Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Modernity: The Paradox of Mau Mau Author(s): Bruce J.

Berman Source: Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines, Vol. 25, No. 2 (1991), pp. 181-206 Published by: Canadian Association of African Studies Stable URL: . Accessed: 13/01/2011 05:01
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Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Modernity: The Paradox of Mau Mau BruceJ. Berman

Rgsumrn Lefacteur au centrede l'intirit quel'on continuede porteraux Mau Mau est sa relation dominantesdes paradoxale avec le nationalismeau Kenya. Les deux interpritations Mau Mau - culte religieuxdimoniaqueet nationalismemilitant - taient toutesdeux de concernantle developpement basdessur les espirancesde la thdorie la modernisation siculaires.Mais ellesmettaienten valeursoit respectivement les d'tats-nations inkvitable aspects culturels, soit les aspects matiriels du mouvementMau Mau. On ne peut ces comprendre diffirencesqu'en les reliantaux contextes politiquesdiffirentsdes annies et 6o. Le conceptde BenedictAndersonselonlequelle nationalismeserait une "com50o des munautdimagine " conduit6 unemeilleure comprdhension Mau Mau commefaisant d'un combatsur le sensde l'ethnicitrKikuyu et sa relation avec partie probldmatique les divisionsinternes classeset les solidaritisau niveau nationalplus large. de Introduction: The Continuing Fascination of Mau Mau What was Mau Mau? What was its significance in the history of Kenya or, more broadly, the history of colonial Africa?What can an understanding of Mau Mau tell us about the colonial confrontation of African "tradition" and Western "modernity"?Almost forty years after the colonial authorities in Nairobi declared a state of emergency to crush what they insisted was a savage and wholly evil secret cult, conclusive answers to these questions remain elusive. "The horror story of the Empire in the 1950s," as John Lonsdale calls it, continues to be a source of political and intellectual controversy.' During the 1970s and again in the mid-I98os, Kenyan intellectuals and political figures clashed over conflicting interpretations of Mau Mau, with many aging ex-Mau Mau fighters also jumping into the fray (Odhiambo, 1988; Maughan-Brown, 1985, 20-22) The historical and fictional writings on Mau Mau of Kenya's leading intellectual dissidents, Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Maina wa Kinyatti, were factors in their detention and exile (Ngugi and Micere Mugo 1976; Ngugi 1983; wa Kinyatti 1985, 1987). Academic interest in Mau Mau has surged once more, with a whole series of monographs and papers appearing since 1986 which explore yet again its nature and place in the politics of colonial and post-colonial Kenya (Kanogo 1987; Throup 1987; Edgerton 1989; Furedi 1989; Presley 1988; Gordon 1986; Berman 1990). Central to the debates over Mau Mau is the nature of its relationship to nation181


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alism in Kenya. Was it a parochial tribal uprising or the central episode of Kenya's national liberation struggle?Were the Mau Mau forest fighters tribal traditionalists or nationalist patriots?Despite its military defeat by Imperial forces, did Mau Mau force the British into social and political reforms which led to independence under an African government? If Mau Mau fought for national liberation, why was it unable to articulate a trans-ethnic national ideology? This article addresses these questions through a critical examination of the conflicting interpretations of Mau Mau's relationship with nationalism, followed by a plausible reconstruction of the relationship suggested by an understanding of the internal conflicts in Kikuyu society in the first decade after World WarII.

Mau Mau: Anti-NationalismorMilitant Nationalism?
In the late 1940s colonial officials first became aware of a what they believed was a secret organization among African farm labourers on the European estates of the Rift Valley which they named "Mau Mau." Through the years of the Emergency from 1952 to i960, and into the first years of Kenya's independence after 1963, the dominant interpretation of this phenomenon focused on its essentially tribal and religious character. This view, with variations, comprised the conventional wisdom about Mau Mau shared not only by colonial officials in Nairobi and London, white settlers, and missionaries but also by journalists and academic commentators from Britain and several other countries. In the most coherent official version," Mau Mau was depicted as a savage, violent, and depraved tribal cult, an expression of unrestrained emotion rather than reason. It sought to turn the Kikuyu people back to "the bad old days" before enlightened British rule had brought the blessings of modem civilization and development. When the first reports of something called "Mau Mau" reached the Provincial Administration and the Kenya Police in 1948-49, it was immediately identified as a "dini" or religious cult. As late as February 1953, the Commissioner of Police was passing on reports that linked Mau Mau with the Dini ya Msambwa, which had violently clashed with government forces a few years before.3 The govalso ernmment claimed that Mau Mau had emerged among a particularlyunstable people who had difficulty adjusting to the strains of rapid social change and modernization. Playing upon their morbid fears and superstitions, Mau Mau turned the Kikuyu into savage and maniacal killers. Government intelligence reports dwelt on the "insane frenzy" and "fanaticaldiscipline" of Mau Mau adherents.4 It had been deliberately organized, according to the government, by cynical and unprincipled leaders, seeking only to satisfy their own lust for power. Furthermore, officials repeatedly insisted that Mau Mau was not a response to economic deprivation and material grievances arising out of colonialism, but rather was an irrational rejection of the benefits of development. This view led them to stress repeatedly the essentially atavistic character of Mau Mau. As the British parliamentary delegation which visited Kenya in 1954 put it, "Mau Mau intentionally


Berman: The Paradox of Mau Mau

and deliberately seeks to lead the Africans of Kenya back to the bush and savagery,
not forward into progress" (Report to the Secretary of State, 4). Depraved, murder-

ous, and wholly evil, Mau Mau had to be totally destroyed. This characterization of Mau Mau, repeated almost daily for several years in press conferences, news briefs, and interviews from government information agencies in Nairobi and London, and widely disseminated in print and broadcasts by the press throughout the world, became and remains, especially in Englishspeaking countries, the image of the phenomenon in popular culture. Until the mid-I960s it received powerful support in numerous studies by academic social scientists which claimed for it the status of objective scientific knowledge. The most important of these were by Louis Leakey, Kenya's leading scholar and intellectual at the time, whose interpretive authority was reinforced by his being born and raised among the Kikuyu and being one of the few whites in Kenya who spoke
their language fluently. His two books (1952 and 1954) gave definitive expression

to the analysis of Mau Mau as a perverted religious cult manipulated by cynical and evil leaders, and were widely disseminated by the Kenya Government, which supplied copies to all of its administrative and police officers.5 This explanation was quickly taken up by scholars in other countries, especially amongst American anthropologists, among whom Mau Mau was readily assimilated to existing concepts of "nativistic sects," "tribal revival movements," and "crisis cults" developed in the analysis of native American responses to white colonial expansion. Its definitive expression was a 1965 article by Gilbert Kushner in the German anthropological journal Anthropos,which relied primarily on Leakey for empirical evidence and fixed Mau Mau firmly within the theoretical paradigm of atavistic, violent, despairing movements among peoples being overwhelmed by the advance of modern civilization (Kushner 1965; see also Rosenstiel 1953).6 These movements were seen as nostalgic attempts to escape the rigours of modernity; not efforts to relieve the inequities of colonial development, but its utter rejection. Thus, Mau Mau's atavistic mind and tribal scale made it the enemy, the very antithesis, of nationalism. Mau Mau could not be an expression of nationalism because it led away from everything the latter represented as an essential part of the modernization process. No Western not observer, even those on the anti-colonial sawMau Mau as the left, of nationalintegration.... movementssymbolshad nothing The politicalexpression aboutthem. Mau Mau, uniquely,seemedto be a core radicalism which "Kenyan" the nation(Lonsdale rejected 1989,7). By the mid-196os this interpretation began to be challenged by a revisionist version of Mau Mau which depicted it as an essential, if radical, component of African nationalism in Kenya. First, memoirs of the Emergency by some of those active in Mau Mau began to be published, notably by J. M. Kariuki (1963), a politician who spent years in detention, and Waruhiu Itote (1967), who as "General China" had


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commanded the guerrilla forces in the forests of Mount Kenya until his capture in 1954. Both insisted that Mau Mau was a modem, rational, and nationalist political movement, not tribalist reaction, and that the fighters of the Land and Freedom Army had fought a glorious struggle for national liberation. Second, and more important for shaping a significant shift in academic opinion about Mau Mau, were two substantial works which brought together participants on opposite sides of the struggle with American social scientists. The first, Mau Maufrom Within,is the autobiography of Karari Njama, a man of some education who had served as secretary to the guerrilla forces in the Aberdares and to its leader Dedan Kimathi, edited with extensive commentary by the radical anthropologist Donald Barnett. This text is an extended elaboration of the depiction of Mau Mau as a rational struggle for national liberation, substantially downplaying the Kikuyu cultural content and symbolism it employed. This is evident right at the beginning of the book in a preface signed by several prominent political figures, including Fred Kubai, Bildad Kaggia, and Achieng Oneko, who had been charged with Jomo Kenyatta with "organizingMau Mau." They criticized previous accounts of it: There is obsessivepreoccupation theseworkswith the sinisterand the awesome. in The veryname"MauMau"is anillustration howsuccessful of can propaganda damn an entiremovementto whichthousandssacrificed everything, includingtheirlives, to that continent" by attaching it anappellation conjures alltheclichesof the "dark up whichstillcrowdthe European mind. (Barnett Njama1966,9) and The second challenge to the interpretation of Mau Mau as atavism is a thoroughly academic monograph, based on extensive documentary analysis and numerous interviews with African political figures, composed by John Nottingham, a maverick colonial administrator who had rejected the official version of Mau Mau, and Carl Rosberg, a political scientist from the University of California at Berkeley. They state their revisionist purpose right at the outset: "MauMau"is identified withthemilitant nationalism theviolencewhichcharacand terizedthe politicsof centralKenyabeforeand duringthe earlyyearsof the Emeran of gency....This bookpresents alternative interpretation "MauMau,"in whichwe will be concernedwith the modem originsof Africanpolitics and theirpatternof withparticular and of development, emphasison the politicization mobilization the In our view, the outbreakof open violence in Kenya in 1952 Kikuyupeople.... occurred becauseof a European failureratherthanan Africanone; it was primarily not so mucha failureof the Kikuyu peopleto adaptto a modem institutional setting as it wasa failureof the European to the policy-makers recognize need forsignificant socialandpoliticalreform.(Rosberg Nottingham1966,xvi-xvii) and Not only is Mau Mau identified as modern and nationalist but also the focus of the analysis is on the development of African anti-colonial nationalist opposition in Kenya in response to the concrete inequities and material


Berman: The Paradox of Mau Mau

grievances of colonial domination. African politics in Kenya is shown to be essentially instrumental and rational and grounded in material causes for which the British were largely responsible. The treatment of the specifically Kikuyu cultural forms and content which characterized Mau Mau is muted, with the Mau Mau oath, the central evidence for its supposed savage obscenity, depicted as a rational "instrument for achieving unity." The earlierinterpretation of Mau Mau as savage and atavistic tribalism is subject to penetrating analysis as a "myth of Mau Mau" grounded in European racism and ethnocentrism. Only on the very last page do Rosberg and Nottingham conclude: the Althoughoathingstrengthened Kikuyuorganizational abilityto challengethe colonialstate, it nonethelesshad the additionaleffect of limitingthe institutional spreadof the nationalmovementto non-Kikuyugroups.This dilemmawas not for the of unrecognized the Kikuyu by leadership, theyenvisaged creation othertribal oathswhichwouldserveto mobilizeandcommitnon-Kikuyu to theirstyleof people militant nationalism. Lackof sufficient timeandtheAdministration's successin comand African weretwo important factors partmentalizing controlling politicalactivity that preventedthis from occurringin any extensivemanner.Thus, the patternof nationalism it unfoldedstemmedfroma rationally as conceivedstrategy searchof in conditions whichseverely inhibited the politicalpowerwithina contextof structural nationalorganizational movement(1966,354).7 growthof a colony-wide

Nationalism and Development: The CommonFoundationof DivergentExplanations
How could such divergent, indeed contradictory, characterizations of Mau Mau develop as successive influential explanations of the phenomenon, with the "militant nationalism" model largely supplanting the "atavistic tribalism" model among Africanists by the end of the I96os? The matter becomes even more compelling when one examines the explanations more closely and finds that they are in fact based on essentially identical premises about modernity, development, and nationalism. This paradox reveals some of the crucial difficulties involved not only in understanding Mau Mau, but in understanding the phenomenon called African nationalism. An initial insight into the shared intellectual foundations of the divergent explanations of Mau Mau is unintentionally provided by the anthropologist Weston La Barre in a carping comment on Rosberg and Nottingham in his lengthy paper on "crisis cults": Reductionism rampantin crisiscult studies.Findingnativebeliefsunbelievable, is some "realists" insist on simpliste"naturallaw" politicoeconomicexplanations. Thus Rosberg Nottingham and and (1966)tendto be shortwithanthropologists their of withthe cultural-background "myth MauMau"andto set anthropologists straight trueexplanation science.Nativistic,spectacular, provided theirspecialty, by political


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It maumauis reallyonlyKenyannationalism! maybe that. complexandmurderous,
But the explanation impoverishes the phenomenon (1971, 26).

There is an edgy and ill-tempered defence of anthropology's disciplinary territory here that is largely off target. Rosberg and Nottingham do not criticize anthropologists at all, their "myth of Mau Mau" being explained as the product of white colonial society in Kenya. La Barrehas stumbled on the fact that the reaction of social scientists, including anthropologists, to Mau Mau and to nationalism is founded on the origin and development of their various disciplines within the Enlightenment intellectual culture of secular rationalism with its focus on scientific objectivity and the instrumental uses of knowledge. And, as Gavin Kitching reminds us, this is as true of Marxism as it is of bourgeois social science (1985, 99-I oo). It is also true, perhaps more surprisingly,of the official version of Mau Mau constructed by the colonial officials in the Colonial Office and the Kenya Government. The impact of secularism, scientism, and instrumental rationalityis seen most crucially in the social construction of conceptions of tradition and modernity, development, and nation-building, and in difficulties in dealing with mass participation and the emotive "religious" aspects of nationalism and Mau Mau. It has been clear for many years that the concept of "traditionalsociety," and its particular expression in Africa, "tribal society," represent idealized constructs which very imperfectly reflect what is now understood about the character of precolonial African societies. In particular, the dominant image of traditional society as highly integrated, stable, relatively unchanging, and largely free of disruptive internal conflict has been challenged by increasing evidence of the fluidity of political boundaries and ethnic identities and the significant levels of internal conflict revealed in contemporary historical research. The concept of traditional society was not in any case based on substantial and systematically collected empirical evidence. The pre-colonial history of African societies had barely begun to be written - largely from the haphazard and unsystematic efforts of colonial administrators and missionaries, and, for a very few African peoples, more methodical ethnographic studies by a handful of professional anthropologists - referred mostly to contemporary conditions in societies already subject to colonial rule for a generation or more. "Traditional society" represented instead the coming together of a set of seemingly incongruous assumptions and interests from a number of sources. First, colonial administrators expressed an ideology of paternalistic authoritarianism grounded in a concept of society as an organic community, each of whose constituent parts had a specific role to play in the larger whole. Harmony and order were the basic characteristics of the organic community. While African tribal society was ignorant, impoverished, and superstition-ridden, it was also an organic community. Administrators came to see the conservation of the integrity of its institutions as instrumental for the maintenance of effective control (Berman
1990, 104-115). before the late 1960s; and the knowledge available in the late and early 1950s 1940os


Berman: The Paradox of Mau Mau

While administrative ideology and its construction of tradition was imbued with a substantial element of conservative romantic irrationalism and of pastoral nostalgia for the rural community of some ill-defined golden past, it nevertheless dovetailed neatly with the far more rationalist model of traditional society of British social anthropology. The latter discipline was dominated from the 1930s until the end of colonial rule by the functionalist paradigms of Bronislaw Malinowski and A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, which emphasized the analysis of traditional societies as functionally integrated homeostatic systems in which any feature of the society was to be explained by the contribution it made to the maintenance of the whole. Despite mutual professional jealousy and hostility, anthropological ideas became increasingly familiar to colonial officials as anthropology was incorporated into Colonial Office training programmes, and after 1945 a growing number of social anthropologists made their way to Kenya and other colonies to conduct field research under the auspices of the Colonial Social Science Research Council. Furthermore, much anthropological work contained significant elements of an "ethnographic pastoral" (see Rosaldo 1986; Clifford 1986), complementing that of colonial officials, which idealized the harmony and order of functionally integrated traditional societies (Kuper 1983, chapters 3 and 4.) Finally, the vision of traditional society of anthropologists and colonial officials was also significantly influenced by the interests and perspectives of African chiefs and elders, recognized in British Africa as "native authorities," who were the primary source of information about indigenous institutions and culture and sought to bolster their legitimacy by accounts that stressed their authoritative role in the maintenance of the order and harmony of pre-colonial society. In Kenya, and for the Kikuyu, all three of these elements came together in the work of Leakey, himself an initiated Kikuyu elder, who shared the images of traditional society of both colonial officials and anthropologists. His massive study of the Kikuyu, although unpublished until several years after his death in 1972, circulated in draft chapters among both of those groups and was based largely on his interviews with a panel of elders. The result is described by Carolyn Clark as a "colonial pastoral" which significantly exaggerated the democratic, orderly and organic character of pre-colonial Kikuyu society (1989, 385-386).8 This construction of traditional society was also essentially the same, if expressed in a different idiom, as that developed by American social scientists from Parsonian structural-functionalism and depicted in the now familiar dichotomies of the "patternvariables":particularism versusuniversalism, ascription versus achievement, affectivity versus neutrality, and diffuseness versus specificity (Leys 1982, 333-334). "Modern" societies were simply constructed as the polar opposite of traditional society on these characteristics and on numerous empirical "indicators." The distance between traditional and modern society was traversed by a universal and unilinear process of development, "from tradition to modernity." All existing societies could be ranged according to their position along this metaphorical road of social progress.


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Both colonial officials and social scientists shared to a striking degree a conception of the normal course and sequence of this process of modernization. The political, economic, and cultural demands of colonialism stimulated social change by driving people out of the old "tribal"ways of doing things and pulling them into wider social arenas. As the networks of African societies increased in scale, the dependence on the small tribal community would decline, local loyalties and ethnic identities would diminish, and wider ones would develop. Under the impact of a monetary economy spread by wage labour and cash crop production, traditional social relations decline and are replaced by more instrumentally efficient modern forms. 9 The ascriptive particularismof small-scale societies would be increasingly replaced by the achievement-oriented universalism of modern secular society. Not even the most conservative District Commissioner, who rued the demise of the communal solidarities of organic traditional societies, denied that the process led to a society based less on emotion and superstition and more on rationality and science. The universal objective of the development process was the modem industrial capitalist (usually implicit, since the word was rarely used) nation-state which in its contemporary liberal-democratic form in Britain or the United States (depending upon the origin of the commentator) represented the highest level of human progress. This secular industrial nation-state was an idealized conceptualization occupying an equivalent and balancing position to the construction of traditional society in modernization theory. Both British officials and American political scientists shared a community of ideas about the course of normal political development through successive enlargements of institutional scale leading from tribe to nation. For James Coleman nationalism was the "inevitable end product of the impact of Western imperialism and modernity upon African societies" (1954, 404). Sir Andrew Cohen, the major architect of British post-war policy in Africa, saw African nationalism as a partner in progress, even if impatient and tiresome in its demands, and tribalism as a "great complicating element in the process of nation-building" (1959, 55). Nationalism was thus understood to be an essential part of the process, but as one might expect in a perspective shaped largely by high-level bureaucrats and academic political scientists, it was interpreted in largely structural terms and expressed in a preoccupation with the management of "nation-building," that is, the development of strong and stable national-level institutions capable of effectively containing and controlling rapid social change.'o The programmes of colonial development implemented throughout British Africa after 1945 accepted the secular nation-state model as the essential goal and were grounded in the belief that rational social engineering could accelerate and control the conditions leading
to it (Lee 1967; Berman 1990, 274-82, 301-07)." Colonial states were redefined as

the engines of social transformation directing a three-pronged process of "'political' progress, economic development, and educational and social advance," a


Berman: The Paradox of Mau Mau

process personified in colonial officials as the agents of progressive social transformation (Cohen 1959, vii-viii, 64-78, 90).

Paternalistic authoritarianismshaped the process of political progress towards the nation-state into a gradual tutelary procedure under the control of the colonial administration whereby local elites through experience in local government and administration would learn to rule and gradually be given access to more inclusive national institutions. The implicit model was of a class stratified national society led by an indigenous ruling elite sharing the outlook of their colonial rulers. As Michael Lee put it, Goodgovernment meantthattheofficial classesaccepted responsibility develfull for morenorless.It wasexpected localpoliticians local that and opmentschemes,neither
civil servants would eventually arise to take over full responsibility, and therefore reconstitute the official classes. This process was often described as creating "a political class," which meant envisaging the creation of a native elite capable of running the machinery required to join the society of states in the international order (1967, 13-14). 12

A former Secretary of State for the Colonies put it more bluntly and colourfully in an interview when he observed that "you can't have the institutions without a political class and you can't have a political class without the institutions" (Berman 1990, 106). This logic applied with particular force in a colony such as Kenya,

with its substantial European and Asian immigrant populations. Political development for Africans was conceivable in the first instance only as ultimately part of a multi-racial dominant class in which Europeans would continue to play a preponderant role for an indefinite period (Berman 1990, 301-307).

For most of the first decade after 1945, British political development policy had no clear role for African nationalism, but by the early 1950s nationalist organizations were disrupting British hopes for a very gradual process of national development and devolution of power in which they could hand-pick and train their successors. The problem with African nationalism was neither the legitimacy of its existence nor the acceptability of its goals, but its premature, excessive, and confrontational demands. It became clear in colony after colony, however, and in
Kenya by 1957-58, after African political activity was permitted to resume at the

end of the military phase of the Emergency, that nationalist intransigence rendered official plans for political development irrelevant. Thus, by the mid-195os British policy increasingly accepted African nationalism and moved to co-opt its leaders and organizations into collaboration in the project of national development. By the end of the decade, Cohen rather defensively rationalized the shift, claiming that "to respond to local political pressures is not a sign of weakness on
the part of governments, as critics sometimes suggest - they call it giving way to local agitation - but an ordinary process in political advance" (1959, 37).

Collaboration with modernizing nationalist leaders and their organizations


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became even more important in the face of the possibilities of social decay and disorder attendant on rapid social change which uprooted Africans from the comforting communal microcosm of the tribe. Development produced a dangerous period of transformation in which men were mobilized out of the sacralized traditional world but not yet fully absorbed into the wider identities and secular orientation of modern national society. Amongst migrant labourers and cash-crop farmers, urban factory workers, government clerks, and teachers, there were thousands of transitional men, "nomads of the spirit in search of a new identity" (Riesman 1958, 5). The volatility of these rootless masses, their potential for violence and disorder, stimulated a profound ambivalence in both colonial authorities and social scientists. Mobilization was an essential part of the modernization process, but it was of critical importance that the mobilized were reattached as quickly and securely as possible to the institutions and identities of class and national citizenship. Failure to do so could mean either a turning backward towards a recharged tribalism and its fragmenting hostilities or towards a revolutionary communism aided and abetted by the Soviet Union. The watchwords of political development became order and integration, and nationalist movements and parties became critical agencies for the completion of a successful passage of 3 transition., Nationalist leaders also assumed a critical role in the process of attaching Africa's masses to new institutions and values. Often graduates of the metropole's finest universities, they were assumed to be thoroughly modern and secular men. Moreover, the shared model of development conceptualized their great personal authority as charismatic leadership essential for guiding Africans over the leap of allegiance, the orientational upheaval, between the opposed categories of traditional, tribal authority and the legal-rational authority of the modern nation-state. David Apter, in one of the earliest and most influential studies of modernizing nationalism, lionized the charismatic leadership of Kwame Nkrumah as the "sanctional source" of new political norms, and "symbolic referent" in which diverse tribal ethnicities could find their shared "orientationalidentity," the "integrational integer" by which the merely legal colonial institutions could take on political vitality (Apter 1955, especially chapter 14). Even Thomas Hodgkin, unusual for the era for his Marxist sympathies, thought it was the leader's duty to the idea It ... symbolize nationalist forthe massof partymembersandsympathizers. wasaboveallhis dutyto makehis party's to the rankandfile ... he is policyintelligible the new Moseswhowillleadhis peopleacrossthe Redseato self-government (1956,

Finally, while nationalist organizations and leaders could be assimilated to the rationalist social engineering of nation-building, nationalist passions could not. Colonial officials and political scientists alike shared an aversion to the fervent emotions, deep personal identification, and self-sacrificial commitment also identified with nationalism. In the aftermath of WorldWar II, these sentiments seemed


Berman: The Paradox of Mau Mau

not only irrational but pernicious and destructive. According to Walker Conner, scholars presumed that the war had convinced the peoples of Western Europe that nationalism was dangerous and outmoded, and the implementation of MarxismLeninism in Eastern Europe had made it superfluous in modern socialist societies, while in studying the Third World "ethnic heterogeneity tended to be ignored or to be cavalierly dismissed as an ephemeral phenomenon," and they "offered few if any suggestions as to how a single national consciousness was to be forged among
disparate ethnic elements" (1987, 196-197). Political aversion was reinforced by

intellectual disdain in the face of the theoretical incoherence and historical mystification characteristic of nationalist writing and the almost total lack of nationalist thinkers who could be recognized as great by anyone outside of the particular nation they addressed. Ernest Gellner notes: "their precise doctrines are hardly worth analyzing ... nationalist ideology suffers from pervasive false consciousness" (1983, 124); and Benedict Anderson points to a central paradox when he notes the contrast between the "political power" of nationalisms vs their philosophical poverty" (Anderson 1983, 14). But while nationalist ideology holds no candle to liberalism or Marxism as intellectual doctrine, it has elicited far more intense and widespread commitment. The cenotaphs and tombs of unknown soldiers, one of the most powerful and common of nationalist symbols, are not matched, as Anderson wittily reminds us, by "a Tomb of the Unknown Marxist or a cenotaph for fallen Liberals" (Anderson 1983, 17-18). Thus, the theory and the project of national development envisioned by either British colonial officials or American social scientists had little to say about or room for nationalism as doctrine and sentiment rooted in common history, culture, and language. Indeed, in the context of Africa, it seemed improbable that any one of the numerous "tribes"contained in each colony could provide the basis for a national consciousness in the new nation-state they were creating. The growth of such ethno-cultural identities appeared to be disintegrative and to recall traditional tribalism in a way that threatened both modernization and nation-building. Moreover, in Kenya, the presence of Asians and Europeans as distinctive cultural communities demanding protection of their communal rights made it inconceivable that any African cultural forms or identities could be part of the process of political development. The participation of Africans in a multi-racial dominant class had to be on the basis their being essentially European in education, culture, and lifestyle. Officials assumed that assimilation to a dominant European culture was the natural goal for Africans and the pre-condition for the emergence of a common Kenyan nationality. As Rosberg and Nottingham note: "The Leviathan of the colonial state represented the enlightened self-interests of the African in which the new educated man could remove himself completely from the darkness of his barbaric origins into the sun of the white man's culture" (1966, 322). Multiracialism could not mean multi-culturalism. The difficulty of dealing with the passions of nationalist ideology and identity


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within the rationalist structural and materialist model of national development provided the basis for interpreting Mau Mau as either atavistic tribalism or radical nationalism. As I suggested earlier, the difference between these interpretations was vividly expressed in the readings given to the emotive ideological and cultural content of Mau Mau as contained largely in the oaths given to its recruits. During the Emergency, texts of oaths were the only evidence about Mau Mau presented to sustain the official version of its character. Colonial officials, white settlers and the British and international press were obsessed with the deviant weirdness and bestiality of the oaths as proving that Mau Mau was atavistic, savage, and evil.'4 Conversely, Njama and Barnett, Rosberg and Nottingham, and the various Mau Mau memoirists were equally intent on proving that it was a modern movement for national liberation and did so by stressing the politically instrumental character of the mass oaths and setting them within the context of a long history of African anticolonial struggle and of accumulating grievances against the inequities of the colonial order. While this does show how divergent explanations were constructed within the common premises about tradition, modernity and national development, it does not explain why they were produced. To answer the latter question one must examine them within the particular historical contexts in which they appeared. During the Emergency, particularlyin its early phases, the British authorities in Nairobi and London had a desperate need for an explanation of Mau Mau which would accomplish several objectives, effectively achieved by characterizing it, as Cohen put it, as "a reversion to tribalism in a perverted and brutal form" (1959, 55). First, by convincing the cadres of the colonial state that Mau Mau in all its mystical and murderous obscenity was wholly evil, it enabled them to fight a nasty guerrilla war in good conscience. A strong predisposition to this view already existed in the racist stereotypes of African brutishness, irrationality, and bloodthirsty violence which, in their most extreme form, kept the settler population of Kenya on a constant edge of hysterical fear of the Africans they so callously exploited, and, in more moderate form, left colonial officials uneasy about unpredictable and dangerous reactions from their African wards (Berman and Lonsdale I991b 6-14; Kennedy 1987, chapters 8 and 9; Maughan-Brown 1985, 81-93). Second, by stigmatizing Mau Mau as the enemy of modernizing development and nationalism, the authorities were able both to insist that it had nothing to do with African grievances and, with no sense of contradiction, to continue the project of national development through a massive programme of socio-economic reforms intended to increase substantially the incomes of both African peasants and urban workers, and also to expand rapidly education and social services in the urban locations and ruralreserves. This programme was combined with a series of constitutional and political reforms which rapidly expanded African access to the central institutions of the colonial state, including the civil service.'5 Third,


Berman: The Paradox of Mau Mau

this characterization of Mau Mau also blunted the edge of left-wing critics of colonialism in Britain who tried to depict it as an anti-colonial liberation struggle.'6 Fourth, characterizing Mau Mau as atavistic and colonialism as progressive also helped to moderate the potential reaction by both the United States and the Soviet Union to the use of force in the colony. In the former, it blunted deep-seated American anti-colonialism and helped sustain support for the British project of national development and gradual decolonization. As far as the Soviet Union was concerned, despite the fevered claims of extreme right-wing anti-communists in Britain and among the Kenya settlers, who saw a Russian agent behind every thorn tree, the colonial authorities well knew that there was no Soviet support or encouragement for Mau Mau, but in the Cold War deep freeze of the critical 1952-56 period, they sought to deny them any possible practical or propaganda advantage by stressing the primitive and retrogressive character of the movement." By the early I960s the political context had changed significantly. Mau Mau had been defeated, but Kenya was rapidly moving towards independence under an African majority government. While Kenyatta was lionized as still the only real national leader, new nationalist organizations in Kenya contained an uneasy blend of old leaders, mostly Kikuyu, many of whom had spent the Emergency in detention, and a new generation of largely non-Kikuyu politicians. Externally, the crucial issue was in the development of relations between the new national government and the United States and the international agencies it dominated, which collectively controlled most of the sources of aid and investment that would sustain the project of national development. Meanwhile, research on Africa, especially in the United States, had been rapidly expanded and professionalised into "Africanstudies" dominated largely by political scientists. While this research was instrumental in persuading policy-makers in Britain that "territorialnationalism was a force for good, or at least a force to be reckoned with" (Lee 1967, 285), 8 Kenyan nationalism and many of its most important African political figures were tainted by the image of Mau Mau constructed during the Emergency. In the changed circumstances of this period, the former detainees and forest fighters sought to claim political legitimacy by insisting on a Mau Mau connection with nationalism and the independence struggle. Rosberg and Nottingham, for their part, have confirmed that their book, researched and written in 1963-64 in the months immediately preceding and following independence, was addressed to a primarily American audience. They sought both to discredit what they called the myth of Mau Mau and to persuade that audience that Kenyan nationalists were rational political actors, not demented fanatics; their actions, including Mau Mau, were based on real material grievances; and they fought for genuine nationalist goals.'9 In the process, the "traditional" cultural content of Mau Mau and its largely Kikuyu character were explained away.


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The Relationship Between Mau Mau and Nationalism The question remains as to whether there is a more effective way of understanding the passions of nationalism that will help analyze the character of Mau Mau and its relationship with nationalism in Kenya. The necessary conceptual tools can be found, I believe, in Benedict Anderson's Imagine Communities(1983), one of the most important theoretical essays on nationalism in recent years. In both those attributes which conform to and those which diverge from Anderson's construction of nationalism, one can understand the distinctive character of Mau Mau and its ambiguous relationship to the more typical forms of what he calls "anti-colonial nationalism." Anderson stresses the importance of historical sequence and precedent for understanding the development of the successive forms of nationalism and the nation-state, which is its institutional container. Rather than originating in the primordial past, both are seen as the product of little more than two hundred years of development. He identifies the origins of nationalism and the modern state in the "creole nationalisms" of the Americas, North and South, and their movements for independence from 1775 to 1830. These revolutionary new nations provided a model that was widely discussed in Europe and available for emulation: Out of the American weltercametheseimagined realities: nation-states, republican commoncitizenships, nationalflagsand anthems, institutions, popularsovereignty, of monarchical etc., andtheliquidation theirconceptual opposites: dynastic empires, inherited institutions,absolutisms, subjecthoods, nobilities,serfdoms,ghettos,and so forth....In effect,by the seconddecadeof the nineteenth a century,if not earlier, "model" the independent of national statewasavailable pirating for (Anderson 1983, 78). This model was employed by the "populist nationalisms" of Europe, which transformed diverse and fragmented ethnic groups into "nations" based on printlanguages and written records of their history and culture, and established the precedent that for each nation an independent and sovereign state was the essential condition of its legitimate existence and survival (Anderson 1983, 66-73, 78-79). In central and eastern Europe, this populist nationalism challenged the older polyglot and multi-ethnic dynastic empires of Czarist Russia, Hapsburg Austria, and Ottoman Turkey, and ignited the struggles for national self-determination which marked the 1850-1920 period. These set off the defensive and reactionary "official nationalisms," such as Romanov Russification, which attempted a "willed merger of nation and dynastic empire" through conscious policies "adapted from the model of the largely spontaneous popular nationalisms which preceded them"
(Anderson 1983, 83, 102).

The most recent variant of nationalism, according to Anderson, is the anticolonial nationalisms of the twentieth century, for which all of the previous forms have provided accessible models of nationalism, nation-ness and the state in an


Berman: The Paradox of Mau Mau

international environment in which the sovereign nation-state is the dominant, indeed, unchallenged norm. This nationalism is grounded in the experience of literate and bilingual indigenous intelligentsias fluent in the language of the imperial power, schooled in its "national" history, and staffing the colonial administrative cadres up to but not including its highest levels. These new nations have been essentially isomorphic with previous imperial administrative units (Anderson
1983, 104-109, I27-I28; Kitching 1985, III-II3). This perspective allows us to

understand how the senior imperial administrators from the metropole were able to conceive the project of modernization and nation-building to transform colonies into nation-states, even in advance of the demands of indigenous nationalist movements. To deal with the critical problem of the passions of nationalism, Anderson stresses the importance of understanding the nation as an imagined community: It is imagined becausethe members eventhe smallest of nationwillneverknowmost of theirfellow-members, meet them, or evenhearof them, yet in the mindsof each lives the image of theircommunion....... it is imaginedas a community,because, of and that in regardless the actualinequality exploitation mayprevail each,thenation is alwaysconceivedas a deep,horizontal it comradeship. Ultimately is thisfraternity thatmakesit possible,overthepasttwo centuries, so manymillionsof people,not for so muchto kill,as to willingly forsuchlimitedimaginings die (Anderson 1983,15-16). Unlike the rationalism of liberalism and Marxism, nationalism is much concerned with ultimate meanings, death and immortality. Rather than a political ideology, it has more in common with kinship and religion. It replaces the religious vision of immortality with a secular one based on the nation. If nation-statesare widelyconcededto be "new"and "historical," nationsto the whichtheygivepolitical loomout of an immemorial always expression past,and,still more important,glide into a limitlessfuture.It is the magicof nationalism turn to
chance into destiny (Anderson 1983, 19).

Language plays the central role in the creation of the imagined community in so far as it is printed and related to the spread of mass literacy. "Print language is what invents nationalism, not a particularlanguage per se" (Anderson 1983, 122). In the European experience a diversity of dialects was reduced to a much smaller number of standardized print vernaculars, while in the creole nations of the Americas and the colonial empires of the twentieth century, the print language was primarilythat of the imperial metropole. In all of these instances, the growing number of readers formed the embryo of the nationally imagined community, with the production and consumption of novels and newspapers being particularly important in making possible the imagining of the nation (Anderson 1983, 30-39, 47-49, 61-63).

The role of print language in the development of nationalism is closely linked to the development of what Anderson calls "print capitalism." Printing and book


CJAS/ RCEA 25:2 1991

production was one of the key industries of early capitalism. The principal consumers of literature were the growing middle classes, with the bourgeoisie being the first class to achieve solidarity on a largely imagined basis rooted in universal literacy. Finally, print language is also crucially connected to the development of the modem state. The schools and universities run by the state not only spread universal literacy, but also create the studies of history, literature, and folklore through which the nation takes on concrete and permanent existence, and can systematically reproduce itself from generation to generation. The use of the language as a language of administration shapes the consciousness of the imagined national
community within the state cadres (Anderson 1983, 66-69, 74, Io6-og9, 127). The

linkage of print language and the state transforms ethnicity into nationalism and makes the possession of a sovereign state the universally demanded norm for every imagined community. To employ Anderson's approach to nationalism in analyzing Mau Mau, it is first necessary to note the shift in the understanding of the latter that occurred during the 1970s. In the context of studies of the political economy of colonial Kenya by Marxist and neo-Marxist historians and social scientists, which focused on the incorporation of Africans into capitalist production and exchange, and the consequent processes of class formation, the view of Mau Mau shifted again; and it came to be seen as a peasant war emerging out of the growing class struggles among the Kikuyu. While the British often called the Emergency a civil war between the mass of Kikuyu who had taken the Mau Mau oath of unity, on the one hand, and a small band of "Loyalists," on the other, and Rosberg and Nottingham had analyzed at some length the major internal political conflicts among the Kikuyu, more recent research has revealed with fargreater subtlety and detail the complexity of internal differentiation and class formation among the Kikuyu not only during colonialism but also before the beginning of colonial rule.2" In contrast to the constructed image of a stable and harmonious tradition, the Kikuyu in the nineteenth century were actively expanding and colonizing new territory and already internally divided between wealthy land-owning families and landless families attached to them in a variety of forms of dependence. The highest status and civic virtue civilization directed household heads.Honourlayin ... layin thelabourof agrarian by backthe forestandtamingthewild,clearing cula wealth,the proudfruitof burning tivatedspace in which industrious dependentsmight establishthemselvesin selfthe of one'sown salvation the subwas respecting independence; possibility working of moreKikuyuproverbs thananyother(Lonsdale1990,417). ject The impact of colonial capitalism and the colonial state hit the Kikuyu with greater force and effect than any other of Kenya's peoples, setting off new processes of differentiation and class formation. Anderson stresses that in the development of colonial nationalism "to an unprecedented extent the key early spokesman ... were lonely, bilingual intelligentsias unattached to sturdy local


Berman: The Paradox of Mau Mau

bourgeoisies," whose pilgrimage among administrative posts ending in the colonial capital was critical to their imagining of a nation (1983, I27-128). This was not true, however, for the Kikuyu or for Kenya as a whole through most of the colonial period. The intelligentsia and administrative cadres among the Kikuyu were intimately connected with the development of a petty bourgeoisie. In the particular circumstances of Kenya as a colony of white settlement, the Kikuyu servants of the colonial state consisted of local chiefs and headmen, who never served outside of their original areas, and literate clerks and artisans, who encountered their counterparts from other peoples in Kenya only when they worked in the urban crucible of Nairobi and a few of the other major towns. The pilgrimage for both the Kikuyu new wealthy and new poor was a more restricted circuit between the reserves established by the colonial state, the white settler estates and towns of the Rift Valley, and the capital. From the I920s, however, the developing elite of accumulators was internally split by a cleavage between the collaborationist chiefs and their families and supporters and a younger and more populist element organized in the Kikuyu Central Association and willing to confront colonial authority over the issue of the "stolen" lands alienated to white settlers and the missionary attack on the Kikuyu custom of female circumcision. At the other pole of the class structure, growing numbers of impoverished Kikuyu were leaving the home territories, now increasingly crowded within their fixed boundaries, to seek land and work as squatters or wage labourers on settler estates or as largely unskilled workers in the towns. The increasing disparities of wealth and property and developing conflicts within and between the developing social classes in Kikuyu society were expressed in a vigourous internal debate, largely invisible to the British in Kenya and only now being reconstructed, over the meaning of Kikuyu-ness, the nature of the community, the value of tradition, the involvement in new forms of production and exchange, and the degree of acceptance of and assimilation to European culture.2' Thus, the chiefs and their supporters opposed the more militant Kikuyu Central Association through the pointedly named "KikuyuLoyal Patriots." Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the breach with the mission societies over the custom of female circumcision, two independent school associations were formed calling themselves the Kikuyu Independent Schools Association and the Kikuyu Karing'a (pure or authentic) Schools. From the beginning, print-language and literacy in both English and Kikuyu played a crucial role in defining the terms and content of the debate. The developing petty bourgeoisie was commonly referred to as the athomi (literally, "the readers'). In 1928 the KCA began publishing a Kikuyu-language journal called Muigwithania ("The Reconciler"), with Kenyatta as its first editor. An article in an early issue on the word "association" told the readers not to say "that you do not belong to that Association. You are members of the Association since you are all Kikuyu Karing'a (real Kikuyu)" (Rosberg and Nottingham 1966, loo). In 1938


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Kenyatta published in English his ethnography of the Kikuyu, written during his studies at the London School of Economics with Bronislaw Malinowski, which provided a vigourous defence of Kikuyu custom against European criticism and provided in permanent printed form his version of a pre-colonial pastoral. In this key text of an emerging Kikuyu imagined community, as well as in other writings of the period, there is a strong element of "redemptive criticism," a "present employment of the past in the hopes of reshaping the future" (Kenyatta 1938;
Clark 1989, 396).22 By the late 1940s the Kikuyu were a deeply divided people, increasingly in con-

flict among themselves as well as with the colonial political and economic order. In three centres of growing unrest, a growing mass of the dispossessed and impoverished confronted the leadership of the chiefs and the athomi. In the Rift Valley, an increasing number of squatters were expelled from settler estates for refusing to accept ever-tighter restrictions on their herds and use of settler land. In the overcrowded reserves, small peasants desperately clung to fragmented and eroded holdings no longer capable of supporting a family, while wealthy landowners sought to expel tenants and dependents to regain land for more profitable uses. In Nairobi, a largely Kikuyu labour force struggled with growing impoverishment, inflation, and unemployment. The struggle over authentic Kikuyu-ness, over the character of the imagined community, continued unabated. At this point, however, the conceptions of propertied civic virtue rather thanto inspire... thosewhohadthe most cause ... beganto mockthe majority to fightcolonialrulehadthe leastchanceto meritresponsibility. Those whosedeeds a mightdeliver powerwouldhaveno chanceto enjoyit. Thatwasthe Kikuyu tragedy, of not struggleoverthe moralities classformation, mentalderangement" (Lonsdale
1990, 417).

The situationwas complicated the emergence the KenyaAfrican of by Union, the firstattemptat a pan-ethnic"national" In politicalorganization. thisorganization we do find an expressionof a more typicalanti-colonial nationalism.KAU had a multi-ethnic, of of literates the although largely Kikuyu,leadership bilingual visionof typeupon whichAndersonfocuses.It was committedto a verydifferent the imaginedcommunity,a multi-ethnic Kenya,and to moderateconstitutional whichacceptedthe premisesof the colonialstate'sversionof modernizapolitics tion andnation-building. of the However, failure the KAU to attainanysignificant reformsor redressof grievancesfrom the colonialauthoritiesdiscreditedpetty and to bourgeoisleadership shiftedthe politicalinitiative youngerand moremilitantfigureswithinthe African tradeunionmovement,amongthe squatters the on settlerestatesin the RiftValleyand in KAU branchesin Nairobiand the Kikuyu districtsof central of province.In 1950theseleadersembarked uponthe campaign mass oathingto silencethe oppositionand unifythe community. The develop23 ment of whatbecameknownas "MauMau"thus threatened both the propertyathomiwho claimedthe authenticity Kikuyu of holdingeldersandpettybourgeois


Berman: The Paradox of Mau Mau

civic virtue and authority, and their class counterparts among other ethnic communities in Kenya, who joined together in the leadership of KAU. Kikuyu struggle continued to take place in print. The dominant journal was the weekly Mumenyereri,edited by Henry Muoria. Considered paperof Kikuyu the it a patriotism, published mixtureof realand imagined grievances. As tension grew in 1951 and 1952, it became uncompromising in its

nationalism. Invitations politicalmeetings,calledunderthe guiseof "teaparties" to included oathing ceremonies)at the Kikuyu Club in Nairobi's (which usually Pumwani feature the paper(Rosberg Nottingham of and Location,becamea regular
I966, 212).

There was also a considerable vernacular pamphlet literature, the most remarkable available example of which is Gakaara wa Wanjau's Mageria no mo Mahota (The Spirit of Manhood and Perseverance Africans), published in April 1952, for which appeals for unity across the cleavages of "the regime of division that the white man has established over us and the bitter and destructive conflicts between ourselves this regime creates," lists all of the classes and segments of the Kikuyu and their just grievances, proclaims universal acceptance of the goals of modernization and development, enjoins the rich to "get actively involved in the people's movement," and includes this extraordinaryevocation of the imagined community and the passions of nationalism: ... it is vitalthateveryAfrican for freedom. playshis own rolein the struggle African To fightforfreedomdoesnot onlymeanmaking political speechesandwriting politicaltracts.Morethanthat,to struggle freedom to be imbuedwitha patriotic for is love foryourcountry its people,so thatyoubecomepartandparcelof itssuffering and and its triumphs,so that, in yourspiritual unitywith yourpeople,you weep with them when they weep, andyou sharewith them theirmomentsof joy.It is a deep and all withyourpeople.It motivates to seekto knowwhatis consuminginvolvement you all happening the time to yourpeople;it motivates to alwaysseekto further the you
cause of freedom and independence (Wanjau 1988, 227-243).

Wanjau speaks here of Africans and African freedom, but the language and cultural symbolism he employs are Kikuyu, and this suggests the contradictory notions of the imagined community of the nation existing during this period. For the colonial authorities, however, it was sufficiently clear to merit Wanjau's arrest at the beginning of the Emergency and his subsequent detention for ten years. While Mau Mau was clearly not a tribal atavism seeking a return to the past, the answer to the question of "was it nationalism?"must be yes and no. What the British called Mau Mau, and by constant repetition imposed on the consciousness of both Kenya and the outside world, was no single thing, but rather a diverse and exceedingly fragmented collection of individuals, organizations and ideas, out of


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which no dominant concept of a Kikuyu imagined national community had emerged. At the same time, if Mau Mau was not a nativistic revival or atavistic revitalization movement, it did emerge out of a bitterly contested process of reinterpreting and reconstructing tradition that embraced the colonial authorities as well as Kikuyu factions, Leakey as well as Kenyatta; and in which cultural beliefs and symbols were profoundly important. Mau Mau was part of a struggle over the dimensions and meaning of Kikuyu ethnicity and its problematic relationship with both the internal cleavages of class and the wider solidarities of a Kenyan nation. 24 The colonial authorities' version of Mau Mau as a conspiratorial secret cult attached to it an illusory unity of organization and ideology. The official version also played loosely with the historical sequence of events, focusing on the limited degree of organization and unity achieved by the forest fighters under Dedan Kimathi and General China, adding the connections to the Nairobi "Central Committee," combining both with the "evidence" of oaths often extracted from detainees under torture, and then projecting all of this backward to characterize "Mau Mau" before the Emergency. What the accumulated evidence records, instead, are largely failed efforts to define a Kikuyu nationality linked to a militant populist politics of the poor. How this was to relate to the other imagined communities in Kenya in an independent nation state was not clearly thought through. What is interesting is that the ideological cleavages of contrasting visions of the Kikuyu and Kenyan nations were reproduced within the structure of the Land and Freedom Army itself in conflicts between the literate leaders like Kimathi and Karari Njama and many of the primarily illiterate rank and file of peasants and dispossessed squatters led by men like Stanley Mathenge. "This boiled down, in essence, to the rejection by the non-literate leaders of the state-building, parliamentarist 'Freedom' component, in favour of the peasant / land component, in the forest fighters' 'nationalism"' (Maughan-Brown 1985, 47). The forest fighters' own name for their movement, ithaka na wiathi, is perhaps better translated, according to Lonsdale, as "freedom through land" or "land and moral responsibility," which invokes "the highest civic virtue of Kikuyu elderhood, rather than the more common 'land and freedom' which invites the retrospective connotation of 'land and national independence"' (Lonsdale 1990, 416 note II8), and thus expresses the distinctive cultural content of Kikuyu internal conflicts as much as an anti-colonial liberation struggle. The paradoxes ofMau Mau are also revealed tellingly in the career and words of Kenyatta. He both outraged and terrified the British officialdom because, in their eyes, he was the obvious charismatic nationalist leader of Kenya's Africans, but used the force of his personality and his elite education to deliberately lead the Kikuyu back to the mystical witchcraft of tribal reaction rather than to unite the Africans with whites in the project of national development. They convicted him of organizing Mau Mau in a flagrantly rigged trial which threw him together with men like Kubai and Kaggia who actually had organized the mass oathings. But


Berman: The Paradox of Mau Mau

Kenyatta, and his colleagues in the KCA, spoke for the new generation of athomi who, even in opposing the chiefs and elders, always laid claim to the leadership of the Kikuyu in traditional terms as men of property and virtue. In the internal struggles among the Kikuyu before the Emergency, he stood on the opposite side from the leaders of the Kikuyu dispossessed, the squatters, urban workers and landless peasants; while as the leader of the KAU he struggled to hold together its multi-ethnic coalition. His denunciations of Mau Mau in 1952, when he equated it with poverty, irresponsibility and criminality, led its leaders to consider his assassination.25

Ironically, it was the Emergency which secured the victory of the very different nationalism of the multi-ethnic dominant class that came to power with independence, while Kenyatta's conviction and imprisonment for organizing Mau Mau probably saved his position as the national leader. The elite nationalism of this class was definitively formed during the Emergency itself among the Kikuyu loyalists and the educated elites from other ethnic communities, who shared literacy in English and who travelled their national pilgrimage in less than a decade through increasing access to the bureaucracy of the colonial state and to the expanding "national"political institutions at the centre, created by repeated rounds of constitutional reform. Simultaneously, with the detention or confinement in the reserves of the bulk of the Kikuyu labour force in the colony, replacements were found among other ethnic groups, while economic reforms both raised wages and increased peasant access to cash crop markets - all of which provided a substantially widened base of support for "nationalist"goals when African political organizations were again permitted after 1957. The pressure of this multi-ethnic elite forced the pace of British withdrawal, undermined the political position of white settlers and ultimately made independence under a "multi-racial"regime impossible (Berman 1990, chapter 9) In them, the British found, ratherunexpectedly, the "political class" to whom they could safely turn over power, and belatedly discovered in Kenyatta the moderate modernizing national leader. It is hardly surprisingthat the attitude of the government of independent Kenya has been ambivalent about the recognition of the contributions of Mau Mau "freedom fighters," or that the divergent post-independence interpretations of Mau Mau, as the central element in the epic of national liberation or as an isolated tribal uprising, reflect a continuing cleavage between radical populist elements among the Kikuyu and the "national" dominant class (Maughan-Brown, 1985, 57-58, 258-261). 6 Kenyatta himself, after his release from prison and political rehabilitation in the early I960s and later as President of Kenya, continued to denounce Mau Mau and equate it with criminality and disease, repeating the very type of metaphor which the British had used to describe it. Meanwhile, his government proclaimed: "we all fought for Uhuru" and refused any special recognition of the achievements of Mau Mau or the claims of the ex-forest fighters and detainees, although it permitted some local memorials in Kikuyuland to them and to


CJAS / RCEA 25:2


Kimathi.27 In 1988 the monument to the "freedom fighters," which contains no explicit reference to ithaka na wiathi, sat forlorn and graffiti-defaced at an intersection in Nyeri town, a material expression of the continuing paradoxes of Mau Mau. Notes
I This article is derived from a joint research project entitled "Explaining Mau Mau: A Study in the Politics of Knowledge," in which John Lonsdale and I have been engaged since 1987. While many of the ideas expressed in this article are the joint product of our work, I remain responsible for the particular interpretation offered here. 2 It is the official version developed by the authorities of the colonial state that is of primary interest in the present context. For an analysis of other variants of the explanation of Mau Mau among both Europeans and Africans during the Emergency, see Lonsdale (1990). 3 The first papers on Mau Mau received by the Provincial Commissioner of Central Province (the main Kikuyu area) were filed with previous correspondence on religious sects found in the colony. See Kenya National Archives (hereafter, KNA) PC / CP8 / 7 / 4 (covering the period 1934-53); and Public Record Office, London (hereafter, PRO) / PC822 / 447, Commissioner of Police, "Secret Situation Report for II February, 1953." 4 PRO / CO822 / 447, Commissioner of Police, "Secret Intelligence Report for 27 November, 1952." 5 Leakey's role as both an interpreterand actor is a major part of the story of Mau Mau that has yet to be fully appreciated. We have attempted to rectify this omission in Berman and Lonsdale (I991a). 6 So characterized, Mau Mau became a useful example for use the in comparative analysis of cults and religious movements. See, for example, Fernandez (1964) and La Barre (1971). 7 The relationship between African grievances and African politics is the dominant theme of chapters II to VI, especially pages 220-233; the "Mau Mau" oath is analyzed on pages 241-262; while the European "myth of Mau Mau" is treated on pages 320-334. 8 The significance of Leakey's ethnography for the internal politics of the Kikuyu is discussed in Berman and Lonsdale (I99 a). 9 One of the earliest expressions of these ideas was found in the first chapters of Wilson and Wilson (1945). Io See, for example, Deutsch and Foltz (1966); Geertz (1963); and Shils (1964). The conservative and elitist managerial perspective, with its distrust of democracy and mass participation, which underlies "political development" theory in mainstream political science is critically analyzed in Gendzier (1985). II For the origins of colonial social engineering see "Empire and Social Engineering" in Low

12 The principal Colonial Office statement of political development policy in the immediate post-war period came in the "Despatch from the Secretary of State to the Governors of the African Territories," 25 February 1947 (Kenya Government Library,Nairobi). 13 See the critical analysis in Cruise O'Brien (1971) and the examples of this theme in Coleman and Rosberg (1964). 14 John Lonsdale has noted the manner in which Mau Mau's "rituals of recruitment" were exploited at the time: British war propaganda had no difficulty in portraying these as utterly repugnant, debased, and by intention, debasing.... The paraphernalia of Mau Mau recruiting officers certainly made good copy which the press did not hesitate to exploit, if with the coy


Berman: The Paradox of Mau Mau

reserve whichtitillatesas muchas it repels....For it wasreported thatthe oathsbecame
ever more deviant and bestial as the war dragged on and the insurgents became more desperate or fanatic. Many accounts left the details unsaid, allowing the readers' imaginations free to wander in fascinated self-disgust.... A visiting parliamentary delegation thought the recruitment rituals too dreadful to lay before the British electorate. The relevant appendix to the report was never published. It was deposited in the library of the House of Commons instead, where minds were apparently though to be already suffi-

cientlydepraved (1989,2). was MauMau,thefirstbeingthemilitary 15 Thisprogramme called"thesecondprong" against The variousreports,memoranda, notes relatingto it are a majorsourceof and campaign. information officialthinking on and duringthe Emergency arefoundin KNA / GH4 / 795. For fulleranalysis the reformprogramme the contextof the politicsof the Emergency of in see Berman(1990,347-371). 16 The activities theBritish andvarious of left anti-colonial associations Britain in drewtheparticularireof the colonialauthorities, felt thattheydid not understand who whatMau Mau was"really" andthattheirill-informed like efforts to threatened undermine metropolitan the to politicaland economicsupportnecessary crushit. The firstdraftof the officialhistoryof Mau Mau, circulatedamongseniorofficialsin Nairobi,containeda particularly virulent attackon theleft-wing "friends" MauMau,whichwasexcisedfromthepublished of version (KNA/ G03 / 2 / 72). of to 17 The sensitivity the ColonialOfficeto reactions MauMau in othercountries, especially the US, is indicatedin the paperscontained PRO/ CO822/ 448 External in on Repercussions theMauMau Situation Kenya; in whilethe concernwith Sovietreactionsand evaluation of involvement discussed PRO/ C0822 / 461Communist is in possibleCommunist Aspects ofthe MauMau Situation Kenya. in 18 Lee also shows that by 1956,while in all other social sciencesthe majority researchers of in workingin BritishAfricawereeitherBritishor citizensof the "white"Commonwealth, wereAmericans. politicalsciencethirteenof seventeen withJohnNottinghamin Nairobi,August1988, and CarlRosbergin Chicago, 19 Interviews October1988.RobertBuijtenhuijs criticized has themforsaying ... practically nothingabouttheMauMaurevoltandevenlessaboutthe morecontroversialand"disturbing" aspectsof it.... It is, in fact,unscientific, giventhe actualstandof the debateson the problem,to writea bookof about350 pageson Mau Mauwithouteven oaths"(I973, 47-48). mentioningthe so-called"advanced 20 See, in particular, careful the and of synthesis analysis the evidencein Kitching(1980). 21 These themes are exploredmore fullyin Lonsdale,"Wealth, Povertyand CivicVirtuein and KikuyuPolitical Thought"in Berman Lonsdale(1992). 22 Clark's remarks concernLeakey's but ethnography, they applyequallywell to Kenyatta's. The rivalry betweenKenyatta Leakey theintellectual for and of and leadership the Kikuyu its in the versionof Kikuyusociety expression the ethnographic politicsof establishing "right" and cultureis analyzed "LouisLeakey's in MauMau"(Berman Lonsdale199ga). and 23 The fullestaccountsof thedeteriorating militant conditions, growing angerandincreasingly and 6 politicsamongthe Kikuyuarefoundin Rosberg Nottingham(1966,chapters and7), Kanogo(1987,chapters and5) andThroup(1987,chapters 4 5-8). examined the comparative in contextof theprocessesof con24 MauMau canthusbe usefully and in discussed Hobsbawn Ranger and structing ethnicity tradition (1983)andVail(1989). withAlanSegalbroadcast partin Granada in Tele25 As revealed FredKubaiin aninterview by vision'sprogram Kenyain its series"TheEndof Empire" July1985. on in 26 Ngugi wa Thiong'o has recentlyanalyzed splitin Kenyanintellectual betweenthe the life neo-colonial English-speaking, which,he claims,hi-jacked petty-bourgeoisie independence


/ CJASRCEA 25:2 1991

andthe "true" nationalism denounces dominant the represented MauMau.He explicitly by classboth for its exploitation ethnicchauvinism its reliance the old imperial of and on lanwa for guage while praisingMau Mau, and the work of Gakaraa Wanjauin particular, the of as literature, well as encouraging emergence a genuineindigenous African-language and workingclass" expressing"the mass politicalmovementsof an awakened peasantry (1986,23-24, 44-45, 102-104.) statements and can 27 Some of Kenyatta's denouncing "hooliganism" oath-taking be foundin Kenyatta(1968,147,154,167,183,189,and204). See alsoBuijtenhuijs (1973,49-53,61-72) andLonsdale(1990,418-420).

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