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POLITICS OF THE SOIL: SEPARATISM, AUTOCHTHONY, AND DECOLONIZATION AT THE KENYAN COAST*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 May 2014

Jeremy Prestholdt*
Affiliation:
University of California, San Diego

Abstract

This article examines the perceived interdependence of territorial rights and social identity in colonial Kenya. In the early 1960s, attempts to win full autonomy for a narrow strip of Indian Ocean coastline – the Protectorate of Kenya – encouraged an exclusivist discourse of autochthony. To establish their historical ownership of the coast, both political thinkers who supported and decried coastal separatism emphasized the correlation of race, ethnicity, religion, and physical space. Through competing claims to ‘the soil’, all parties articulated a dually integrative and divisive language of citizenship. As a result, autochthony discourse exacerbated tensions within coastal society, fortified divergent visions of the postcolonial nation, and highlighted reductive definitions of the coast as either maritime or continental in orientation.

Type
Special Feature: Africa and the Indian Ocean
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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Footnotes

*

I would like to thank contributors to the workshops, ‘Religion, Law, and Regimes of Control around the Indian Ocean’, at Roskilde University, and ‘Writing Postnational Narratives’, at the Center for Indian Studies in Africa, University of Witwatersrand, as well as those who commented on versions of this article presented to the Chr. Michelsen Institute, European Conference on African Studies 4, and Johns Hopkins History Seminar. Special thanks to Anne Bang, Felicitas Becker, James R. Brennan, Jonathon Glassman, Preben Kaarsholm, Kai Kresse, Pier Larson, Justin Willis, and anonymous JAH reviewers for their valuable criticisms and suggestions. Financial support was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, Norwegian Research Council, Institute for European Global Studies at the University of Basel, and the University of California, San Diego Academic Senate. The author can be reached at: jprestholdt@ucsd.edu

References

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30 Ng'weno, B., ‘Inheriting disputes: the Digo negotiation of meaning and power through land’, African Economic History, 25 (1997), 65Google Scholar; Willis, Mombasa, 122–3; Kanyinga, K., Re-Distribution from Above: The Politics of Land Rights and Squatting in Coastal Kenya (Uppsala, 2000), 42–5 and 56–9Google Scholar; Cooper, F., From Slaves to Squatters: Plantation Labor and Agriculture in Zanzibar and Coastal Kenya, 1890–1925 (New Haven, CT, 1980)Google Scholar, 192–3, 273 and 275–6.

31 TNA CO 894/12, Memorandum to Sir James Robertson on Lamu District by District Commissioner, 11 Oct. 1961.

32 Cooper, Slaves to Squatters, 291–3; Willis, Mombasa, 123 and 125–6; KNA Provincial Commissioner Coast Province (Mombasa) (CA) 16/77, Malindi subdistrict Monthly Intelligence Report, Dec. 1959; TNA CO 894/14/12, A note on the problem of Giriama squatter lands in Malindi, 9 Nov. 1960.

33 Willis, J. and Gona, G., ‘Tradition, tribe, and state in Kenya: the Mijikenda Union, 1945–1980’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 55:2 (2013), 455CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Harris, J. E., Recollections of James Juma Mbotela (Nairobi, 1977), 94Google Scholar.

34 Glassman, War, 130; Brennan, ‘Lowering’, 847.

35 Brennan, ‘Lowering’; TNA CO 894/4, Note of the meeting between Sir James Robertson and Sheikh Salim Mohamed Muhashamy, 9 Oct. 1961; TNA CO 894/12, Memorandum on Lamu District by the District Commissioner, 11 Oct. 1961.

36 Salim, ‘The movement’, 216; Salim, Swahili-Speaking Peoples, 216–17.

37 Ogot, B. A., ‘Mau Mau and nationhood: the untold story’, in Odhiambo, E. S. A. and Lonsdale, J. (eds.), Mau Mau and Nationhood: Arms, Authority and Narration (Athens, OH, 2003), 1113Google Scholar; B. A. Ogot, ‘The decisive years, 1956–63’ in Ogot and Ochieng', Decolonization, 52–3; Gertzel, C. J., The Politics of Independent Kenya, 1963–8 (Evanston, IL, 1970), 89Google Scholar.

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41 TNA CO 894/12/6, Memorandum by the Coastal League, 7 Oct. 1961.

42 Gertzel, Politics of Independent Kenya, 10; Branch, D., Kenya: Between Hope and Despair, 1963–2011 (New Haven, CT, 2011)Google Scholar, 14–15 and 86–7; Ogot, ‘The decisive years’, 66; Lynch, I Say to You, 64.

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44 TNA CO 894/14/12, P. R. Spendlove, Note on the problem of the future of the Protectorate, 1 Nov. 1961.

45 TNA CO 822/2159/1, Statement by Mr. [Omar] Bassadiq, Coastal Strip Conference, 8 Mar. 1962.

46 KNA CQ 1/1/100a, G. M. Wilson, ‘Mombasa – a modern colonial municipality’, 1958; Salim, Swahili-Speaking Peoples. On migrant labor and administrative attempts to control workers, see Cooper, F., On the African Waterfront: Urban Disorder and the Transformation of Work in Colonial Mombasa (New Haven, CT, 1987)Google Scholar.

47 TNA CO 822/2151, Memorandum re constitutional position of the Protectorate of Kenya prepared by representatives of the Coast Arabs (ca. Apr. 1961).

48 TNA CO 822/2150/189, Press Office background paper, No. 2, The Coastal Strip, Feb. 1962.

49 TNA CO 894/12/57, Coast African Political Union, ‘Memorandum to the Commission of Enquiry to the Coastal Problem’, Oct. 1961; Stren, ‘Factional politics’, 40.

50 Kresse, K., Philosophising in Mombasa: Knowledge, Islam and Intellectual Practice on the Swahili Coast (Edinburgh, 2007), 185–6Google Scholar; Ndzovu, H. J., ‘Muslim relations in the politics of nationalism and secession in Kenya’, Program of African Studies Working Papers, No. 18, Northwestern University (Evanston, 2010)Google Scholar.

51 Interview with Abdilahi Nassir; TNA CO 822/2151/E2/4, An Open Letter.

52 TNA CO 894/10, Memorandum by the President of KADU on the Coastal Strip, 26 Oct. 1961; Aseka, E., Ronald Ngala (Nairobi, 1993), 89Google Scholar.

53 ‘Weekend activity over Coast autonomy’, Mombasa Times (Mombasa), 9 Oct. 1961.

54 In mid-1961, Colonial Secretary Ian MacLeod determined that the coastal strip was not a ‘viable administrative unit’. Brennan, ‘Lowering’, 849. See also Willis and Gona, ‘Pwani’, 11.

55 TNA CO 822/2149/8, Secretary of State, Draft for Preliminary Discussion with Governor: The Coastal Strip (n.d.).

56 TNA CO 894/10, Memorandum by the President of KADU on the Coastal Strip, 26 Oct. 1961; TNA CO 894/13/15, KANU Kwale Branch, Memorandum to Sir James Robertson strongly objecting autonomy for 10 miles strip, n.d. (ca. 1961).

57 TNA CO 894/12/57, Coast African Political Union, Memorandum to the Commission of Enquiry to the Coastal Problem, Oct. 1961; TNA CO 894/12/35, J. Jillo, et al., Memorandum to the Commissioner inquiring into the future of Kenya Protectorate (Coastal Strip) presented by the Pokomo Tribe (ca. Oct. 1961); Willis, J., ‘The king of the Mijikenda and other stories about the Kaya: heritage, politics, and histories in multiparty Kenya’, in Peterson, D. R. and Macola, G. (eds.), Recasting the Past: History Writing and Political Work in Modern Africa (Athens, OH, 2009), 233250Google Scholar.

58 TNA CO 894/12/51, Mwambao Objective Memorandum to Sir James Robertson, Wadigo Shimba Location, 18 Oct. 1961.

59 TNA CO 894/13/2, Independence for Mwambao 14 Dec., 3 June 1961, filed with Memorandum on Coastal Strip Autonomy, 20 Oct. 1961.

60 TNA CO 894/8, Note of a meeting between Sir James Robertson and a delegation from the Waa Location, 19 Oct. 1961.

Ibid.

62 TNA CO 894/12/19, KADU Coastal Region Branch, Memorandum on Coastal Strip and 1895 Treaty, 10 Oct. 1961.

63 TNA CO 894/11/7, Abdallah Chiraghdin, et al. to Sir James Robertson, 20 Oct. 1961.

64 TNA CO 894/12/61, Khashia Abubakar, et al., Memorandum on the Coastal Strip Enquiry submitted by the Jomvu Social Club, 15 Oct. 1961.

65 TNA CO 894/13/18, Tamim of Tisa Taifa, Memorandum presented to Sir James Robertson by members of the Nine Tribes, 20 Oct. 1961; KNA CA26/5, Shiekh Ali bin Mohamed bin Yunus to the Sultan of Zanzibar, 7 Oct. 1961.

66 TNA CO 894/13/17, President of the Afro-Asian Association, Memorandum of the Twelve Tribes to be presented to the Commissioner, 14 Oct. 1961.

67 TNA CO 894/11/7, Abdallah Chiraghdin, et al.

68 TNA CO 894/13/20, Ahmed Idha Salim, et al., Memorandum presented to Sir James Robertson, 19 Oct. 1961.

69 TNA CO 894/4, Note of the meeting between Sir James Robertson and Sheikh Salim Mohamed Muhashamy, 9 Oct. [1961].

70 TNA CO 894/12/6, Memorandum by the Coastal League, 7 Oct. 1961; Letters to the editor, Mombasa Times (Mombasa), 22 Sept. 1961.

71 TNA CO 822/2151/E2/3, ‘Some salient facts on the history of Mwambao’ (ca. Apr. 1961); TNA CO 822/2151/E2/2, Abdilahi Nasser to W.B. L. Monson, Asst. Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, 5 Apr. 1961.

72 TNA CO 822/2151/E2/4, An Open Letter; TNA CO 894/13/2, Maalim Omar Rashid Bakuli, Memorandum on Coastal Strip Autonomy, 20 Oct. 1961; TNA CO 894/11/6, Yayha Lali Omar to Commissioner of Inquiry, 21 Oct. 1961.

73 TNA CO 894/13/22, A. F. Janoo, Memorandum, 19 Oct. 1961.

74 Others relayed that up-country politicians openly discussed dismantling mosques. TNA CO 894/5, Note of a meeting held at Malindi, 13 Oct. 1961; TNA CO 894/5, Note of a meeting between Sir James Robertson and a delegation from the Kenya Protectorate Nationalist Party, 13 Oct. 1961.

75 TNA CO 894/13/8, Mwanawangu Mzee and Somoe Bausi, Memorandum on Coastal Strip submitted by Coast Peoples Party (Women's Wing), 20 Oct. 1961.

76 TNA CO 894/4, Note of a meeting between Sir James Robertson and Mr. J. Mbotela, 20 Oct. 1961.

77 Anderson, ‘Majimboism’, 29.

78 KNA District Commissioner (DC) Mombasa (MSA) 2/1/93, S.R. D. Msechu to the Publicity Committee of CPP, 27 Sept. 1961; TNA CO 894/7, Note of a meeting between Sir James Robertson and a KADU delegation (Kilifi), 14 Oct. 1961; Mombasa Times (Mombasa), 3 Oct. 1961; TNA CO 822/2158/4, Memorandum on the Coastal Strip submitted by the President of KADU to Sir James Robertson, 26 Oct. 1961.

79 TNA CO 894/4, Note of a meeting between Sir James Robertson and a delegation from the Coast African Political [Union], 16 Oct. 1961.

80 Mombasa Times (Mombasa), 3 June 1961.

81 ‘Coast not separate says Mr. Kenyatta’, East African Standard (Nairobi), 5 Oct. 1961. Former Legco member from the coast, Omar Bassadiq, recalled that during his first meeting with Jomo Kenyatta in 1961 the future president was convinced that settler designs were behind the separatist movement. Interview with Omar Bassadiq, Mombasa, 23 July 2008.

82 ‘Weekend activity over Coast autonomy’, Mombasa Times (Mombasa), 9 Oct. 1961.

83 ‘Commissioner condemns intimidation’, Mombasa Times (Mombasa), 11 Oct. 1961.

84 ‘Race tension mounts at Coast’, Daily Nation (Nairobi), 10 Oct. 1961.

85 TNA CO 894/4, Note of a meeting between Sir James Robertson and a delegation from the Coast People's Party, 20 Oct. 1961.

86 TNA CO 822/2151, A. J. Karisa to the Colonial Secretary, 30 Sept. 1962; TNA CO 822/3073, Memorandum of a meeting between CAPU, Coastal League, Shungwaya Freedom Party, and National Union of Northern Coast of Kenya and His Excellency, 16 Nov. 1962.

87 Robertson, J., The Kenya Coastal Strip; Report of the Commissioner, Sessional Paper No. 9 of 1961 (Nairobi, 1961)Google Scholar.

88 TNA CO 822/2159/4, Record of a second meeting, Kenya Coastal Strip Conference, 9 Mar. 1962; interview with Omar Bassadiq.

89 Lynch, I Say to You, 68–9; Ogot, ‘The decisive years’, 76.

90 TNA CO 822/2150/189, Press Office Background Paper, No. 2, The Coastal Strip, Feb. 1962.

91 TNA CO 822/3073, Coast KADU Delegation Memorandum to the Governor of Kenya, June 1963.

92 TNA CO 822/3073/E17(xix), Committee of the Coast United Front to Malcolm McDonald, 31 July 1963.

93 Kresse, K., ‘Muslim politics in postcolonial Kenya: negotiating knowledge on the double-periphery’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 15:1 (2009), 7694CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

94 Mazrui, A., Kayas of Deprivation, Kayas of Blood: Violence, Ethnicity, and the State in Coastal Kenya (Nairobi, 1997)Google Scholar; McIntosh, J., The Edge of Islam: Power, Personhood, and Ethnoreligious Boundaries on the Kenya Coast (Durham, NC, 2009), 61CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

95 Willis and Gona, ‘Pwani’.

14
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