Memories of Mau Mau in Kenya: Lessons for Nation and Neighbours [Cortona Workshop paper: Violence & Memory] Caroline

Elkins (Harvard) & John Lonsdale (Cambridge) Introduction Ernest Renan long ago remarked that nation-states had good reason for selective amnesia. They were often born out of acts of violence that might have brought political liberation but were nonetheless no basis for national identity. Their partisan memories, split between militant patriots and craven collaborators with an alien or ancien regime, would divide rather than unite a citizenry. True of most European states, that is doubly true of Kenya. The Mau Mau movement of the 1950s shook the grip of British rule over Kenya; to what degree it did so continues to be much disputed. Mau Mau’s activists, however, were recruited overwhelmingly from one ethnic group only, the Kikuyu, who constituted then, as now, about one fifth of the country's total population. What this minority status of the insurgents has meant to the subsequent politics of the Kenya nation is one theme of this paper. However, Renan's reflection is just as relevant to the Kikuyu themselves, living together as close neighbours on their thickly populated hillsides or in city slums. They too have their reasons for silence. Most fundamentally, since hoe-wielding peasant women and men have to depend on muscle-power and the blessings of nature for their well-being, they are inclined to believe that too much reflection upon, and recrimination about, past setbacks will both paralyse the human will and offend the ancestors and other unseen forces. Facing the uncertainties of the present, it can be a kindness to forget disasters in the past. For many Kikuyu, Mau Mau was just such a catastrophe, as will become plain.1 It also divided Kikuyu into militants and loyalists. Some fought as Mau Mau guerillas or were detained as sympathisers; others of them fought against Mau Mau as 'Homeguards', or as prison warders, in British pay. Both sides committed atrocities. Mau Mau divisions often followed the recent faultlines of social differentiation, as the rising value and scarcity of landed property induced powerful men to repudiate the claims of junior kin and clients. These fissures between neighbours remain to this day, silently for the most part. Silence is part of any political culture, not least ethnic cultures. Africa’s ethnic groups—Kikuyu are no exception—have generally variegated origins that their myths of ethnogenesis conceal.2 In Kenya, Mau Mau is thus twice condemned to an emollient oblivion, both by the fragile politics of a multi-ethnic nation and by the wary culture of close neighbours who share their Kikuyu ethnicity. Mau Mau was largely a Kikuyu movement that other Kenyan Africans helped their British colonial rulers to suppress, by service in army, police, or prisons. It was nonetheless not a ‘tribal rising’; it divided Kikuyu most bitterly of all, between ‘fighters’ (or ‘terrorist thugs’), and ‘loyalists’ (or ‘homeguard thugs’). Such intimate violence is both morally painful at the time and can, unless ‘cleansed’ in some way, remain

2 politically destructive in memory. But it also has its factional uses in mobilising constituencies of support, whether in the Kenyan nation or within Kikuyuland. In contradiction to the tendencies towards an anodyne amnesia, therefore, both nationally and among neighbours, competing memories of Mau Mau have remained, dormant for the most part, but only too capable of being stirred into life. At the national level they have been periodically resurrected, for manipulation in current factional strife. Between Kikuyu neighbours, it appears that feelings remain as yet too raw to be trusted in the open. Neither Kenya nor Kikuyuland seem likely to escape the disputatious memories that both have good reason to forget. Memory can drum up demands either for social order and renewed silence on the one hand, or for retribution on the other. Active steps towards healing and reconciliation, however—as distinct from anaesthetic exhortation to forget and forgive—have only recently begun to appear. Neither Kenyan political culture nor Kikuyu moral economy seem receptive to challenging catharsis. These are some of the issues this paper explores. Their nature has changed greatly over time. We investigate three different contexts. At the beginning, in the 1950s, Mau Mau and its opponents fought in deadly earnest, initially by word, then in battle, and finally in detention camps and in the fortified villages in which a whole rural population was corralled. In the immediate aftermath, in the 1960s, the contest was transferred to the fields of political ideology, party organisation, and published memoir. The issue was the unequal distribution of the fruits of freedom that some asserted, but others denied, had been bought with the sacrifice of Mau Mau’s blood and suffering. Since independence, at the national level competing memories of Mau Mau have been evoked as political images—of radical democracy and its fight against injustice, or of ethnicity and its selfishness or heroism, or even of a proudly resistant past in which all Kenya’s nationalities can claim some share. This is the period and field that has been most discussed in the previous literature and will for that reason be merely sketched in here. 3 Among Kikuyu neighbours those who have done well still have good reason to forget, while those who have suffered have ever more to remember, if rarely to speak about. We conclude with a brief reflection on the present and future. Elkins’s recent research has focused on the relations between Kikuyu neighbours. Lonsdale has for many years worked on the history of nationhood, both Kikuyu and Kenyan. 1: What there is to forget in the beginning

a) At the 'national' level: the origins of Mau Mau were deeply divisive. On the one hand there was the open, pan-ethnic, rurally-based, 'teachers' party' of the Kenya African Union (KAU), founded in 1944, a loose 'congress'-type party of moderate views that achieved little for Africans in face of the British need for colonial support in postwar reconstruction and to close the ‘dollar gap’. In Kenya’s case these metropolitan needs gave priority to white settler farming for export. KAU’s failure to impress the British at the national level, however, did not prevent creative African politics in more local arenas. Each of the KAU's rural ethnic bases witnessed a socially conservative struggle for African social order in face of increasing division between richer and

3 poorer peasants, the uneducated old and the literate young, rural parents and their migrant or urban children. In almost all areas the elders maintained control, and some semblance of social progress, in alliance with the British colonial administration.4 The exception was Kikuyuland. Here Jomo Kenyatta (returning from 16 years’ exile in Britain in 1946) became champion of the elder's project. He and his age-mates swore themselves to solidarity with an oath modelled on a legal ordeal, available only to household heads and property owners, which ordinarily cleared men from accusations of sorcery. This became known as the first Mau Mau oath, the oath of unity, uiguano, a guarantee of mutual political trust that the rivalries of petty rural capitalism did not of themselves encourage. By 1950 they had lost control of their juniors, who had lost patience with their elders. There were two reasons for this, in the Kikuyu diaspora and within the ‘reserves’. About one fifth of Kikuyu lived outside their reserves. Most of them lived as labour tenants or farm ‘squatter’ families on the white farms that had been established, for the most part, on the former pastoral prairies once grazed by the Maasai people. After the Second World War white settlers enforced new squatter contracts that cut down on their tenants’ customary rights to domestic cultivation and pasturage. Kenyatta and his colleagues could do nothing to prevent this appalling drop in status from tenant-peasantry to farm labourer. In the reserves, Kikuyu ‘gentry’ behaved in much the same way as white farmers towards their poorer clients. Migrating from both the ‘White Highlands’ and the reserves, landless Kikuyu sought survival in self-employment, or crime, in Nairobi. It was there that the oath of uiguano, also called Muumbi after the mother of the Kikuyu, or ithaka na wiyathi, ‘land and freedom’ (or freedom through land), became, shamefully, the oath of the property-less, and thus non-adult, thus irresponsible, poor. Their seniors thought them ‘greedy’ and thus ‘Mau Mau’.5 Mau Mau fighters seem to have acknowledged their junior status by calling themselves itungati, a rearguard for their leaders; while describing their Home Guard opponents as kamatimu, both spear carriers and senior warriors of an age entitled to be married, as itungati were not. As within the KAU’s nationalism these militants appeared to be an ethnic sect, so too in conservative Kikuyu culture there was no reason for pride in a junior but too pushy Mau Mau. ‘Nationally’ the divisiveness of what became the Mau Mau counter-insurgency war was compounded by the British use of other Kenyans in the Kings African Rifles the Police, and Prison service. Nor is it at all clear that what was in part an African civil war achieved Kenya’s freedom. Mau Mau was defeated militarily. It is true that as an important element in the civil counter-insurgency strategy, the ‘second prong’ as it was known, the British conceded a limited African franchise in 1957. African legislators, with Tom Mboya as their strategic genius, then managed to achieve rapid constitutional change with the simple and bloodless weapon of boycotting the offer of executive office that would alone have lent international legitimacy to constitutional change. However, the African franchise would have been bound to come, if not in the late 1950s then in the early 1960s, along with constitutional advance elsewhere in British Africa. The British were clear that Kenya could be no exception to the general African rule. And one could certainly argue that had there been no Mau Mau there might also have been

4 no later split between the Kenya African National Union (KANU) on the one hand and the ‘Democratic’ Union (KADU) on the other, and far less inter-regional distrust or ‘majimbo’ as it was known, either before independence or more recently. (b) At the local level, among neighbours in Kikuyuland, Mau Mau was a brutal civil war. The struggle erupted within the intimate link between household conflict, the politics of collaboration, and settler colonial rule. Private debate within the Kikuyu domestic sphere turned on issues of production and reproduction, and became more heated in the 1940s. For many men, colonial rule undermined masculine autonomy; they no longer had a free hand in making decisions relating to their household economies.6 Young unmarried men, along with many of their married counterparts, embarked on labour migrancy largely out of necessity. Access to land throughout the reserves became increasingly contested, and with it a man’s ability to feed his family and meet his colonial obligations. As a former Mau Mau adherent later recalled, “I left my home in Nyeri for Nairobi to look for work. That was in 1943. I could no longer feed my family and pay my taxes from my small shamba. Later, I should have gotten more land from my father, but it was taken from us. Everything was different for me and my brothers than from the time of our ancestors. Our grandfathers and their fathers never worried for their land; they could always feed their families.”7 Times had changed. The land frontier had closed, and social order was collapsing under the weight of colonial authority. Landlessness was anathema to Kikuyu notions of social being. Friction grew. Fingers were pointed at neighbours for profiting at the expense of others. Kikuyu wealth had never been distributed equally, but access to resources had formerly been guaranteed by tenancy, fission, and migration when necessary. But the politics of settler colonial rule undermined Kikuyu productive autonomy. Nairobi and its settler dependants needed African supporters to carry out the imperial will. Later known as ‘loyalists’, these collaborators stepped into the colonial framework in return for preferred access to land, trading licenses, markets, education, and other opportunities. Local resources dwindled as loyalists and white settlers took more than their share; social differentiation took on new meaning as men lost their power to produce and provide. Gakaara wa Wanjau, during his years of detention, collected histories from the elders detained with him. He found that many wazee had joined Mau Mau because they could no longer contain the forces of private dissent. Not only young men but also married men trapped in labour migration demanded that they intervene to defuse the conflict. As Wanjau later remembered: There are ten Kikuyu clans. I had all of these ten clans [in detention with me]. Their characteristics are quite different. You find a clan like the Anjiru clan. One person whose clan is Anjiru may come from Nyeri, another from Kiambu or Murang’a, and they happen to meet in detention camp, or wherever else Kikuyus may meet, and they would enquire from each other, “which is your clan”. If you come from the same clan you are brothers…same clan, same blood. In detention,

5 Ngai [God] gathered for me all of those old people from the ten different clans. Those were old people, the KCA [Kikuyu Central Association] people. They were the age of our fathers and older. In detention, I gathered from all of them the different histories from the ten clans. They told me how times had changed, how they could not control the Kikuyu like their fathers, and their fathers. They were under great pressure. That is why they took the oath, to bring the Kikuyu back to the way they were. To restore the house of Gikuyu and Muumbi…to take back control.8 Private debate over Kikuyuness was not limited to males. Household conflict extended to women who also debated issues of gender and generation in the context of tumultuous socio-economic and political change. Some found liberation in towns where the market economy, prostitution, and property ownership offered escape from rural oppression.9 Yet, many of these women were ostracised, particularly by their rural sisters and elders; instead of being seen as urbane and modern, they were thought loose and suspect. As an informant from Kiambu noted, “My sister went to Nairobi after the war. She never married, though she has two children. She hasn’t been back home in many years, because of the shame.”10 Such urban women, however, were a minority. Most women remained in the reserves, or as squatters in the settled areas. They resented their households’ increased dependence upon their labour. Many of their husbands—away at work, or locally resident but underemployed—were unable to provide for their families by their own labour. So women laboured seasonally on the settler coffee estates for extra cash; and were compelled to work for the government on terracing programs and other public works. Women resented these burdens; they compromised their ability to reproduce their own families. The sentiments of a Mau Mau protagonist from Murang’a were echoed by many other women informants: “We told our husbands that we were unhappy, we had our ways. They didn’t have enough land for us to feed our families, and we women had to work harder than anyone. This was not how my marriage was supposed to be.”11 Moreover, their anger extended outwards, into the households of their loyalist neighbours. Women whose husbands were active loyalists benefited at the expense of their future Mau Mau counterparts. Their privileged position meant they had ample land to cultivate; their grain stores were filled; they were exempt from communal projects; in fact, their perceived idleness was their badge of loyalty. “We hated the loyalist women,” one woman recounted, “they took advantage of us. It was on our backs that they prospered and raised their children.”12 Most of the women who joined Mau Mau did so in the hope that ithaka na wiyathi or ‘Land and Freedom’ would help them become better wives, mothers, and providers. Women’s power rested not in formal political, social or religious institutions, but in their roles of producing and controlling domestic resources, and ultimately in reproducing Kikuyu society. These were the bases upon which they would fight as Mau Mau, and upon which they would ultimately lose the struggle. The insurgency was much more than a guerilla war. Britain’s white and black troops wore down the insurgents in the Mount Kenya and Aberdare (Nyandarwa)

6 forests by 1955, but they did so in part by taking the war out of the forests and into detention camps and fortified villages. Mau Mau changed from a military conflict into a civilian ordeal. The British army defeated the guerillas but then handed the civil Mau Mau problem over to the Kenya government. Indeed, to see the Emergency as only a guerilla war is to overlook the heart of the battle. By late 1955—through coordinated policies of repatriation, detention, imprisonment, and villagisation—Mau Mau’s civilian war was unfolding in two detention arenas: the Pipeline of camps and prisons scattered through the colony, and the Emergency villages that dotted Kikuyuland and some of the settled areas. Here a bitter struggle unfolded between European trustees and African loyalists on the one hand and, on the other, the estimated ninety percent of the one and a half million Kikuyu who had taken the first Mau Mau oath. Government justified its civilian counter-insurgency policies in the liberal rhetoric of reform. This official myth of Mau Mau represented a benevolent colonial state intent on reconstructing Kikuyu society. Behind the barbed wire of detention—in camp, prison or village—the oath-takers would be offered citizenship training in return for their cooperation, shown above all by confessing the oath. The first year of the Emergency, however, saw the development of an official structure and mentality that compromised any liberal vision of a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign. Governor Baring and his officers sought, first and foremost, to contain and control the entire oath-taking population. To this end, they legislated a totalitarian state into existence, passing dozens of Emergency Regulations to ensure absolute control over their subjects. Armed with powers to enforce communal punishments, curfews and pass controls, government took steps towards detaining the entire oath-taking population. First, all Mau Mau suspects were repatriated from the settled areas, Nairobi, Tanganyika and elsewhere to Kikuyuland via temporary Transit Camps. Conditions in these were deplorable; disease and malnutrition were widespread. Screening teams were established to “separate the sheep from the goats”, but did much more than divide loyalist from oathed Kikuyu. Soldiers, Special Branch and CID allied with the District Administration to extract intelligence and confessions during screening sessions that could last for hours, even days. Former Mau Mau suspects constantly reiterated this complaint from an informant arrested early in the Emergency: “I am ashamed to tell you what those askaris did to us. They beat us and beat us trying to get information on Mau Mau. Sometimes if we didn’t cooperate, they forced us to do terrible things to ourselves and to each other.”13 By early 1953, a crisis was brewing. With a weekly average of 2, 500 Kikuyu being moved out of the Transit Camps back to the reserves, the understaffed departments could not cope with the waves of squatter evictions. Yet the Kikuyu returnees increased through 1953, and continued to do so throughout the Emergency. Even repatriation to the reserves offered people little relief; they were already overcrowded and would soon become wired in, in new villages. Meanwhile, the campaign to arrest, interrogate, and somehow dispose of the alleged Mau Mau leadership and militants grew in intensity. With the start of the Emergency on the 20th October, 1952, the colonial government arrested and detained

7 without trial 181 previously identified leaders of Mau Mau—including Jomo Kenyatta, the alleged mastermind. Baring anticipated permanent exile for the leaders, preferably in some remote part of the Empire. The decapitated movement would surely then collapse and order be restored. The government, however, overestimated the role of the supposed insurgent leaders and underestimated the commitment of ordinary Kikuyu. Nairobi’s dependence on extraordinary measures—like massive repatriation—exposed its weakness; as, too, did its growing use of detention without trial. By July 1953, over 100, 000 Mau Mau suspects had been picked up. The courts could not try them all. Detention without trial was the only solution. Together with the known Mau Mau leaders and activists, Baring issued detention orders for hundreds of other suspects against whom prosecution, even under Emergency rules, was impossible. By July 1953 he had signed 1,550 detention orders with the number increasing exponentially in the years ahead.14 In 1954 the civilian war began to transform Kikuyuland and, with it, the nature of Mau Mau. Of seismic importance was Operation Anvil. General Erskine intended Anvil to eradicate Mau Mau from Nairobi,15 and to imprison the city’s insurgency behind detention camp wire. While detention did help to regain control of Nairobi, the government scarcely controlled its own camps. It expanded the so-called ‘Pipeline’ capacity to hold an additional 20, 000 Mau Mau suspects, but this soon became insufficient. Three weeks after the start of Anvil there were over 24, 000 Mau Mau suspects in the three main camps alone. Detention figures rose thirteen-fold from January to May 1954, and increased by 2, 500 per cent by the year’s end.16 The Pipeline population exploded in 1954, and the government was left to find the means to screen, classify, and rehabilitate these tens of thousands of fresh suspects. By the end of the Emergency, the government reported that some 80, 000 men and women had passed through the Pipeline. The actual number appears to have been between twice and four times the official figure, or between 160, 000 and 320, 000 detainees.17 The expansion of the Emergency Pipeline heralded a new battleground. As the security forces won the initiative over the forest insurgents, so the struggle behind the wire gained momentum. Overwhelmed by the influx, the government frustrated its own proclaimed liberal efforts at rehabilitation. Mau Mau ascendancy grew at an alarming pace behind the wire. Camps and prisons provided a new venue for the civil struggle. Detainees seized the initiative. Reaffirming their insurgent commitment, they adapted its strategy and ritual to their new circumstances. Nairobi turned increasingly to violence and coercion to regain control over the Pipeline. Government and detainees became locked in a bitter struggle. By 1956, a time when many Kenyan historians declare the insurgency well ended, Mau Mau was raging in the detention camps and prisons while the colonial government searched for a means to re-establish its authority. With many able-bodied men in detention, government also faced the need to regain control over the vast number of women, children and elderly who had taken the Mau Mau oath. In June 1954 the War Council made the fateful decision to enforce villagisation throughout the Kikuyu reserves. The removal of all Kikuyu from their scattered homesteads into concentrated, barbed-wire villages was the cornerstone of the

8 civil counter-insurgency campaign. Villagisation became a new form of detention. Like camps or prisons, villages offered a controlled environment where government could confine the inhabitants behind barbed wire and trenches, control their movements, extract their labour, and punish them for non-cooperation. With the introduction of the Emergency villages officials could, in particular, send all but the ‘worst’ women back to the reserves. In effect, the British instituted a policy of sending men to the Pipeline, and women and children back to Kikuyuland, into the Emergency villages.18 By late 1955—less than eighteen months after the War Council decision—over one million Kikuyu were herded into some 800 villages with a total of nearly 230, 000 huts.19 Though European officers directed the operations, the Home Guards—the corps of Kikuyu loyalists—performed the actual removal of Kikuyu from their homesteads. This new civil dimension of the war, following the earlier forced removals, generated a wave of confusion and terror throughout the reserves. Homesteads were burned while inhabitants fled with whatever valuables they could carry. The loyalists in charge often confiscated livestock for their own benefit, or destroyed undernourished cows and goats in the burning bomas. 20 In the growing disorder, families were often separated; many young children were never recovered. A woman from Ruguru location in Nyeri recalled her forced removal in a manner that was repeated in most Kikuyu locations: …the Kamatimu just came and started burning the houses, and everything in them. You would only see smoke billowing from the houses on the next ridge as they were burning, and you would try to remove whatever you could from yours before they reached there. We were in confusion because we did not know where to go and our children were wandering and many were lost. There were no houses in the village area, and so we could not save much of our property or tell our children how to find us. The Home Guards would then carry off any goats, sheep or chicken which were left a home, which they would later feast on at the Home Guard post, because they had been given power, and we could do nothing to prevent them…We would just go to the village and huddle together for warmth, after having lit bonfires to keep us warm. You see, there was nowhere to live. From there, we would be taken daily to the forest, where we would cut the construction materials, and in one day several houses could be built…It went on like this for some time, and then the Home Guard made us start the trenches. Oh, those were terrible days!21 The wanton destruction and illegal appropriation of property, together with the perverted atmosphere of retribution and seeming loyalist glee, reflected the bitterness of the struggle between neighbours. Villagisation soon acquired a multitude of purposes. Government had started enforcing communal labour and confiscating property and land in 1953. Villagisation facilitated and expanded both.22 The physical confinement of the Kikuyu population also helped to cut the intelligence and supply network between passive wing and forest fighters. The removal of Kikuyu from their scattered homesteads thus gave government a new sense of control. Yet, even as the government tightened its grip on the Native Land Units, so the barbed-wire villages,

9 forced communal labour, and confiscation of property only fanned the flame of civil discontent and exacerbated the continuing struggle. Despite the hardships of village life, many women remained loyal to the ideals of Gikuyu and Muumbi. They sang the praises of their creator god, Ngai, during communal labour, and recited the Kikuyu Creed in the evening in their huts. During interrogation or at moments of extreme physical violation, some women recalled the words of the Creed to give them strength. Several informants also reported that their oath or oaths kept them bound to the movement, and some insisted that oathing continued long after villagisation was completed. Some were oathed for the first time, and those targeted as potential waverers could be re-oathed. In Kiamariga Village in Nyeri, one informant explained that those targeted were “…asked if they wanted to take the oath, so that they might be like all the other Kikuyu who wanted to ask for their wiyathi. Even if they did not want to take it, it was administered to them anyway. One was also asked whether one had agreed to unite with the rest of Gikuyu and Muumbi... If one refused to take the oath, then something bad would be done to them. They were usually beaten.”23 Enforced or voluntary, the oath was equally binding. Ingesting the meat of the sacrificial goat—or in the case of the impoverished villagers, the blood of their Mau Mau compatriots—and repeating their commitment to Gikuyu and Muumbi brought one into the insurgent fold. The meat and blood travelled with a woman wherever she went; it became part of the initiate’s body; one could not escape its power. Even today many people feel bound by their Mau Mau oath or oaths. A woman from Nyeri district captured a common sentiment when she emphasised that “…it was very difficult to confess the oath. I only did so because of the beatings. Even today, I cannot be able to confess everything [her emphasis] about that oath. I still feel that I am bound by it. The oath was for our soil, which we were fighting for, and even today, I feel bound by the vows I made when I took the oath.” 24 Oath taking divided women both during and after the Emergency. The Loyalists were considered “traitors”, or “not true Kikuyu”. Revealingly, Mau Mau women disparaged them as “thata” or “barren”. The “thata” refused to join other women in their struggle to reproduce Kikuyu society; their perceived loyalty to the colonial cause made them infertile and unproductive. As one informant emphasised, “Those women loyalists were referred to as ‘thata’…The farms of those ‘thata’ were the ones which were harvested by those women who were said to be Mau Mau. Those who were doing communal work, whose husbands were either in detention or in the forests, were forced to labour on ‘thata’ farms. The ‘thata’ would use the food for themselves—they did that because they were evil people. They were not really Kikuyu."25 Not all loyalists, however, were the same—at least for the Mau Mau adherents. Whereas British officials thought anyone not actively fighting for the government was a priori a Mau Mau adherent, the Kikuyu judged each other differently.26 A minority of devout Christians, for instance, refused not only to take the Mau Mau oath, but also to fight on the government’s side. The British deemed such people Mau Mau; Kikuyu women called

10 such Christian adherents “karegeirie”, or one who is not a complete Kikuyu. A Revivalist from Kiambu recalled the Emergency as a time of ostracism and fear: We lived together [Mau Mau and Christians], and even worked together on communal projects. But those people who had not taken the oath were shunned by the others who had taken it, and were insultingly being referred to as ‘karegeirie’. You could always hear abusive remarks being made, in parables, whenever such a person was passing near those who had taken the oath…You see, a woman who had not taken the oath was being excluded from the usual women gathering when they performed chores together, or when they went to congratulate a mother who had newly given birth. A woman who had not taken the oath was treated by the others as an outcaste. She was a ‘karegeirie’. She was not a true Kikuyu, at least not to them…One felt fear all the time; because you could never know the time or hour when they [Mau Mau] would decide that you should be either oathed or eliminated.27 Female debate over the meaning of Kikuyuness in the context of household and community provided the ideological context for the civil struggle. Oathing provided unity to—and instilled fear in—Mau Mau’s rural forces. Armed with their pledge the villagers waged a formidable battle against the government forces. Despite its hopes, Nairobi found that to isolate Mau Mau’s ‘passive wing’ was not the same as breaking it. Thanks to their enforced labour on village construction, trench digging, and Home Guard Posts women gained a collective, mental blueprint of the cordoned-off area. They continued their passive wing efforts by supplying the remaining guerilla forces with intelligence, weapons, and food stolen from the Home Guard. Some repaired clothing and blankets for the fighters, others performed minor surgery on wounded guerrillas. An intricate female network carried supplies, sometimes with the assistance of Home Guards who were also Mau Mau agents. In their village-building work, some women loosened the labyrinth of sharpened stakes or panjis that lined the bottom of the trenches to allow for their easy removal and replacement during transfers of goods and people after dark. Detection and death were nightly possibilities. Supplying the fighters further depleted the villagers’ scarce food stocks. Women struggled between maternal duties, meeting their children’s barest needs while also nourishing the forest fighters. Despite dwindling food supplies and the spread of disease, few women confessed their Mau Mau oaths. An informant from Nyeri said, “It was the way we were forced to live that was killing us. When people amounting to more than thirty lived in one hut, people could die from anything. Many old people and the children died because we couldn’t care for them. The strong would leave in them morning for communal labour, and return at night to find the weak dead. We found strength in each other. Those were the days of Mau Mau when we were all united…Despite everything, I refused to confess then—even when I was beaten.”28 Yet continued loyalty to Mau Mau worsened and prolonged the villagers’ plight, as daily brutality reflected the government’s increasing frustration.

11 By 1956 Nairobi had detained nearly the entire Kikuyu population either in camps or villages. Far from ensuring cooperation such supposed ‘control only evoked further anti-colonial sentiment and civil discontent. In the Pipeline, violent protests became widespread. The hard core camps were the sites of the most organised resistance. There, Mau Mau adherents contested their continued detention without trial—and their deplorable conditions—through work stoppages, hunger strikes and riots. Behind the wire ascendancy oscillated between government and Mau Mau. The detainees found little reason to cooperate with camp officials, as liberal reform was hardly standard camp or prison practice. Letters and petitions addressed from detainees and convicts to “His Excellency the Governor of Kenya” and “Her Majesty the Queen”, among other recipients, provide a window into the Pipeline struggle.29 Mau Mau adherents detailed the beatings and capricious violence that dominated their daily lives. Some detainees described random beatings with weapons such as “permabox handles and rifle buts [sic],” as well as vicious attacks by police dogs.30 Others wrote of the “small cells”—covered six foot pits or windowless rooms—where “the commandant put us in…even when there is no reason.”31 In Langata Camp, it was noted that “Some European Officers open detainees cages and give orders to Askaris to beat up every detainee whereas they have not done anything wrong.”32 The indiscriminate nature of the brutality was emphasised: “We are severely punished by corpral [sic] punishment when one does a slight mistake.”33 In addition to random punishment, British officers and their askari sometimes employed calculated brutality to force confession. An informant who had spent six years in detention was not alone in maintaining that “…Kikuyu askaris in the camps knew what they were doing. They were torturing us in unspeakable ways, trying to make us be lesser men.”34 The torturers were not strangers but potential neighbours. In January 1957 detainees in Athi River Camp had written in the same vein, that “…pliers is also applied to work as the apparatus of castrating the testicles, and also the ears. All this is done so as to make everyone attended to confess, whether true or not, to oblige them to agree to what has been alleged against someone whether it is true or not. As a result that none can resist these deeds some do confess and say yes so as to safe themselves from the troubles and hardships…”35 Similarly at Embakasi Prison, Mau Mau adherents complained of the “Custration [sic] of Men,” and queried, “Where does custration [sic] of man come from? Is that the democratic law?” 36 Mau Mau camp committees offered detainees far more in the way of rehabilitation, protection, and hope for future betterment than the prison and rehabilitation staffs. Whereas social reform behind the wire was supposed to include literacy and civics classes, it was the detainees themselves who offered education to their fellow Mau Mau adherents. As a man from the Mugoiru location in Murang’a recalled, “…There was a camp leader, who had been selected by the detainees. His duty was to oversee the cleanliness of the compound, keep order, and help organise the education classes. You see, Mau Mau held classes for those people who wanted to learn, especially the illiterate people, who did not even know their A, B, Cs. They were assigned a teacher to instruct them. Sometimes we were able to get books and other materials, other times we learned by writing in the sand...”37 As the Emergency progressed, detainees did more

12 than organise their own “rehabilitation” classes. Banding together within their locked compounds Mau Mau adherents found solidarity—and safety—in numbers, and together lived in open defiance of the camp authorities. In time, few warders ventured within the compound wire. As one detainee remembered of life in Mackinnon Road Camp, “The guards could not come close to our cages. After they had locked the doors, they could not come near us. Even when we shouted our prayers to Kirinyaga and sang our Mau Mau songs. They were afraid that we would kill them, and they were right.”38 Far from reforming Mau Mau the detention camps further embittered its adherents. Colonial rule and Mau Mau reached an impasse behind the wire. Nairobi would have to rethink its strategy if it hoped to defeat insurgents in the cage. Systematisation of brute force became the final solution to breaking Mau Mau allegiance. In the early years of detention, Nairobi’s tacit approval of camp brutality had only provoked resistance. A new approach called the “dilution technique” now brought about a change in the official use of force. In December 1956, John Cowan—a prisons officer—described an experiment that had taken place in one of the camps. After transferring a small group of fifty detainees in leg-irons from one camp to another, he reported that: [The white officers] isolated a small number of uncooperative detainees who were surrounded by prison staff. [The detainees] were ordered, and refused, to carry out some simple task, and were then forced physically to comply by the preponderance of warders, thus submitting, however symbolically, to hitherto resisted discipline. They were then harangued without respite, by rehabilitation staff and selected detainees working together, until finally they confessed their oaths.39 The success of this “dilution technique” rested on two principles. First, prison staff had to separate detainees from the hardcore camps into small, manageable, groups. They then had to use brute force and other forms of “persuasion” to overpower these small batches of recalcitrants. Physical domination became the key to cooperation. As Cowan later recollected, “there was no other way. The men were obdurate and very dangerous…you had to knock the evil out of a person.”40 The “dilution technique” depended on the systematic display and use of force. In April 1957 Terence Gavaghan took charge of breaking Mau Mau in the Pipeline. His “Operation Progress” in the Mwea camps turned “dilution” into a system. No longer would degrading violence be capricious. Detainees would no longer be permitted to join forces behind the wire in defiance of authority. Gavaghan aimed to reclaim all the camps, one by one. “Dilution” never aspired to win detainees’ “hearts and minds”. Indeed, Gavaghan disdained the earlier campaign for liberal reform. His views owed something to the stress of the Emergency, but also to his own ideology. He never endorsed liberal reform and later recalled that, “I must admit that I don’t like going on [record] saying such things, but I think honestly if people said ‘hearts and minds’ to me I simply said yuck.”41 Instead, with Nairobi’s full support, the “dilution technique” abandoned—for the first time—any hope of detainees’ moral reform. The government

13 now relied on coercion to control the Pipeline. Detainees must either confess and cooperate, or suffer the brutal consequences. A former Mau Mau general who spent three years in detention prior to undergoing “dilution” recalled that: Mwea was where people were being forced to confess during screening. That was where detainees were being tested by the White Man’s Government. It was a very bad place…when a detainee arrived his clothes would be removed, and cold water would be poured onto his naked body, as he was being whipped. Sometimes one would be hung by his feet, leaving just a few inches between the floor and his head, and he would be left like that until he agreed to confess… It was the askaris who were doing this, on the white commandant’s orders. While hanging like that, a detainee would have very cold water poured on his body until he could not even feel his legs, and then he would be whipped… It was a form of punishment, to make detainees confess the oath, and confess what they had done.42 In face of the “dilution technique”—and its well-coordinated use of force—Mau Mau resistance did indeed begin to break. The Emergency villages also became sites of destruction rather than reform. Here, women’s experiences were similar to those of men in the Pipeline: confinement behind barbed wire and spiked trenches; enforced labour; capricious and pervasive violence. But there were also important differences that reflected both the nature of the rural civilian war, and the women’s position in that struggle. Their battleground was the heart of Kikuyuland. The field of battle was home, their homes were a battlefield. The people whom the women challenged—their neighbours, the loyalist village guards—became, in effect, their camp warders. But with the men away, wives and mothers were expected to feed their children, protect their land and cattle from thieving Loyalists, and maintain their family legacies. In an extreme form of the gender relations found in migrant-labour communities throughout Africa, women were expected to defend the home front while the men were gone. Women became the domestic riigi in Kikuyuland, the household doorway, despite the masculine claims of Stanley Mathenge and his forest followers. (see below) The Kenya riigi could hardly defend the home front from their forest hideouts. It was their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters who struggled to protect home and family while the men were away, in forest or Pipeline. Women endured a daily routine of forced communal labour punctuated by indiscriminate physical and psychological assaults. Rape, sexual violence and gruesome sodomy were commonplace. Taken to a Home Guard Post for interrogation, a woman told how “I was badly beaten and tortured, and a bottle and later a snake were inserted into my private parts. The loyalist screeners also squeezed my breasts with pliers to get me to confess about Mau Mau and the oath, but I refused…I have never been able to have children, and I think it is because of these days.”43 While some women were unable to protect their reproductive power—which they traditionally controlled and to which their absentee husbands had claim—others went to extreme lengths to save children already living. Some women sacrificed

14 themselves for their children, knowing their offspring would not survive the ordeal of villagisation without them. As one former villager recalled: …when the soldiers came into the village for patrols, they would take women and young girls by force, and rape them. The Home Guards also did such things. And you could not dare to refuse, because sometimes it would be at gun point, and other times they could even fabricate a charge against you, and have you arrested. We felt that we would rather allow them to rape us, than get killed. We had small children dependent on us, with their fathers and our husbands away in detention…In fact, during those times, a lot of women gave birth to “nusu-nusu” babies. Some were half-white babies, after such rape ordeals. Others got children fathered by askaris of various African tribes like the Kamba and Nandi. But many more gave birth to the children of their neighbours, who were the loyalists who raped them in the Home Guard Posts.44 For many women, the worst punishment was not sexual assault, beatings, or forced labour, but hunger. “I agonised over what to do in order to get food for my children”, one informant sobbed.45 Another was adamant, “Food was the worst problem…a woman would be shot trying to go to her farm to get food to feed her starving children”.46 Over again, the same sentiment that “hunger was the worst problem, it was killing so many of our people” was expressed by former villagers.47 Many held that the government deliberately used starvation to defeat Mau Mau. Such allegations are difficult to prove from the official record. However, Nairobi certainly did little to stem the crisis. The government refused to allocate funds for famine relief but relied on the Red Cross to assist with soup kitchens and dried milk supplies. Yet Red Cross relief often went not to areas in most urgent need, but to locations where loyalists were demanding more government support. The colony’s Medical Department angrily reported the “Alarming number of deaths occurring amongst children in the ‘punitive’ villages” and the “political considerations” that blocked Red Cross relief efforts. Not surprisingly, epidemic and nutrition-related illness broke out throughout the reserves. Rapid villagisation and crowded huts made for squalor. This, combined with the famine, led to untold numbers of deaths. Informants who lived in Kiambu, Fort Hall and Nyeri villages reported death rates of up to 50 persons a week at the height of the Emergency. While these figures seem high, thousands of people did undoubtedly perish from starvation and disease. In retrospect, it is surprising how many, in fact, survived the ordeal of villagisation. Those who did owe much to the domestic riigi who out of necessity assumed the role of protector of and provider for their households and communities while their men were in the forests or the camps. Government won the civilian struggle against Mau Mau only it had physically and psychologically decimated the Kikuyu population. In the camps Operation Progress was summed up years of loathsome brutality behind the wire. Castrating detainees, forcing mutual sodomy and other horrifying acts even seemed to be part of the official battle plan.48 To force oath-takers to confess—integral to defeating Mau Mau—the government had to shatter their belief system. Instead of enticing detainees to confess

15 by offering a colonial world superior to anything offered by Mau Mau, Nairobi chose the opposite tack. Coercion replaced reform, its success dependent on destroying the ideals of Gikuyu and Muumbi, the powers of Ngai, and the world they defined. Similarly, only when villages had obliterated the domestic landscape did women begin to confess their oaths and desert Mau Mau. The home front turned out to be the last line of defence. To maintain vestiges of the domestic sphere had provided women with the strength of purpose to support Mau Mau. It therefore took the annihilation of everything of domestic importance—the atomisation of families, death of children, violation of social beliefs, violation of their bodies, the destruction of homesteads and loss of land and livestock—to force the women to submit. These were the tactics the government needed to win the civilian war. Over and again women recalled why they finally confessed their oaths—an act they had so feared—and began to cooperate with their village’s colonial authorities. One spoke for many when she recalled: “Everything was gone—my mother, my co-wife. I lost our cows. They took my husband’s land. I had no shamba. Only two of my children survived. We had been shamed. I felt like I was no longer Kikuyu. How could we keep fighting for Mau Mau? Many of us confessed our oaths—I did. We prayed for it all to be over. We beseeched Ngai, ‘Please, please undo these terrible things’.”49 Pipeline and village were therefore disasters to forget. The fight in the forest was no better. c) Divisions within the forest: 50 Superior British force was bound in the end to win the forest war. Mau Mau fighters showed courage and exemplary fieldcraft in delaying the end so long. But to some extent their eventual defeat was brought upon them by their own gendered sense of failure and by unresolved conflict over the nature of authority. Mau Mau fighters were well aware that their wartime absence made them poor husbands and fathers. Their self-reproach can be painfully sensed in their memoirs. But they also failed to agree to serve under a single authority that might have preserved the unity of those who survived the war. Mau Mau forest guerilla veterans were thus quite unable to act subsequently as a politically influential interest group, even a party, to participate in and shape subsequent national politics. The problem of authority and its abuse was at its most explosive in the male competition for female company. Women never made up more than fifteen per cent of the forest armies, at most. There were supposed to be strict rules to prevent sexual jealousy from wrecking military discipline. They did not work. And one of the worst offenders was felt to be Field-Marshal ‘Sir’ Dedan Kimathi. His junior commanders accused him of monopolising women. He was eventually betrayed to the British by a man found guilty of sleeping with a woman and flogged on the orders of Kimathi. Guerillas had many other complaints against the Field Marshal. The nub of the argument was not sex but the legitimacy of authority. Kimathi and his supporters maintained that in modern times, when the pen was mightier than the sword (and Mau Mau forest bureaucracy was formidable), authority must rest upon the efficiency of literate management. His opponents lined up behind Stanley Mathenge (who never took a military title) under the name of Kenya riigi, as already noted. They argued, as was natural in a chiefless society, that authority stemmed from reputation, and that male reputation rested in

16 particular on the married man’s management of his household. Nobody could usurp that authority; nobody but the householder could close his door, his riigi, to protect his dependants against the perils of the wilderness and the dark. The claims of literate management were insolently dictatorial. Mau Mau armies must continue to operate autonomously, under leaders known to their men face-to-face, not foisted on them by some overall framework of command. How much this knowledge of factional failure still haunts the veterans’ memory it is hard to say, but it is noticeable that they still find it impossible to speak with one voice. Women informants recall their roles in the forest more as nurturers and supporters of the struggle than as active participants. None boasted of any decisionmaking role; they took directions from men. Those who had then been young girls remembered with pride their ability to evade detection when moving between village and forests. These couriers were known by their single clipped earlobe. All those interviewed in Nyeri reported that their second earlobe was clipped with their first menstruation, to show that they were no longer members of a forest gang. But if mature women could thus not be respectable adults in the forest, it seems, above all, that it was the men’s failure to protect their women against the horrors of villagisation that was the most shameful reproach to their manhood. Both genders have nightmare Emergencies to forget. 2) What there is to forget in the immediate aftermath

(a) Among neighbours the civil dimension of the war had had a devastating impact on Kikuyu society. By the end of the Emergency in 1960, nearly the entire oath-taking population had succumbed and confessed their allegiance to Mau Mau. By 1959, most of the men had returned from their own harsh experiences of detention or prison to find yet more disruption among wives and families. For some, their land and other property had been confiscated and reallocated to neighbouring loyalists; loved ones were missing or dead, often buried in large, unmarked graves; wives and daughters had been sexually assaulted and raped; entire communities had been decimated by famine and disease. Instead of returning to the “normal world” they imagined and dreamt of in the Pipeline, detainees found a Kikuyu domesticity destroyed.51 The impact of this is to be seen in the handful of memoirs from former guerrilla fighters and detainees. Feminist scholars criticise these texts for their omission of the women’s contribution to the movement.52 That there are so few women in the male narratives, however, reveals much about the nature of the civilian war. Destruction of households and the rape of their women were shamed the masculinity of returning detainees—and in many ways, as we have shown, gender was at the heart of the Mau Mau struggle. They had failed as protectors of production and reproduction. Women reproached them for this. Some feminist narratives want to depict these women as assertive, independent of men;53 Kikuyu women tell a different story. During the war they resented the absence of their menfolk and the consequent hardships they had to endure. A Nyeri woman recalled what happened to her after her husband’s detention:

17 My husband, who had been detained, used to sell bicycles before his arrest. When he was arrested, I had to continue to take care of his business as well as all of mine. When villagisation happened, our shop was demolished, and all of those bicycles in the shop were looted by the Home Guards. I tried, but what could I do, I was just one woman…In the villages we did our best to survive on our own, but so many died. The Loyalists and white officers used to make us pass by the dead bodies. They would say, “Hey! Look carefully, there’s your ‘wiyathi’. Savour it!” Other dead Mau Mau would be strapped onto the front bumper of a Landrover jeep, length wise, and they would be taken around the villages, so that the people could “savour their ‘wiyathi’ which they were fighting for! Imagine, they used to do that with the bodies of women! That was not how it should have been.54 Another woman recalled how, “…my husband was arrested from where he was working on a farm in the Rift Valley and detained. I had a lot of problems, struggling alone. I had to struggle with the building of the villages, alone. I had to struggle with feeding our children, alone. My husband was away during those times. I just trusted Ngai for help, what else could I do?”55 Testimonies from former male detainees also illuminate the silences of the Mau Mau narratives. When they returned home they realised they had failed as protectors, that life would never be the same for them as men, or for their families and communities. “You can imagine it yourself,” implored one informant, “a woman who was accustomed to having someone to rely on, someone earning the daily bread for her, who had now been left alone amongst enemies [i.e. loyalists] while we men were away. Most of the people who were Home Guards used to mistreat women by forcing them to do what they did not want, even some of them were being raped by those people. By imagining it, you can understand how life was. It was a very harsh life for the women, and we men could do nothing. I was so ashamed of myself when I returned, and am sometimes now when I think about it all…”56 This is scarcely the basis for a lasting Mau Mau self-assertion. But others recall the process of return as disorienting at first, wandering about the Emergency villages looking for their families in the unfamiliar landscape. Such confusion, however, often gave way quickly to anger at the loss of wealth in people, things and knowledge; an anger that was directed at their privileged neighbours, the loyalists. Most of the former detainees interviewed shared a sentiment similar to that of an informant from Nyeri: Detention pushed my affairs backwards. Before detention, I was progressing very well. When I cam out of detention, I was very bitter. The people whom I had left behind, the loyalists—so many of whom I had actually been ahead of economically because of my hard work—had improved so much that I felt insignificant before them. I had lost everything when I got detained. Then, after release, the only way I could earn some money was by hiring my services to those same loyalists, digging their land or planting coffee for them. It was very degrading—you couldn’t understand. But, it was the only way to get by, as it was almost impossible to get a good job, having been a Mau Mau detainee.57

18 The colonial government had directed—or tacitly condoned—the obliteration of a familiar Kikuyuland, and was hardly prepared to help in the healing process. Public rhetoric to the contrary, there were virtually no rehabilitation or reintegration programs to facilitate reconciliation in the reserves. As early as 1955, the Christian Council of Kenya presented a series of sociological reports from various villages throughout Kikuyuland to the government, and recommended that: One problem brought to our notice was that of the psychological adjustment of detainees on their resettlement in the new villages. We felt it would be a great help if this problem could be brought to their notice while they are still detained. If possible the Rehabilitation Programme might be more closely geared into preparing the men for the changes they will find and the adjustments which will be required for fitting into the new communities…More might be done among men detainees in preparing their minds for life in the new villages and for rejoining their wives and families in such a completely new environment.58 Such a program was hardly on Nairobi’s agenda. Government policy indeed enervated those struggling to heal families, and exacerbated hostility between former Mau Mau and loyalists. Nairobi undermined any re-accumulation of wealth, with its support for a continued loyalist ascendancy at the expense of ex-Mau Mau renewal. Even after confession and so-called rehabilitation, no ‘suspect’ Kikuyu enjoyed the rights of a citizen until after the Emergency ended early in 1960. Only a Loyalty Certificate—signifying steadfast support for government—allowed Kikuyu to move freely about the colony, to engage in wage employment outside the reserves, and to receive equal pay. A certificate exempted one from payment of Kikuyu, Embu and Meru Special Taxes, and entitled to special consideration any applicant for commercial premises or licences.59 In effect, ex-detainee labour was required to contribute to the development of the colony, but without full economic rights. With the fruits of the agricultural revolution slow to appear, the prospects of a subsistence income—let alone a full-time job—remote, and the burdens of communal labour a drain on one’s earning capacity, many men had to defy movement restrictions and pass laws, to find a job elsewhere.60 Thousands were arrested monthly, imprisoned and fined, and eventually sent back to the reserves where they began the futile process all over again. Together, ex-Mau Mau from various generations had to begin the difficult process of reconstituting marriages, kinship relations, and community. They did not speak of past horrors but silently grieved over loss, and gendered shame. A detainee who returned to Mugoiru location in Fort Hall recalled that “One could not talk to the people at home about his experiences in detention. That was not allowed. We used to warn each other not to take our detention days to the people. How could it have helped them?”61 Many women also recalled bittersweet moments of joy, shame, and anger, when husbands, fathers and sons returned. The horrors of the Emergency dashed hopes of taking up what they remembered as normal life. Silence was the most widespread remedy for the

19 difficulties of reunification. The civilian war had destroyed social reproduction on the battlefield of home. Many men returned to find a wife rearing nusu-nusu offspring— some clearly part mzungu, others strikingly like a loyalist neighbour. Most accepted the unacceptable and raised these children as their own. A stoical father asked, “What choice did I have? What else could I do? We were just trying to start over again.”62 Many chose to focus on what they had managed to save rather than on what they had lost. Despite the obstacles, they concentrated on creation—marriage, child rearing, and rebuilding other forms of wealth. But civil antagonisms were not laid to rest. Most exMau Mau recalled their past hatred of loyalists. “We had to start over,” recalled a villager from Nyeri, “…but that didn’t mean if you did anything bad to me, I could just forget it like that. It still remained deep in my heart, just like it does today. Oh, how I hate those people.”63 However, rebuilding households took priority over renewal of civil war. But there was no reconciliation. The struggle to find a new nationalism in the twilight of colonialism only exacerbated ex-Mau Mau and loyalist tensions, and Kenyatta’s independence edict, to “forgive and forget”, stifled any “speaking out” about recent horrors—without which, we believe, there can be no forgiveness. (b) At the national level: contradictory memories of Mau Mau and continuing activity by some ex-Mau Mau militants greatly complicated efforts to construct political alliances capable of guaranteeing access to state power, and even the survival of such state power, in the wake of the British decision, announced early in 1960 to decolonise Kenya under African majority rule. On the one hand, inter-ethnic suspicion raged over Mau Mau and its successor organisations’ claims on behalf of former Kikuyu squatters on the ‘White Highlands’. A movement known as the Kenya Land Freedom Army threatened to resort to violence should members of other ethnic groups, with deeper historical claims, try to make good their entitlement to resettle white farms at Kikuyu expense. This dispute was the main cause of the split between KANU (representing mainly Kikuyu and Luo) and KADU (at whose core were the Kalenjin highlanders). On the other hand, there existed bitter suspicion at the core of the KANU party whose leadership the returning prison-graduate and national martyr Kenyatta inherited shortly after his release in 1961. Even before his release he had implied that Mau Mau were ‘gangsters’. Soon after his return he declared—in face of reports that former militants had sworn to kill him ‘if I disobey them’—that he would not allow ‘hooligans’ to rule Kenya, since ‘Mau Mau was a disease which had been eradicated, and must never be remembered again.’64 Yet almost all KANU branches in Central Province, Kikuyuland were in the hands of ex-detainees and their atangiri as they were known, ‘helpers in time of trouble’.65 Kenyatta’s political base appeared to have been captured by the young men whose disrespect for him he had known of since 1950. It is not surprising that he took care never to organise KANU more thoroughly. It would have raised a storm of recrimination. He chose instead to rule through the Provincial Administration, whose senior members had been the first African cadets in the colonial service, and whose early experience had been in fighting the Mau Mau war in British uniform. This was the institutional memory with which independent Kenya was ruled.

20 Mau Mau memoirs were sought out, edited, and published by radical or liberal westerners, without whose initiative Mau Mau might have remained silent in print. Nobody thought to ask the Loyalists for their memories. They were not academically fashionable. But they had power. They had the power to remain silent. It was they, not the Mau Mau memoirists, who controlled public memory in Kenya. 3) Mau Mau and the Kenyan Nation State

(a) At the national level our analysis has to distinguish, as perhaps scholars have not yet been sufficiently careful to do, between academic or literary output on Mau Mau and popular memory. What follows is a mere outline of the issues. The first scholars, at the time of independence, wrote cleansing histories for self-government. They proved that Mau Mau’s militants were neither savages nor madmen, as British propaganda had portrayed them, but ordinary people, driven to extraordinary lengths of political commitment, clearly fit for self-rule.66 There was much conscious connection between this era of scholarship and the production of Mau Mau memoirs that protested against the blanket of national forgetting under which the memory of their sacrifice appeared to be suffocating. But the memoirs themselves gave a far more ethnic, Kikuyu, rendering of the struggle than scholarship had implied. Thereafter historians addressed what they saw as the failings of the new 'Kenyatta state'. They followed intellectual fashion in the Western academic world at large, which was in the 1960s much more resonant with Kenya’s own internal debates. Accordingly, scholars first saw Kenyatta’s Kenya as a neo-colonial dependency, much as did Oginga Odinga and his opposition party, the Kenya People’s Union. Later scholars then saw the regime as a corrupt ethnocracy, as Kenyatta’s smashing of the KPU in the late 1960s had evoked first a renewed movement of Kikuyu oathing, ‘to keep the nation’s flag in the house of Gikuyu and Muumbi’ and then a massacre by his bodyguard of Luo demonstrators in Kisumu. What is important for us is that each type of successor state was held by scholarly critics, now increasingly Kenyan rather than expatriate, to have betrayed its true parentage, an appropriately contradictory Mau Mau. In the first of these retrospective narratives the movement had acted as the cutting edge of a national working class. The Kenyatta state had clearly suppressed, or ideologically cleansed, that radical story in the interest of the new ruling alliance, between the national petit bourgeoisie and international capital.67 In the second, ethnically charged but still classconscious, view Mau Mau became a Kikuyu peasants’ army. These, as is the common fate of peasant rebels, had been dumped by their patrons when the latter no longer needed, indeed, had come to fear, their plebeian battering ram.68 Certainly, politicians appear to have retained considerable freedom in their choice of when and why to call up the memory of Mau Mau. In 1969, that fateful year which saw Tom Mboya murdered, Kikuyu oath-taking revived to retain power in the 'house of Muumbi’, and a massacre among Kenyatta's Luo audience at Kisumu, this last view seemed to be confirmed in the popular imagination. Many Kenyans now remembered Mau Mau as an elite bid for Kikuyu dominion—as the British had also once warned. In the 1990s,

21 however, the new arap Moi successor regime overturned Kikuyu privilege, sometimes with a force that recalled early-colonial punitive expeditions. Within the 'peoples’ republics of the matatus’ (Kenya’s minibuses) many reacted by remembering Mau Mau, once again, as radical democracy in action. Its healing image was different now; it stood for the poor in general, who in turn had become the suffering people of God.69 Here, for the first time, popular memory has far outrun scholarly analysis or indeed the power of establishment politicians to manipulate in their own interest. We are far from clear that such a religious tinge to memory has transcendent political power. Mau Mau, therefor, appears condemned to remain an indelible symbol round which Kenya's antagonistic, but divisive rather than reformative, afterthoughts will continue to swarm. b) Neighbourliness and Memory in Kikuyuland: In many respects, the Mau Mau struggle still continues in Kikuyuland today. In Nyeri, Murang’a and Kiambu, former Mau Mau will not speak, share a beer, or allow their children to inter-marry, with ex-Loyalist neighbours. In some areas, local shambas are known as either Mau Mau or Loyalist. “No one knows how much we have suffered…How much we continue to suffer,” is a familiar refrain echoed throughout many Kikuyu areas.70 From the 1960s until today there has been no public reckoning. For their part, the Loyalists continue to wield economic and political power, and have yet to confess any misdeeds. What incentive have they? Moreover, there is nothing in the Kikuyu past that would indicate any predisposition to a public purging of guilt. As Wole Soyinka has pointed out in his reflections on post-Apartheid South Africa, there exists both a moral and material link to reconciliation;71 In post-Mau Mau Kikuyuland, we find neither. Morally, the Loyalists—the perceived victors—have not recognised, let alone apologised for, their past brutalities. There has been little material compensation for lost property and lives during the years of independence. Moreover, those currently seeking compensatory retribution in the sum of three billion pounds sterling Britain have a questionable record of Mau Mau participation, at best.72 Indeed, many ordinary Mau Mau wanainchi refer to these litigants as “hungry dogs”, or opportunists. Clearly, the ex-Mau Mau have had little incentive to reconsider their hatred of their Loyalists neighbours, and to become reconciled with the divisive past. Reconciliation, insofar as it exists in Kikuyuland, has taken place almost exclusively within the churches. With “forgive and forget” remaining official state policy, the Christian institutions have provided Kikuyuland with the only real venue for coming to terms with the past. Yet there has been no speaking out or public confession centring on the Mau Mau era. Instead, parishioners are told to live together because they “are all Christian”. When asked if they were still Mau Mau, many informants responded, “I am a Christian”. The same response was generally given when asked why there is no public fighting or disputing over the past. However, there was not a single ex-Mau Mau who said they “forgave” their Loyalist neighbours. Their Christianity clearly has its limitations. Within ex-Mau Mau households, the catastrophe of the Emergency is still not discussed, at least between the genders. For many former detainees and villagers, their

22 interviews with Elkins were the first time they had publicly revealed their past horrors. The catharsis appeared, however, to have a liberating effect for many, as initially halting responses gave way to hours and hours of testimony. Moreover, the impact of this process was shared with other ex-Mau Mau, many of whom demanded to be interviewed. When asked why they came, many replied that “it was time”. Whether Loyalist revelations would have prompted more purgings of shame or guilt from exMau Mau is a question we cannot answer. Nor, one imagines, could the former villager in Nyeri district who asked, “…why has no one acknowledged what happened? Look at the dogs who still live near me [the Loyalists], and who still remain in this country [the European settlers].”73 There is also the question as to what impact this continued antipathy will have on future generations. Will it die out with the passing of the Mau Mau generation? At the local level, the lack of public revelation, the failure of ex-Mau Mau to impart their stories to younger generations, the urban concerns of many younger Kikuyu, and the continued efforts of the churches may well dampen future local conflict. However, Mau Mau’s recent rebirth within the “peoples” republics of the matatu mini-buses and its continued symbolic form within Kenya’s broader political conflicts mean that it will not pass away easily. Moreover, the recent public revelations in the Kenyan press regarding the Mau Mau Pipeline, and the brutal human rights violations of the Emergency—coupled with continuing litigation over “stolen” Mau Mau lands—may well be a start in informing Kenya’s younger generations. Indeed, nearly fifty years after Mau Mau, this may be the first hint of a public purging. One is only left to imagine that genie’s impact if released from her bottle. Our concluding reflection suggests that the bottle of memory is more likely to remain firmly corked. Conclusion: Neighbours and Nation Is the palliative local peace between neighbours bought at the cost of a critical national debate about citizenship and governance? To us it seems that that is so. The local peace, as just described, is largely illusory. It is the fruit of silence, that secret knowledge or kirira with which Kikuyu elders have for generations suppressed potentially disruptive argument. If there were to be a national debate on citizenship, as opposed to clientage, and on social—as distinct from ethnic—distributive justice, it would be impossible to avoid a confrontation between Kikuyu neighbours about the bitter roots of their differentiation in property and power. Kenya can well withstand its periodic crises of memory over Mau Mau, since they do not fundamentally challenge the bargaining politics of ethnic feudalism that underwrites the regional compromises of elite power. Public memory may question the equity of relative ethnic shares; but in so doing it reinforces the principle of ethnic bargaining. Ethnicity, the crises remind Kenyans, is what their politics is, and ought to be, about. A conscious cleansing of neighbourly relations in Kikuyuland would be a totally different matter. It would force people to confront issues of personal morality, failures in proper gender relations, the betrayal of age-mates, the theft of property and reputation, and all without the help of any intermediary authority such as is in Zimbabwe provided by ancestral spirit cults or

23 the shrines of Mwali. When pressed on the question of forgiveness and reconciliation those Kikuyu who call themselves Christian have nothing to say. One suspects that their churches are too embedded in local society to provide the alternative authority that is needed to evoke catharsis. While the association of memories of Mau Mau and ‘the poor’—of all ethnicities and none—has begun to appear in Kenya, the political system is in no position to respond. It would mean a root and branch examination of the socio-economic and political structures that are—barely—holding the country together. The memory of Mau Mau thus seems likely to remain an ethnic bargaining counter rather than an avenue of national and social transformation. Greet Kershaw, Mau Mau from Below (Oxford, Nairobi and Athens OH; Currey, EAEP, and Ohio UP: 1997), 15-18. 2 For the Kikuyu case, see John Lonsdale, ‘Contests of Time: Old and New in Kikuyu Historiography’, ch. 9 in Axel Harneit-Sievers (ed), A Place in the World: New Local Historiographies from Africa and South Asia (Leiden, Brill: 2002), 201-54. 33 This paper is written in the shadow of other studies of Mau Mau in Kenya’s memory, in particular: Atieno Odhiambo, ‘The Production of History in Kenya: The Mau Mau Debate’, Canadian Journal of African Studies 25, 2 (1991), 300-07; Robert Buijtenhuijs, Mau Mau Twenty Years After: The Myth and the Survivors (Mouton, Leiden), 1973; Marshall S. Clough, Mau Mau Memoirs: History, Memory and Politics (Rienner, Bolder CO, 1998); idem, ‘Mau Mau and the Contest for Memory’, forthcoming in Atieno Odhiambo & John Lonsdale (eds.), Mau Mau and Nationhood: Arms, Authority and Narration (Currey, Oxford, 2002); François Grignon, ‘La démocratisation au risque du débat? Territoires de la critique et imaginaires politiques au Kenya 1990-1995’, in DenisConstant Martin (ed.), Nouveaux langages du politique en Afrique orientale (Karthala & IFRA, Paris & Nairobi, 1998), 29-112; Bethwell A. Ogot, ‘History, Ideology, and Contemporary Kenya’, Presidential Address to the Historical Association of Kenya (Nairobi, 1981); Galia Sabar-Friedman, ‘The Mau Mau Myth: Kenyan Political Discourse in Search of Democracy’, Cahiers d’études africaines 35, 1 (1995), 101-31. It differs from these, first, in paying greater attention to the political circumstances in which national myths of Mau Mau were first constructed and, more particularly, in its ‘neighbourly’ Kikuyu perspective, an area hitherto scarcely discussed at all. 4 John Lonsdale, 'KAU's Cultures: Imaginations of Community & Constructions of Leadership in Kenya after the Second World War', Journal of African Cultural Studies 13 (2000), 107-124. 5 But for evidence that some elders felt morally able to support Mau Mau see the remarks of Gakaara wa Wanjau quoted below. 6 John Lonsdale, “Authority, gender and violence: the war within Mau Mau’s fight for land and freedom,” in Atieno Odhiambo and Lonsdale (eds.), Mau Mau and Nationhood; and Cristiana Pugliese, “Complementary or Contending Nationhoods? Gikuyu Political Pamphlets and Songs: 1945-1952,” in ibid. 7 Interview No. 1, Nairobi, Kenya, 16 December, 1998. Note that all interviews were conducted by Caroline Elkins.


Interview, Gakaara wa Wanjau, Karatina, Nyeri District, 22 February, 1999. Luise White, The Comforts of Home: Prostitution in Colonial Nairobi (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1990); Claire Robertson, Trouble Showed the Way: Women, Men, and Trade in the Nairobi Area, 1890-1990 (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1997); and Berida Ndambuki and Claire Robertson, We Only Come Here to Struggle: Stories from Berida’s Life (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000). 10 Interview No. 84, Kiambu District, 28 March, 1999. 11 Interview No. 2, Kiambu District, 16 December, 1998. 12 Interview No. 5, Murang’a District, 16 January, 1999. 13 Interview No. 1, Nairobi, 16 December, 1998. 14 PRO, CO 822/489/83, Baring to Lyttelton, 13 July, 1953; CO 822/489/80, Baring to Lyttelton, 14 July, 1953. 15 PRO, WO 236/18, General Sir George Erskine, “The Kenya Emergency,” 25 April, 1955; CO 822/796 and WO 276/214, “Outline Plan for Operation ANVIL,” 22 February, 1954. 16 Our statistics are based on a comparison of official figures produced in January and May 1954, before and after ‘Anvil’. See, PRO, CO 822/794/1, Memo by Thomas Askwith, “Rehabilitation,” 6 January, 1954; and CO 822/796/36, R.G. Turnbull to Secretary of State for the Colonies, 11 May, 1954. See footnote 17 for further details on daily average numbers of detainees, intake and release rates, and their relation to the officially reported number of detainees passing along the Pipeline. 17 Figures for determining the net number of detainees come from intake, release, and daily average figures. See especially: KNA, AH 9/19/12, Eggins minute, “Works Camps,” 4 August, 1954; AH 9/32/251, Minister of Defence Memo to the Resettlement Committee, “Movement of Detainees from Reception Centres to Works Camps,” 4 May, 1955; AH 6/3, Ministry of Defence, Monthly Reports, May 1954 to January 1958; PRO, WO 276/428/103, Heyman, Chief of Staff, “Brief for C-in-C on Detainees,” 9 September, 1955; PRO, CO 822/798/53, Council of Ministers, Resettlement Committee, “Releases from Custody and Rate of Absorption of Landless KEM,” 25 April, 1956. 18 KNA, MAA 7/813/65/1, R.O. Hennings, Memo, “Reconstruction Committee Report: November 1953 - June 1954,” 30 June, 1954; MAA 7/755/39/D, “Memorandum by “D” Force,” 25 August, 1954; and DC GRSS 3/13/37/8, H.S. Potter, memo, “Return of Kikuyu, Embu, and Meru ex-Convicts and Mau Mau Suspects to their Reserves,” 12 August, 1953. 19 KNA, VQ 16/103, Central Province, Annual Report 1956. 20 For example, Interview No. 65, Nyeri District, 20 March, 1999; Interview No. 77, Nyeri District, 22 March, 1999; and Interview No. 85, Kiambu District, 28 March, 1999. Every informant highlighted their lack of forewarning of villagisation, the burning of homes and possessions, and the loyalists’ illegal confiscation of property. 21 Interview No. 46, Nyeri district, 22 February, 1999. 22 See the Kenya Official Gazettes and its Supplements for 1953 - 1959 for extensive lists of Africans against whom the government ordered the confiscation of land,
8 9


livestock, or property such as bicycles. Kenya Official Gazette Supplement No. 4, 26th January, 1954, 29-32, “The Emergency Regulations, 1952 - Forfeiture Order,” quotes a Government Order supporting a D.O in Tetu Location, South Nyeri, in exercising the powers vested in him by Regulation 4A of the Emergency Regulations, 1952. The D.O. had seized several thousand head of cattle, goats, and sheep. Similarly, hundreds of Native Land Rights Confiscation Orders specified “each of the persons named in the Schedule… participated or aided in armed or violent resistance against the forces of law and order,” who therefore had their land confiscated. 23 Interview No. 74, Nyeri district, 22 March 1999. The informant reported that the Mau Mau oath administrator had posed as a Home Guard. An older woman from the village—who was the nerve centre for the local passive wing—assisted in the oath ceremonies. These initiated no more than a few people at a time, and were coordinated with great care so as to avoid official detection. 24 Interview No. 80, Nyeri District, 22 and 23 March, 1999. 25 Interview No. 46, Nyeri District, 22 February, 1999. 26 KNA, MAA 9/930/41, Provincial Commissioner Central Province to Minister for African Affairs, 22 February, 1955; AB 17/14/100B, S.A. Morrison to Governor Baring, “Comments by Church Leaders on the Present Situation in Kenya,” 29 March, 1955. 27 Interview No. 84, Kiambu district, 28 March, 1999. 28 Interview No. 81, Nyeri district, 23 March, 1999. 29 Hundreds of detainees’ letters are filed in the Kenya National Archives (KNA), describing camp violence and torture. For example, JZ 7/4, “Complaints by Detainees: 4 August, 1954; AH 9/37, “Complaints of Detainees, 1954-1957”. 30 KNA, AH 9/37/31, Manyani Detainees to the Governor, W.W.W. Awori, and the Commissioner of Prisons, 4 August, 1954; JZ 7/4/26A, Your obedient detainees to the Chief Secretary, 19 October, 1954. 31 KNA, AH 9/37/117/1, W. Kibuku, Wahome, and E.N. Kamau on behalf of all detainees in Mageta to the Governor, 10 September, 1956. Athi River detainees described the “small cells” by writing, “That detainees are placed in cells for say seven days without food and mostly without the proof of their cases; moreover during these days prisoners are not allowed clothing remain naked and water is poured on them in the said cells during the day and night till the date of their release.” KNA, AH 9/37/178, Detainees in Nos. 5 and 6 to Commissioner of H.M. Prisons, 10 January, 1957. 32 KNA, JZ 7/4/26A, Your obedient detainees to Chief Secretary, 19 October, 1954. 33 KNA, AH 9/37/34/1, Mackinnon Road Detainees to Governor, 28 July, 1954. 34 Interview No. 15, Nyeri District, 24 January, 1999. 35 KNA, AH 9/37/178, Detainees in Nos. 5 and 6 to Commissioner of H.M. Prisons, 10 January, 1957. 36 KNA, AH 9/37/169, Muhongo Kimani, Ghathere Njehai, et. al. to the Governor, 31 December, 1956. 37 Interview No. 18, Murang’a District, 30 January, 1999. 38 Interview No. 4, Murang’a District, 17 January, 1999.


John Cowan, “The Mwea Camps and Hola,” no date (seen by courtesy of Mr. Cowan); and KNA, AH 9/21/215, J. Cowan to J.H. Lewis, “Transfer of Detainees Ex Manyani,” 7 December, 1956. 40 John Cowan, interview, London, England, 24 July, 1998. 41 Terence Gavaghan, interview, London, 29 July, 1998. Mr. Gavaghan believed that the “hearts and minds” campaign of earlier rehabilitation policy was “idealistic rubbish”. In various conversations from January 1998 to November 1999 he stressed that there was no “hearts and minds” campaign during his tenure in the Mwea Camps. 42 Interview No. 62, Nyeri District, 1 March, 1999. 43 Interview No. 76, Nyeri District, 22 March, 1999. 44 Interview No. 70, Nyeri District, 20 March, 1999. 45 Interview No. 73, Nyeri District, 21 March, 1999. 46 Interview No. 74, Nyeri District, 22 March, 1999. 47 Interview No. 78, Nyeri District, 22 March, 1999. 48 For castration, see KNA, AH 9/37/169, Muhongo Kimani, Ghathere Njehia, et. al. to the Governor, 31 December, 1956 cited earlier. Several informants reported askaris, under direction of European officers, castrating detainees to force them to confess. Others alluded to forced sodomy but refused to provide details. One, however, did discuss forced sodomy during detention. Interview No. 1, Nairobi, 16 December, 1998 and 13 January, 1999. 49 Interview No. 84, Nyeri District, 28 March, 1999. 50 This section summarises Lonsdale, ‘Authority, Gender, and Violence’, where detailed references to sources may be found. 51 Described by Njama in Barnett & Njama, Mau Mau from Within (London, 1966). 52 For example, Kathy Santilli, “Kikuyu Women in the Mau Mau Revolt,” Ufahamu, 8, 1 (1977/78), 143-59; Jean O’Barr, “Introductory Essay,” in Muthoni Likimani, Passbook Number F.47927 (London: Macmillan, 1985); and Cora Ann Presley, Kikuyu Women, the Mau Mau Rebellion, and Social Change in Kenya (Boulder: Westview Press, 1992). 53 Ibid. See also, Wambui Waiyaki Otieno, Mau Mau’s Daughter: A Life History (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1998); Cora Ann Presley, “Introduction: Memory Is a Weapon,” in ibid.; Tabitha Kanogo, Squatters and the Roots of Mau Mau (London: James Currey, 1987), 143-49; and “Kikuyu Women and the Politics of Protest: Mau Mau,” in Sharon Macdonald (et. al.), Images of Women in Peace and War, Cross-Cultural and Historical Perspectives (London: Macmillan, 1987). 54 Interview No. 13, Nyeri District, 24 January, 1999. 55 Interview No. 79, Nyeri District, 22 March, 1999. 56 Interview No. 43, Nyeri District, 22 February, 1999. 57 Interview No. 28, Nyeri District, 9 February, 1999. 58 KNA, AB 17/14/118, Dr. Mary I. Shannon, Memo, “Committee for Work Amongst Women & Children,” 21 May, 1955. 59 PRO, CO 822/1421/130, Pritchard to Buist, 3 April, 1957.


Statesman and Nation, Editorial, 23 March, 1957; “Castle Arrest Debates” in the House of Commons, March and April, 1957. 61 Interview No. 4, Murang’a District, 17 January, 1999. 62 Interview No. 18, Murang’a District, 30 January, 1999. 63 Interview No. 81, Nyeri District, 23 March, 1999. 64 Jomo Kenyatta, Suffering Without Bitterness: The Founding of the Kenya Nation (Nairobi, 1968), 124, 189. 65 PRO, CO 822/2109/26: Special Branch Memo, ‘Kenya National Union: Formation and Early Development’, undated, enclosure in T. Neil to J. L. F. Buist, 15 September 1960. 66 Carl G. Rosberg and John Nottingham, The Myth of 'Mau Mau': Nationalism in Kenya (New York and London, 1966); John Spencer, KAU: the Kenya African Union (London, 1985). 67 Maina wa Kinyatti, Mau Mau: A Revolution Betrayed (Nairobi, New York and London, 2nd edn 2000); Frank Furedi, The Mau Mau War in Perspective (London, 1989); and Sharon B. Stichter, ‘Workers, Trade Unions, and the Mau Mau Rebellion’, Canadian Journal of African Studies 9, 2 (1975), 259-75. 68 Tabitha Kanogo, Squatters and the Roots of Mau Mau (London, 1987); D. W. Throup, Economic and Social Origins of Mau Mau (London, 1987); Bethwell A. Ogot, ‘Politics, Culture and Music in Central Kenya: A Study of Mau Mau Hymns, 1951-1956’; and B. E. Kipkorir, ‘Mau Mau and the Politics of the Transfer of Power in Kenya, 19571960’, both in Kenya Historical Review 5, 2 (1977), 275-86 and 313-28. 69 E. S. Atieno-Odhiambo, ‘Democracy and the Ideology of Order in Kenya’, in Michael G. Schatzberg (ed.), The Political Economy of Kenya (New York, 1987), 177-201; Galia Sabar-Friedman, ‘The Mau Mau Myth: Kenyan Political Discourse in Search of Democracy’, Cahiers d’Etudes africaines 35, 1 (1995), 101-31; François Grignon, ‘La démocratisation au risque du débat? Territoires de la critique et imaginaires politiques au Kenya 1990-1995’, in Denis-Constant Martin (ed.), Nouveaux langages du politique en Afrique orientale (Paris and Nairobi, 1998), 29-112; Grace Nyatugah Wamue, ‘Revisiting our Indigenous Shrines through Mungiki’, African Affairs 100 (2001), 453-67.

Interview No. 81, Nyeri District, 22 March, 1999. 71 Wole Soyinka, The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness (Oxford, 1999). 72 For details on the lawsuit, see for example, The Observer, “Mau Mau will sue Britain for human rights abuses,” 29 April, 1999. 73 Interview No. 46, Nyeri District, 22 February, 1999.

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