MURPHY BROWNE (Abena Agbetu)
On December 12, 1963 Kenya gained its political independence from Great Britain. Jomo Kenyatta (born Kamau wa Ngengi) led the fight for independence and was elected the first Prime Minister of the independent nation. The Kenyans gained their independence after years of bloody struggle during which they were brutalized by the White people who had invaded and stolen their land.
Following the European “Scramble for Africa” (Berlin Conference of 1884-1885) the British moved into Kenya, occupied the most fertile land and forced the Africans off the land. They passed laws that disenfranchised Africans, even forbidding them ownership of land in certain parts of the country. With the White interlopers occupying what they dubbed the “White Highlands” of Kenya, the Africans were displaced and some were forced unto reserves. With the fertile land in Kenya reserved for White people and Africans forced to subsist on mostly infertile land, the White settlers became increasingly wealthy while the Africans lived in poverty.
The White farmers needed cheap labour for the large scale farming that enriched the minority White population but the Africans refused to work on the farms. To ensure that Africans were a cheap source of labour for the White colonial settler population of Kenya, the British government passed laws which forced the Africans to work for the White people who now occupied their land. The British army was on hand to ensure that White farmers and the stolen African land they occupied were protected. The passing and enforcing of the “Masters and Servants Act” (1906) ensured that a caste system of all White people as masters and all Africans as servants was firmly in place.
The history of the area was re-written by the White interlopers who to rationalize their immoral seizure of African land and exploitation of the rightful owners of the land portrayed the Africans in decidedly unflattering terms. After all there were these good Christian White people who left Europe and travelled for hundreds of miles to the African continent to enrich themselves at the expense of Africans who they mercilessly, savagely and brutally exploited.
Because of what psychologists term cognitive dissonance the White Christians had to find a way to justify/rationalize their covetousness and theft of the Africans’ land and their savagely brutal exploitation of the labour of the Africans. There were claims that they were there to Christianize the Africans, that the Africans had never really settled on the land but lived a nomadic life, that White people were a civilizing force. They convinced themselves that they were somehow superior beings based on the colour of their skin so had a God given right to the land. They even pretended that they had “discovered” the land.
Today, in the 21st century, it has been recognized that there was a “doctrine of discovery” during the European colonization of the lands of racialized people when the “Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues” released this statement as part of its report on May 8, 2012: “The Doctrine of Discovery had been used for centuries to expropriate indigenous lands and facilitate their transfer to colonizing or dominating nations, speakers in the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues stressed today, urging the expert body to study the creation of a special mechanism, under United Nations auspices, to investigate historical land claims.”
Meanwhile, in the 19th and 20th centuries, the exploitation of the Africans in Kenya and elsewhere on the continent went full force ahead with the blessing of the British (and other European tribes) crown and government. There were even books written by some of the “famous” British writers whose propaganda helped quiet the cognitive dissonance that must surely have raged in the minds of the Europeans who continued to live and grow rich on stolen African land.
The history of Kenya however began long before the first European arrived in the area in the 1840s. In the 1981 book “Kenya’s Past: An Introduction to Historical Method in Africa”, Thomas Spear writes: “The history of eastern and central Kenya stretches more than two million years from the initial emergence of mankind itself to the present. The archaeological record of mankind in Kenya is the oldest in the world, stretching back some four to five million years to the earliest men and women and their immediate forebears living on the shores of Lake Turkana.”
The White colonists/occupiers of African land destroyed and displaced the indigenous African communities in Kenya and occupied the land of well-established African communities which included farmers, fishermen, hunters and ironworkers who supported the economy with agriculture, fishing, metal production and trade with other countries. Mombasa (Kenya’s capital) was the major port city of Kenya in the Middle Ages from where ships left to trade with other countries. In the 16th century, Duarte Barbosa, a Portuguese writer and trader, visited several countries bordering the Indian Ocean and documented his findings in “The Book of Duarte Barbosa: An Account of the Countries Bordering on the Indian Ocean and Their Inhabitants” which was published in 1518. Of his visit to Mombasa, Barbosa wrote: “This is a place of great traffic and has a good harbour in which there are always moored small craft of many kinds and also great ships, both of those which come from Sofala and those which go thither, and others which come from the great kingdom Cambaya and from Melinde and others which sail to the island of Zanzibar.”
For centuries, beginning with the slave trade, the British among other European tribes, systematically stigmatized Africa as the ‘dark continent’ in need of enlightenment as they rationalized/justified the theft of natural and human resources. The savage brutality of the occupying British forces and the British civilians is well documented and was well hidden (some documents destroyed by the Colonial powers) until the 21st century.
Last year a group of elderly Kenyans who had been brutalized by the representatives of the British crown and government successfully brought a lawsuit (to the British High Court) against the British government and won millions of dollars in compensation. Their suit was supported by documents that survived the destruction order (http://rt.com/news/british-colonies-documents-destruction-512/) of the British government.
As Kenya recognizes the 50th anniversary of their political independence, some 5,228 victims of the British occupational torture will receive a total of £19.9 million.
In June 2013 the British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in the British House of Commons: “I would like to make clear now, and for the first time, on behalf of Her Majesty’s government, that we understand the pain and grievance felt by those who were involved in the events of the emergency in Kenya.
“The British government recognizes that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration. The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place and that they marred Kenya’s progress towards independence.”