to Mau Mau had to be political. In this they were at one with the colonial state, whose improvisations -- call them constitutional changes -- mirrored an attempt to perpetuate the state's stewardship. Token constitutional changes included first the inclusion of settler leaders in the War Council, then the inclusion of an African, B.A. Ohanga, in the Executive Council, and finally the begrudging admission that there ought to be a new colonial constitution. In 1955 this constitutionalist future was very much in the balance. Not only Michael Blundell but C.M.G. Argwings Kodhek, the de facto Kenya African leader in that year, agonized about the future model. So did the urban workers of Nairobi and Mombasa. In the former city, meticulous paperwork by Tom Mboya and W.W.W. Awori saw the formalization of negotiation as a weapon in the salary and welfare struggles of the workers ( Singh, 1980); in the latter the strike weapon illuminated alternative possibilities of mass mobilization ( Cooper, 1987). Confrontations between capital and labour were, of course, political and once again raised the question of an African future.
And let us not forget The Hollow Men, T.S. Eliot's reminder that all life, political life particularly, 'ends/Not with a bang but a whimper'. The settlers tried to salvage their hegemony through whimpering
manœuvres. The recalcitrant ones among them, such as Ferdinand Cavendish-Bentinct, stuck to their agenda of no concessions over white power and privilege. Others, such as Michael Blundell, espoused multiracialism from 1954 onwards ( Gordon, 1977). The Capricorn Africa Society and the United Kenya Club became their fall-back. Not to be outdone, the Anglican Church in 1955 also conceded that Festo Olang' would be the first African Assistant Bishop of Mombasa.
How does the historian tie up all these different communities of thought, action and discourse into a narrative on Kenya's nationalism? Foucault argues somewhere that when people engage in a discourse it creates boundaries, but that the boundaries do not define exclusive categories. So be it with the Kenyan discourse. Howsoever one looks at it, from the hilltops of Kasigau to the salt-pans of the Gabbra plains, Kenya between 1945 and 1955 was a land of commotion -- matata.
Abrahams, Peter. 1956. A Wreath for Udomo ( 1st American edn). New York, Knopf.
Abuor, C. Ojwando. n.d. (before 1971). White Highlands No More: A Modern Political History of Kenya, Vol. 1. Nairobi, Pan African Researchers.
Anderson, David. 1987. 'Managing the Forest: The Conservation History of Lembus, Kenya, 1904-63', in David Anderson and R. Grove (eds), Conservation in Africa. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 249-268.
Bates, Robert H. 1989. Beyond the Miracle of the Market: The Political Economy of Agrarian Development in Kenya. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.