Control & Crisis in Colonial Kenya: The Dialectic of Domination

By Bruce Berman | Go to book overview

tension-ridden hybrid of the two, made the various participants acutely aware of the lack of direction even as they were unable to do anything about it. In a letter to the Secretary of State in 1922, Governor Sir Robert Coryndon exclaimed: 'Upon my word, it seems as though none of my predecessors had ever thought of the future'. 181 In 1930 during discussions in the Colonial Office on native policy in Kenya, W.C. Bottomley, an Under-Secretary, insisted that: 'It is I think in the possible absence of what I call a definite direction of policy in Kenya, that the Colonial Government is most open to criticism'; while almost 40 years later an important settler politician recollected that: 'Basically, I think the settlers' criticism of the British administration was it never made up its mind where Kenya was going.' 182 The numerous investigating commissions of the 1921-31 period can best be understood as attempts to overcome the growing sense of directionless drifting by removing issues from the stalemate among the various contenders and placing them in the hands of 'independent' authorities. The various vague formulas that emerged, such as 'native paramountcy' or 'association', by their continued reliance on local interpretation and implementation simply handed the issues back to the contenders in the blocked status quo. During the 1930s, the focus of investigating commissions shifted to more specific policy issues, such as land, criminal law and taxation, and efforts to define the goals of the colony were abandoned. Even here, a 'final' solution of the land question emerged from the Kenya Land Commission only because the most important party to the conflict, the Africans, were essentially excluded from the policy process. In the end, the sense of malaise was insufficient to overcome the political and economic forces that generated the stalemate, and the settlers and state authorities in Kenya quickly became preoccupied with the immediate economic and fiscal problems of the Depression.


Notes
1.
R. L. Buell, The Native Problem in Africa, Vol. 1, New York: Macmillan, 1928, p. 288; and R. M.A. Van Zwanenberg with A. King, An Economic History of Kenya and Uganda. 1800-1970. London: Macmillan, 1975, p. 84.
2.
Indigent Europeans were unceremoniously deported from Kenya. The minutes of the Executive Council of the 1919-39 period now in the Public Record Office in London include numerous such deportation orders. See also Colin Cross, The Fall of the British Empire, New York: Coward-McCann, 1969, p. 83; Marjorie R. Dilley, British Policy in Kenya Colony, (first published 1937) London: Frank Cass, 1966. p. 12.
3.
Although settlers from Britain and Ireland experienced the greatest absolute growth in numbers, they declined as a proportion of the European population from 54 per cent in 1921 to 50 per cent ten years later. Kenya-born whites, meanwhile, increased

-187-

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