chapter  3
26 Pages

Kenya, 1952–6

In 1895 the British government took over the East Africa Protectorate, renamed Kenya in 1920, from the failed Imperial British East Africa Company that had originally attempted to colonize the area a few years earlier. Initially, Britain’s main interest in the territory was as a railway corridor through which to extract resources from the agriculturally rich colony of Uganda in the interior to the Indian Ocean coast. Resistance from the coastal Swahili during the 1890s and the pastoral Nandi of the interior during the early 1900s was crushed. e rst white settlers arrived in 1902 in a scheme meant to nance the construction of a railway to the agriculturally rich colony of Uganda. White commercial farming developed supported by a system of cheap black labour created by the imposition of taxation, the con nement of people in overcrowded reserves, a ban on blacks growing crops favoured by the settlers, a pass system which controlled black workers’ movement and state labour conscription. During the colonial era the Kikuyu of central Kenya, compared to other people in the colony, experienced disproportionate dispossession as their fertile land which also had a healthy climate was favoured by European settlers and became the ‘White Highlands’. Numbering around 30 000 in the 1930s and 80 000 in the 1950s, the small white settler minority developed an elite identity based on mainly British upper class origins and became politically in uential in the running of the colony through their domination of the local legislative council. While Kenya’s white settlers dreamed of becoming an autonomous dominion within the British Empire like Canada or Australia , they never gained any o cial powers of self-government. From the beginning of the colonial era, Kenya’s security fell to a local police force consisting mostly of Africans and some Asians under European leaders and the King’s African Ri es (KAR ) a primarily African infantry force under British o cers and some NCOs which, in peacetime, came under the authority of the Colonial O ce. Settler political ambitions led to the 1928 creation of the Kenya Defence Force in which all young white men were to undergo military training and in 1937, within the context of rising international tensions that would led to the Second World War , this was morphed into a reserve infantry battalion called the Kenya Regiment which aimed to provide white junior leaders to the KAR during wartime and to respond to internal disturbances.1