(AFRICA and IMPERIALISM – continued)
In Kenya (British East Africa), European farming diminished during the world war as many Europeans there volunteered to fight. During the war, agriculture was crippled by a lack of transport for exporting crops to Britain. At the end of the war, Kenya's economy was suffering. White employers cut the wages of black workers. Unrest and rebellion followed. Numerous protest organizations emerged, mostly among people of the Kikuyu tribe, who expressed grievances over taxes, labor policies and the sense that they were second-class citizens in their own homeland.
After the war, the British government hoped to advance farming in Kenya and encouraged migration there, offering former soldiers land in Kenya on easy terms. White migration to Kenya increased as did the number and size of European-owned farms. Immigration from India had also been rising, with the Indians resenting the way in which Britain's colonial government in Kenya gave in to the demands of European settlers – by imposing restrictions on Indian activities, preventing Indians from acquiring lands in certain areas and limiting Indian representation in legislative councils.
By 1920, the number of Europeans in Kenya was nearing 10,000, up from 400 at the turn of the century – against something like 2,500,000 blacks and maybe 23,000 Asians and 24,000 people of Arab origin. Many of Britain's recent migrants to Kenya failed at farming, but in general European agriculture recovered from its decline during the war years. The colonial governing council, consisting of European immigrants, stabilized the currency in Kenya. The governing council passed a law forbidding whites to work as laborers on farms, and the governing council encouraged the development of a pool of full-time black agricultural labor to fill the need for labor on the more successful of the white-owned farms. The governing council passed laws to discourage growth of a rising black labor movement, and it passed a law against blacks growing coffee, responding to white grower fear of competition and fear that black farmers would force up the price of black labor.
Native Kenyans disliked the intrusions and loss of control. An association of Kikuyu farmers, the Kikuyu Association, was founded in 1920, which wished to block further losses of lands and sought reforms rather than the overthrow of British rule. A more militant group formed in 1921, called the East African Association. It rejected white rule, attacked the government's labor policies, taxes, loss of lands to whites and the identification card that all native Kenyans were required to carry. The leader of the East Africa Association was Harry Thuku, a literate member of an influential Kikuyu family. The British arrested Thuku in 1922, charging him with sedition. And when crowds descended upon the jail where Thuku was being held, prison guards fired their rifles, killing about twenty. Thuku was deported to British-ruled Jubaland just north of Kenya in Somalia, and the leaderless people, influenced by missionaries, consoled themselves by forming a harmless sort of trade union.
In Kenya in the twenties, more roads were built, railroads were extended, and a few automobiles and trucks were imported. There was now a rail line to the soda deposits at Lake Magadi, another rail line that connected to rail lines that the Germans had built in Tanganyika, new rail lines to interior agricultural lands, and a rail line to the cotton growing areas in Uganda. The British inconvenienced the Masai people again by shifting them about. The Indian community continued pressing its demands for representation in the colony's legislative council. Eventually the Indians won five seats on the council, but without the right to vote. Whites continued to dominate the council, and they sought additional power, seeking to make Kenya a self-governing colony like Southern Rhodesia. Great Britain refused their request, announcing its responsibility for Kenya's blacks, Asians and Arabs.
When Britain's Labour Party returned to power in 1929, they stood for land rights for Kenya's blacks and an increase of black representation on Kenya's legislative council. These improvements were accompanied by a crisis in 1929 concerning the brutal Kikuyu custom of female circumcision. The missionaries had been attacking the custom, and the Kikuyu responded with the claim that it was an essential part of their culture. They claimed that the missionaries were undermining Kikuyu rights. The leading Kikuyu nationalist association, the Kikuyu Central Association, rallied the Kikuyu, leading many Kikuyu to break away from the Christian churches and mission schools. In place of these, Kikuyu developed their own schools.
Copyright © 1998-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.