Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire

Language: English

Pages: 448

ISBN: 039332754X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"A remarkable account of Britain's last stand in Kenya. This is imperial history at its very best."--John Hope Franklin

In "a gripping narrative that is all but impossible to put down" (Joseph C. Miller), Histories of the Hanged exposes the long-hidden colonial crimes of the British in Kenya. This groundbreaking work tells how the brutal war between the colonial government and the insurrectionist Mau Mau between 1952 and 1960 dominated the final bloody decade of imperialism in East Africa. Using extraordinary new evidence, David Anderson puts the colonial government on trial with eyewitness testimony from over 800 court cases and previously unseen archives. His research exonerates the Kikuyu rebels; hardly the terrorists they were thought to be; and reveals the British to be brutal aggressors in a "dirty war" that involved leaders at the highest ranks of the British government. This astonishing piece of scholarship portrays a teetering colonial empire in its final phase; employing whatever military and propaganda methods it could to preserve an order that could no longer hold. 18 photographs, 2 maps












He stayed at Tigoni until he was forcibly evicted. Even after his dispossession Mbugwa continued to send petitions to the government, demanding answers to an endless string of questions about the procedures surrounding land allocations at Lari. It was Mbugwa who won the admission from a somewhat ruffled District Commissioner that no record had ever been kept of the acreages allocated at Lari, as this was entirely in the hands of Luka. 72 Karatu’s motivation was to be found in the long-running dispute between his mbari and the Italian mission.

The Catholics stayed out of the conflict, and the Anglicans of the Church Missionary Society took a softer and less public line. Those who sided with the Protestant missions became known as the Kirori–a thumbprint–while those who supported the KCA were called Karing’a–the pure Kikuyu. As the crisis deepened, Kikuyu communities refused to send their children to the church schools, expelling the teachers and seizing back the land and the property. Dances were held near the mission stations and outside the homes of teachers and catechists, the crowds poking fun at the clergy and making up rude songs about them–some of which the government banned as seditious.

Most of the Africans in Nairobi were behind us and they would not inform the police on our activities. ’54 The Forty Group rose to prominence between 1945 and 1947, but by 1949 the gang had broken up, some of its former members finding employment in the casual trades of Eastlands, as barrow boys, hawkers and taxi drivers. From 1949 former gang members would play other roles in militant urban struggles, especially in the unions and in support of a group of like-mined radicals who became known as the Muhimu.

Of the Kikuyu workers in Nairobi who went on strike, some 2000 were dismissed from their employment after returning to work. This victimization of the strikers only added to the deepening pool of militancy in Nairobi. 63 The rifts between moderates and militants in Nairobi had long been bitter. During the 1930s the KCA had established an energetic Nairobi branch. This went underground in 1940, when the party was banned as part of the wartime controls on African political activities. At this time the KCA could boast a membership of more than 7000, and an active support and influence that was far greater, most especially in Nairobi.

Peter Mbiyu Koinange’s efforts to incorporate the Kikuyu militants into the Kiambaa Parliament and the KAU had succeeded from 1950 only in further marginalizing Kenyatta. With hindsight, it can be seen as a huge gamble that was doomed to failure from the start. Why, then, did the Koinanges take such a risk? It was certainly clear by the end of the 1940s that the KAU had failed to engage a mass following through its strategy of recruiting senior Kikuyu patrons. The influence of the party had even faded among moderate nationalists.

Download sample


Rated 4.88 of 5 – based on 17 votes