7 Mar 2005


Acres of coverage in Kenya over Harvard historian Caroline Elkin's 'Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya'. Typically for a 'progressive historian' Ms. Elkins was able to offer no evidence for comments like, 'We know 11,500 people officially died in the Mau Mau uprising, but it could be 100,000'.

Mau Mau was not a pleasant episode in Kenya's history; the gangs were mostly ruthless and barbarically cruel, as were many British or settler counter-insurgents. Ms. Elkins has chosen to be an advocate for one side, but history has two.
Many would argue Mau Mau unneccessarily interfered with Jomo Kenyatta's political independance movement. Radicals wish to remake it into a neo-Marxist 'liberation war'. In truth Mau Mau remains an enigma, part Maji-Maji style African 'magical rebellion', part liberation struggle and certainly a civil war within the Kikuyu tribe of modernists vs traditionalists.

Thousands of Christian Africans were slaughtered in terrorist intimidation by the Mau Mau, as well as tens of thousands being interned in camps by the British. Conditions ranged from vile to quite reasonable. Torture and counter-torture were rife. The British did themselves little credit and the Mau Mau likewise.

Resemblances to the
true Soviet gulags are overblown. Mau Mau was broken within 5 years and the detention policies wound down. There must have been many untold atrocities on both sides, but the biggest public scandal was 8 detainees 'disciplined' to death at Hola detention camp. Unlike Russia , this was openly investigated in the House of Commons and by the press. The British government nearly fell in the ensuing Abu Ghraib-type scandal.

Most of Stalin's millions of prisoners in Siberia would have happily swapped places with many Mau Mau detainees.


Anonymous said...

your comments are typical of denial. unfortunately, the British propaganda machine was successful in demonizing mau mau and portraying the British as their saviours, who wanted to just civilize them. they were civilized already, what made them desperate was that they had nowhere to go after british scum stole their land. they were farmers with no land. if they killed to get their land back from thieves, that is justified. to murder, torture, sodomize, starve, lynch thousands upon thousands of mostly innocent kikuyu was not. yet we were the ones that needed to be civilized, while the british behaved like wild animals murdering again and again and turning around to blame it on black on black crime. no one is buying that shit anymore. some of the most graphic descriptions of torture and murder, in that book come from the admittance of British folks themselves. one of them said he was a POW taken by the japanese in WWII, (we all know that the japanese treated POW'S so horrendously, that they had to pay reparations after the war). this man said that conditions in the kikuyu gulags were far worse than anything he had ever seen as a japanese POW.
so spare us your ill informed comments, unless of course you were at either the siberian gulag or the kikuyu gulag you do not know who would have prefered to switch places with whom. of course the scale of the siberian gulag is evident, but the intensity of what both folks had to endure is what the book was talking about. at both places death was inhumane, and unjustified. 300,000 killed out of a population of 1.5 million is genocide. many of the british folks in kenya that participated, were in violation of the geneva convention, and should be rotting in jail. if they are or were your relatives, then start facing up to the fact that your relations were vicious murdering bastards.
as for the mau mau, they are our heros. if the british didn't want to die untimely deaths, perhaps it wasn't a good idea to forcefully take over a tribes home, and then force them to work for them. even today if a person kills you while your tresspassing and stealing their property, you asked for it. tough!

Anonymous said...

there was no civil war against the kikuyu, there were two factions. first there were those who supported mau mau and were ready to die for their cause, then second, those who sided with the british only because they feared death if they joined mau mau, or because they felt they could gain independence through diplomacy. ALL kikuyu were united by one thing, they wanted the britsh out! of course the british tried to play one against the other, their famous modus operandi "divide and rule." this failed miserably. even after the british handed power at independence to those who chose diplomacy rather than those who fought for freedom, in an obvious attempt to leave kikuyu fighting eachother, -it failed. why did it fail, because the kikuyu had one problem and one problem only, the british. once the british were gone there was no other problem. you'll be hard pressed to find any kikuyu who does not view mau mau as their heroes.