjustment 151
  • Conclusion 182
  • Notes 183
  • Seven the Politics of Populism 187
  • Notes 213
  • Eight the Construction of a National Culture 214
  • Part Four Epilogue 1989-93 237
  • Nine Transition from Single-Party to Multiparty Political System 1989-93 239
  • Conclusion 259
  • Notes 260
  • Index 262


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