Mau Mau and Nationhood


In political debates in Kenya, the refrain from a section of the polity are fond of remarking that only the Kikuyu fought for independence and remind the rest of us that without Mau Mau, there would be no independence or it would have happened much later than it did.  While I don’t want to cast aspersions on how knowledgeable about the history of our independence these people are, I will say they are mostly common folk who repeat what they have heard without ever bothering to do any digging.

Mau Mau and Nationhood is my current read. It’s a collection of articles by eminent scholars, and I don’t use that word carelessly.

Some time back I wrote this summary on the same subject and continuing with the same line of thought, I will just pose a few more questions that I find interesting.

  • Has there been a country where all the masses rose as one to fight the colonizing party? Why not? Why does a section of the polity not join in the fight?
  • Since we are told without the Mau Mau, there would be no independence, we can ask how many Europeans did they kill?
  • Kenyatta said we all fought for independence. Who, then, do we celebrate on the 20th?
  • was Kenyatta and Mau Mau concerned with the national project and was Mau Mau the only militant group?
  • Why did Mau Mau activists kill Ofafa?
  • Was Harry Thuku a collaborator or an independence hero?
  • There are those who argue that the national project, if it ever was there, ended with the assassination of Mboya. Is this really the case or did end it much earlier?
  • Why is there little talk of the Oromo people’s resistance?
  • Or why has no one ever mentioned to me the Somali-Galla line (PDF) and the Kittermaster line (separating the Samburu grazing lands of the Leroghi plateau from the larger Laikipia plateau, which had been reserved for white settlers)
  • Or why is there is little talk of Maasai nationalism with its headquarters in Sanya Chini, Tanzania?
  • what were the debates going on in the forest? how were the issues of gender, marriage, religion and violence dealt with?

Nation building makes for interesting history. Earnest Renan argued for forgetting the past and forging a new unified history, what is generally called, imagined histories. Others have argued differently. So here we are, trying to understand the early days of the nation called Kenya. What were the discussions taking place and where were these discussions? What form was the nation to take?

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

7 thoughts on “Mau Mau and Nationhood

  1. Tish Farrell says:

    And the other big problem, what was going on in Britain’s ministers’ heads when they handed over the ‘keys’ of the self-serving socio-political structure which they had created, and without bothering to leave the instruction manual as to how it was supposed to work among people who had their own different ideas of what constituted democracy.
    I seem to remember Oginga Odinga stating that when he arrived to take up office, the cupboard was bare – the colonial archive burned. And did Britain always intend to go on meddling via ‘sphere of influence’ methods.
    Am rather thinking that independence is still to happen in Kenya. We could also do with some in England, where of course we continue to be ruled by the same kinds of people who think it’s OK to invade other people’s territory. The more things change etc etc.
    Sounds like an interesting book though.

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    • makagutu says:

      Hello Tish,
      Independence is still a long way to come not only in Kenya but in many former colonies. The British and to a large extent America through the Breton Woods institutions continue to meddle in our affairs. Recall also that at independence, it is the thieves who were seen pliable to the British interests who took over and we have been ruled by their protege since. There has been no break from the colonial regime.

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  2. renudepride says:

    One may proceed into the future without ever knowing or understanding the past. That is entirely doable and possible. However, without knowing the past, terrible mistakes and wrongful pursuits are always repeated over and over without any real progress! Have a great weekend, my Kenyan brother! 🙂 Naked hugs!

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  3. Ogada says:

    There’s this quote (I think by Yvonne Owuor), and to paraphrase, slightly, “[…]after Mboya’s assassination, our language became Swahili and silence”. Is it okay to extend the Kenyan dream in this thought?

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