A quick summary of the Mau Mau uprising. Some articles call it a rebellion. How does one rebel on their own land?
When the colonizers got their grubby eyes on modern day Kenya, they implemented the colonizer 101 plan. Stole “occupied” up to 7 million acres of land, brought in British colonizers to hold space, & made the people of the land wear ID badges around their neck to display their various ethnic group. This was a means of control as identification cards are usually used to regulate oppression to the oppressed.
The British implemented Hut taxes. Whenever Kenyans built huts on their land, they paid the price worth of 2 months labour. Kenyans were only allowed to plant crops for sustainability on their own land, not anything that could be commodified; so no crops that could compete with the British intruders. The British also appointed chiefs loyal to their cause, keeping them happy through bribery while the chiefs in return helped maintain colonial control. Due to the inherent greediness of the colonizers, they occupied more land than they could actually oversee or manage, it wasn’t unusual for Kikuyu people; who made up 20% of Kenyan’s population, to “squat” in areas unmanaged by the stingy settlers granted, they share their profits with the British if the Kikuyu used such areas for farming.
Many Kenyans fought in “World” War 11, they came back to Kenya hoping for better treatment from the colonizers after their sacrifice, how wrong they were. Jomo Kenyetta of the Kenya African Union (KAU) was one of the people pressing the British government in vain for the political rights of the Kenyan people & land reform. Naturally, the British were slow to action & blinded by their greed. In 1952, a much more radical group called the Kenya Land & Freedom Army (KLFA) emerged just as militant as the British. They were also known as the Mau Mau.
It consisted mainly of Kikuyu fighters including some Embu & Meru recruits, with some units of Kamba & Maasai people. They wanted the British out! Rightfully so. Attacking political opponents & destroying the invaders livestock. The Mau Mau took oaths binding themselves to the cause. In October 1952, the British declared a state of emergency bring in army reinforcements to fight against the Mau Mau supporters, arresting Kenyetta & 180 other alleged Mau Mau leaders. They portrayed the uprising as “a barbaric tribal response to the pressures of modernization”. The colonizers recruited & press-ganged some Kenyans to fight for the Kikuyu Home Guard , which used oppressive violence as a means of population control. The British rewarded the guards when they pillaged the properties of the Mau Mau, creating a divide & rule dynamic. The Kikuyu that “had” were pro-British & the “have-nots” were for the revolution. The colonizers strategically resettled Kikuyu in villages.
The primary zones of Mau Mau military strength were the Aberdares & the forest around mount Kenya, the British reacted with aerial warfare, dropping nearly 6 million bombs between 18 November 1953 until July 28th, 1955. They detained up to 100,000 Kikuyu without trial, where they were tortured & brutalized for periods between 3 & 7 years. The uprising was said to be at a steady decline on October 21, 1956, after the capture of field marshal Dedan Kimathi the leader of the KLFA. By November 10, 1959 the state of emergency ended in Kenya, The death toll for the Mau Mau activist killed by the British forces in Kenya since 1952 was said to be at 10,173.
In 1961, Jomo Kenyetta was released & African nationalist leaders agreed to take a role in Kenya’s government.
Kenyan got her independence on December 12, 1963; 7 years after the notorious uprising that many believe was the catalyst for decolonization. In 2013 the British government issued an apology for the brutal tactics they used to suppress the uprising & agreed to pay about £20 million pounds in compensation to the surviving victims they abused.