on the World Today
KENYA has turned the corner in its three-year war against anti-white Mau Mau terrorism. In this military war, British troops have virtually shattered Mau Mau’s might and now are tracking down in the bamboo jungle the last 3000 disorganized terrorists. But the underlying struggle is only beginning. The government of this British colony hopes to win the cooperation and loyalty of the country’s 5.5 million Africans by a program of political, economic, and social reforms.
The outcome will he closely observed in many parts of Africa. For the drama of Africa lies in the impact of a highly developed Western civilization upon a pagan, primitive people just a step or two from the Stone Age. And the future of the continent, which is shrugging off the sleep of centuries, lies in the ability of its races to get along together. Kenya’s suffering has been a somber warning of what happens when black and white fail to forge such harmony. Now this East African country is trying again to work out a peaceful existence between the two races. Its success is of interest to many more countries than those which lie within Africa itself. For peace in this continent is important to the West. In broad terms, Africa is needed because of its integral part in Western strategic planning.
Until now the firm pro-Western European colonial powers that rule five sixths of Africa have held a tight grip. But African nationalism and the drive for self-government are snowballing. With the increasing independence which they are acquiring, Africans will be free to choose for themselves.
Already the grounds on w hich Communism breeds are abundant in Africa — poverty and frustration. If black and white cannot come to terms now, the African may find a new ally in the kremlin or may add his country to the neutral bloc, unresponsive to the West.
A better deal for the African
Kenya, after its appallingly emphatic lesson of the past three years, thinks its best chance of peace lies in a better deal for the African. There are about 5.5 million Africans in the country, and 1.5 million of these belong to the Mau Mau tribes of the Kikuyu, Meru, and Embu. Of these tribesmen, peril tips 70,000 are active pro-government loyalists, and about the same number are terrorists behind bars or still at large. The vast bulk in between have taken the Mau Mau oaths and maintain an uneasy neutrality now that the war has gone against them.
The terrorism which caused a total of 1500 white and African deaths was basically a reaction against the white man. The African had little. The white man was generally wealthy. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the case, the African wanted what the white man had, and that is how the trouble started.
The African still has little. So in order to avoid more of the same trouble, the government has to buy his good will by raising his standard of living. As most Africans are peasants, this is being done principally by agricultural reform. Land consolidation, research, expert aid, irrigation, terracing and conservation measures, and the general inculcation of a system of better farming are planned to boost production, in some cases by 1000 per cent. Agricultural officers are trying to replace sustenance crops like maize and potatoes with quick-turnover, cash crops like coffee, to increase African income.
Kenya’s record in the field of African education was an abysmal one. Only a handful of children ever got more than four years of primary instruction, if that much. Today the Education Ministry has been exploded into vigorous action, as has the Housing Ministry, which is busy clearing some shocking urban slums as quickly as possible.
The greatest revolution has taken place in the political field. Now one African and two Asians sit as ministers in the government of their country on a sixteen-man Council of Ministers — unprecedented representation for non-whites at this level in any mixed-race state in Africa. This is multiracial government, under which non-white participation will increase. The principle will get its first test at a general election in 1956.
In the clubs of the capital of Nairobi there are still the legendary characters of an old British imperialism, long forgotten by Britain itself, who hold fiercely to the belief that the African is forever inferior. But they are growing fewer. Today nonwhites run the trains, cash your checks, sell you postage stamps, direct traffic. Anyone presentable who has the money can frequent Nairobi s swank New Stanley and Norfolk hotels irrespective of color.
Reforms cost money
All this is genuinely impressive. But there are some snags to be taken into account, hirst of all, the material reforms cost money. With the emergency, Kenya s budget has zoomed from £20 million to £40 million a year. Now this emergency spending is being absorbed as part of the regular budget for reconstruction and reforms.
But Kenya’s economy, which is chiefly agricultural, has not kept pace with the doubled spending rate. Despite £11 million worth of aid from Britain, Kenya was an estimated £15 million in the red for 1955. A credit squeeze is restricting London loan capital, and private investors are steering clear until more settled times. An industrial revolution would be the answer to many of the problems, but Kenya has no prime industrial mover like coal or oil. A rich mineral strike would be an invaluable asset; therefore priority is going to geological exploration.
Another factor hampering success of the reform program is continued ill-treatment of the African. At top governmental level this is deplored. But the policy of a better deal for the African does not seem to have filtered down to the lowest ranks.
State of Emergency powers often give military and police forces widespread control over the African. At the height of the emergency these were undoubtedly gravely misused. In view of the outcry mainly from the British public, there has been an improvement, but far too many administrative and police officials still appear in court in connection with the ill-treatment, sometimes fatal, of Africans. The church has charged widespread abuses in the recruitment of forced labor and in the extortion of information by beating and torture.
Injustice is inevitable in war. And the unbelievable cruelty and savagery of Mau Mau gave many a Kenya boy a revenge complex. But today many of the offenders are Britons on short-term two-year contracts with the police force, who, because of the shortage of men, have never been schooled in police procedure. They are without any knowledge of the language or of local affairs, and they administer their own brand of justice in isolated police posts.
Such actions are building a resentment among the Africans which can scarcely be afforded. Itelaxation of the emergency powers would bring the police under stricter control. But many such powers are still required to maintain military vigilance in the last-ditch terrorist areas.
Seventy thousand prisoners
And those powers permitting detention without trial are still needed to cope with the rehabilitation of 70,000 Mau Mau captives in prison camps across the country. These men cannot be imprisoned indefinitely: for with a population one-tenth the size of Britain’s, Kenya simply cannot afford a prison population ten times Britain’s, Yet to return them to their homes while they are still such ardent believers in the Mau Man faith would be to invite another wave of terrorism.
So they are undergoing a voluntary and fairly democratic sort of “brainwashing” in which they learn to read and write (most are illiterate) and are told what is being done for them, how their taxes sire spent, and so on. The success of this undertaking lies with the Christian church, upon which the Kenya government has called to reform these terrorists. So far as can be judged, the church is doing a reasonably good job in consolidating its hold on a community perhaps one tenth of which had, before the emergency, accepted Christianity at least on a nominal basis because it provided prized education at the church missions. Every month about a thousand former terrorists, carefully screened and pronounced reformed, are leaving the camps for freedom.
The Commonwealth fades
One effect of the Mau Mau outbreak in Kenya has been to stifle hopes, in some British quarters, of an African map painted British red from Capetown to Cairo. This was the old dream of Cecil Rhodes that African pioneer, millionaire, and imperialist who founded the Rhodes scholarships.
Federation of the three British territories of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland in 1953 fanned the hopes anew. Proponents of the scheme argued for fedorat ion of the three British East African territories of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika, and their linkage with the federated Rhodesias. If t he Commonwealth country of South Africa were to be tacked on to one end, and possibly an independent Sudan on the other, British influence would extend from the Cape to the borders of Egypt.
But East African federation is the biggest factor in the scheme, and the crisis in Kenya has ruled it out of the question, for neither of the black states o f Ugand a or Tanganyika wants to be saddled with Kenya’s troubles. And with Afrikaner (Dutch-descended) Nationalists firmly in power in South Africa, a break with the Commonwealth, rather than closer British ties, is likeliest there.
With the foundering of hopes for such a solid British bloc comes the foundering of hopes for a United States of Africa. The color policies of the colonial rulers — France, Belgium, Portugal, and Britain — have now become so divergent as to render such a union highly unlikely.
The need for American aid
America’s personal stake in Kenya’s progress lies in a recent $4,161,700 FOA grant, of which $3,887,300 went to Kenya. It will go a long way toward financing that reform plan which will raise the agricultural income of several million Africans.
But when the Africans see the millions of dollars which the United States is pouring into Asia, some of them wonder why America does not spend a few more preventive millions to buttress Africa against Communism or neutralism. I nited States aid to Africa—British East Africa and Liberia, Libya and Ethiopia — totaled approximately $10 million in 1955. The opinion most freely aired is that if this amount were only doubled, the dividend to the United States in good will and cooperation would be a gilt-edged return.
All this, then, is the picture of Kenya today. The war as a full-scale tactical war is virtually over. Half the British troops were gone by the end of December, and the terrorists have been pinned down in two clearly defined areas in the Aberdare Forest and on the foothills of Mount Kenya north of Nairobi.
In the capital itself, the problems are still too great to warrant concern with much other than politics or the emergency; nevertheless Kenya s colorful settlers are a lively crowd with a great confidence in their country’s future.
One minor problem is that the big game which is Kenya’s feature (British troops are in fact suffering more casualties from the rhinoceros and the elephant in the forests than from terrorists) is being shot out by African poachers while nobody has time to protect it. Despite this, Kenya’s tourist trade, which did not actually drop off much during the emergency, is now on the upgrade.
What Kenya really needs is a breathing space—which it isn’t likely to get. The country needs time to find money for its ambitious reform plans, time to find minerals, time to eradicate the resentment which has been building up as the result of illtreatment, time to woo back investors, time to find out whether its former terrorists are really converted or simply awaiting a better opportunity to strike again.
Africa on the march
But time is the one thing the African is not giving the European in Africa today. The African is on the march —unbelievably fast. He is learning the white man’s secrets and powers far quicker than many people imagine.
The tragedy in many places — as it was in Kenya — is that when he has assimilated some of this education and knowledge he is not given the outlet necessary for him to use it and improve himself still further. However primitive the bulk of Africans still may be, the number knocking on the while man’s door and demanding an increased share of responsibility and better conditions is formidable.
Kenya has found that its reform plans are now seen by the African for what they are — concessions under duress. Had the Kenya government spent the same amount of money before violence forced its hand, it would probably have bought twice or three times the amount of coöperation and good will with it. The need for African advancement is an immediate one and must be met before an explosion forces the governmental hand. If 5 million whites are to find harmony with 200 million Africans in this great continent, the world should heed Kenya’s lesson.