chapter  5
19 Pages

Imbalance between the centre and periphery and the 'employment crisis' in Kenya

ByJohn Weeks

For geographical and historical reasons Kenya in the early part of this century was the only African country north of the Zambezi to be a strong candidate for extensive white settlement. While only a small part of Kenya-in a belt running roughly from just south-east of Nairobi to Lake Victoria-consists of high-potential land, this fertile portion lies at elevations favourable for the growth of cash crops such as tea, coffee, and even wheat. Equally important, when the first white settlers such as Lord Delamere arrived, they found themselves blessed with a stroke of historical luck. During the nineteenth century, the militarily powerful Masai herdsmen came to control large expanses of the fertile highlands and Rift Valley. Thus, the settlers looked across great expanses of valuable land, sparsely populated by a nomadic people immeasurably inferior to themselves in military technology. In the 1930s, the land seizure by Europeans, largely from the Masai, but also from the sedentary Kikuyu, received validation from the British Colonial Office. The Carter Commission set aside just less than 17,000 square miles of Kenya's best land for exclusive white settlement. It appeared for all practical purposes that Lord Delamere's dream of a little Australia in East Africa had moved from de facto to de jure status.1