Writing to a local newspaper in November 1954, Francis Gatheru explained his opposition to the Mau Mau rebellion. During the Emergency of 1952–60, loyalists such as Gatheru supported the colonial military campaign against fellow Gikuyu, Embu and Meru amongst Mau Mau's insurgents.Footnote 1 Gatheru understood his loyalism with reference to the oath promising to support Mau Mau that perhaps up to 90 per cent of the local population had taken.Footnote 2 Unlike missionaries, colonial officials and some Christian converts, Gatheru was not greatly concerned with the ritual aspects of oathing. He believed that it was neither force nor threat of supernatural punishment that compelled most to pledge their support to the insurgents, although both were troubling for many initiates.Footnote 3 Instead it was the Mau Mau's promise to deliver ‘freedom, land and every good thing we wished to have’ that won it the popular support of a deeply divided society. ‘By that’, Gatheru wrote, ‘and that only, very many people were oathed voluntarily’.Footnote 4 Mau Mau promised ‘ithaka na wiathi’, literally translated as ‘land and freedom’, but better understood as ‘self-mastery through land’.Footnote 5 With that battle cry, radical politicians had mobilized a large cross-section of the population by late 1952.
Over the following four years of armed struggle, more than 90 per cent of the 13,000 officially acknowledged casualties of the anti-colonial and internecine violence were Gikuyu, Embu or Meru. Most were killed by their fellow inhabitants of Kenya's central highlands.Footnote 6 By November 1954, Mau Mau appeared to Gatheru unable to deliver self-mastery. ‘Look at the results of the oath’, he implored, ‘Surely it is contrary to what we expected’. Mau Mau's foot-soldiers in the mountain forests were on the defensive, the population of much of Central Province forced into fortified villages, and tens of thousands of the insurgency's real or imagined sympathizers detained. In contrast, loyalists were able to continue their lives, expand their landholdings and grow cash-crops. For Gatheru, the choice between Mau Mau and loyalism appeared simple. ‘If we are getting the opposite of what Mau Mau promised us when we were taking the oath, why then’, he rhetorically enquired, ‘shouldn't we do the contrary of what we promised?’ He continued, ‘If we were to give them help of all kinds, it should now mean that we must give them all kinds of hardships and give them nothing like assistance’. ‘Surely’, Gatheru concluded, ‘we are not to get anywhere by prolonging the situation’.Footnote 7
Many Gikuyu, Embu and Meru came to share Gatheru's opinion. At one time or another during the Emergency, most were both Mau Mau and loyalist, sometimes even simultaneously in response to the changing balance of power in localities. For that same reason, greater numbers of loyalists emerged as the tide of the conflict turned against Mau Mau from late 1954 onwards. Many certainly had little choice in the matter. Press-ganging was far from unknown. The authorities in some locations forced known supporters of Mau Mau into the loyalist Home Guard in order to keep them under observation.Footnote 8 In Kangema, Fort Hall district, up to 30 per cent of the Home Guard was compulsorily enlisted. Conscripts became ‘so thoroughly implicated’ with the government that leaving the Home Guard was not a practicable option.Footnote 9 For others, revenge was a decisive factor. Kariuki Kiruma joined the Home Guard in Ihururu, Nyeri after his brother was killed by Mau Mau.Footnote 10 Others were discomforted by the radical militancy of the insurgents. Elisha Munene Mweya, a senior member of the Kenyan African Union (KAU) in Embu, became a loyalist after becoming uncomfortable with ‘the nasty words and leadership which were performed by the group which came from Nairobi and reached Kyeni Location’.Footnote 11 Religious faith could be a significant factor. Jeremiah Nyagah, a devout Christian, wrote he ‘would rather die than take the oath’.Footnote 12 The reasons why individuals became loyalists were, as in any civil war, varied. Undoubtedly, the morass of petty quarrels and disputes within households and between neighbours that typify the local contexts of so many conflicts were important in determining allegiances.Footnote 13
Whatever motivations lay behind the decision to resist, collaborate or steer a course though the middle, little room for agency actually existed. Regardless of the often temporary nature of the decision, it was understood in the terminology of moral ethnicity. The desire for self-mastery was placed at the centre of deliberations.Footnote 14 Loyalists condemned the rebellion's supporters for their apparent refusal to labour virtuously and their failure to obtain land, freedom or self-mastery. Mau Mau came to be portrayed by loyalists as criminal delinquents. The attribution of loyalism, a term rooted in British imperial history but nevertheless widely adopted by those to whom it was applied in Kenya, is therefore somewhat misleading.Footnote 15 Opposition to Mau Mau was not solely imposed by colonial masters, but also an intellectual position embedded in local culture and social relations. Much of the debate produced by the recent publication of works by Anderson and Elkins has focused on the conflict between the many branches of the colonial regime and the insurgents. It seems timely to reiterate that the Mau Mau war was no simple dispute between colonizer and colonized.
The use of self-mastery to inform and understand choices between loyalism and Mau Mau did not produce irreversible allegiances or two fixed and distinct identities.Footnote 16 Instead, resistance and collaboration shared common intellectual origins and idioms. As elsewhere, ‘One should perhaps think of a spectrum with collaboration at one end and resistance at the other and most responses falling somewhere in between’.Footnote 17 The population oscillated between loyalism and Mau Mau, understanding both in the terms of moral ethnicity, the ‘contested process of defining cultural identity, communal membership and leadership’.Footnote 18 Moral ethnicity, a heavily gendered concept, entwined macro- and micro-concepts of power. The debates surrounding Mau Mau and loyalism centred upon the household in order to uphold male claims to speak with authority in the arena of political debate. Domestic wealth empowered and poverty silenced.Footnote 19 The household was the location for measuring virtue through assessments of the ability of men to harness the productive power of the household in order to beget wealth.Footnote 20
From at least the end of the nineteenth century, profitable control of the homestead demonstrated the moral authority required to speak in public on matters of political importance.Footnote 21 Those who had achieved this authority were considered to demonstrate self-mastery, best understood as ‘the moral maturity of working for oneself’.Footnote 22 Self-mastery allowed for the ownership of land, the employment of labour, marriage and procession through various social strata to elderhood. Responsible elders were thought to practise self-mastery. Their virtue, and thereby right to lead political action, was to be visible in their honourable relations with their clients, particularly landless clan members given access to the clan's land in return for labour. Hard work on this land proved manhood and set the landless on the path towards self-mastery. Tenure of land was earned at an undefined point in the future by labour, and in turn would bring wealth, elderhood and self-mastery.Footnote 23 This was, however, no model for a meritocratic Merrie Africa. Moral ethnicity in Kenya's central highlands, as elsewhere, oiled the machinery of patronage and sustained the domination of society by ‘big men’.Footnote 24
By the late 1930s, the unequal network of reciprocity that linked patron with client had been broken.Footnote 25 Dissent was provoked by land shortages, widely attributed to the alienation of land by European settlers, which elite-dominated political action failed to reverse. Weakened by this defeat and their support for controversial attempts to ban clitoridectomy, some patrons' political legitimacy was further undermined by their attempts to reform land tenure within the Native Reserve. Faced with a rising population and decreasing soil productivity, many senior clan members evicted their landless tenants in order to maximize their own returns from the increasingly scarce and valuable resource. Gikuyu, Embu and Meru society was doubly cursed by its patrons, who had long been co-opted into the structures of colonial rule.Footnote 26 Collaborative networks of patronage connected rural households to the regime in Nairobi, via headmen, chiefs and the Provincial Administration. Material gain, and increasingly survival, was dependent upon inclusion within these matrices of clientage.Footnote 27 As chiefs and members of local councils, the elite supported and enforced the controversial soil conservation and animal husbandry measures implemented after the Second World War. Such policies promised to benefit the landed elite, but were reliant on the forced labour of a discontented general population and the cooperation of local agents in forcibly gaining the acquiescence of the Reserves.
As agents of the colonial state and as patrons, the elite consistently demonstrated the tyranny of wealth rather than its virtue. They thus abdicated their monopoly on leadership. Evicted tenants in the Native Reserves and those who could foresee that fate befalling them no longer felt constrained by the demands for honourable labour and political silence. They were united by the fear and lived experience of poverty, which distinguished them from the clan elders. The landless found further allies amongst the urban radicals and squatters evicted from the European farms, both groups which had long felt abandoned by the rural patriarchs. This axis challenged the elite's political hegemony, but its constituents remained poor and therefore unable to stake a claim to virtuous leadership. Although by no means the first such challenge,Footnote 28 the insurgency represented the ‘repudiation of clientage’ by a society that felt ‘betrayed by their patrons, white and black’.Footnote 29 Driven by ‘a shared sense of generational destiny,’Footnote 30 the rebels appealed to age-set loyalties that denounced the power of elites institutionalized within vertically structured and elite led clans.Footnote 31 Kenyatta's moderate plea to the loyalty of age-grades in oaths launched in 1947 fell on fertile ground, but was quickly overtaken by that of the Anake a Forti (the Forty Group).Footnote 32 The members of the latter, ostensibly made up of those initiated in 1940 but in truth encompassing a far greater variety of individuals, became a motor for the radicalization of politics.Footnote 33 Many within Mau Mau saw themselves as the Irungu generation, the straighteners, who would overthrow the corrupt incumbent generation of patrons and usurp European power.Footnote 34
By the 1950s, the case for armed resistance to colonial rule was compelling. Mau Mau emerged from significant socioeconomic and political discontent, which connected the desperate poverty of the squatters on European farms in the White Highlands with the urban unemployed and landless residents of the Native Reserves. Local elites, co-opted by the colonial regime to serve as chiefs and headmen, were implicated in some of the most controversial aspects of colonial rule, adding to the readily apparent social conflicts.Footnote 35 However, despite the long history of division, the proffering of ‘allegedly opposed and unarguable social categories’ as ‘determinations of action’ during the Mau Mau war is mistaken.Footnote 36 Informants from both sides of the conflict in Nyeri and in Meru were unwilling to distinguish loyalists from Mau Mau in terms of wealth or seniority, suggesting temporary allegiances cut across the cleavages of gender, age and class.Footnote 37 Correspondence produced by loyalists and discussed later in this paper came from a wide variety of authors: men and women, elders and schoolchildren, and landowners and traders. But loyalism was not just restricted to the literate. Kershaw's analysis of members of one unit of the loyalist paramilitary Home Guards found them to be generally between 26 and 40 years of age, poorly educated and subsistence or peasant farmers.Footnote 38 As the concern with resettling landless loyalists in the aftermath of the conflict discussed below demonstrates, the ranks of loyalism contained thousands of the poor and illiterate.
LOYALISM, MAU MAU, SELF-MASTERY AND PATRONAGE
The crude assumptions of social differences between Mau Mau and loyalists reflect the neglect of loyalists within Mau Mau's vast historiography. Based on very little primary evidence and derision of nationalists and former Mau Mau activists,Footnote 39 loyalists are all too frequently depicted as a few, wealthy Christian individuals acting in the service of colonial masters and pursuing narrowly defined self-interests.Footnote 40 Such an argument appears intuitive. The few studies of loyalism suggest a correlation between loyalism and membership of elites and the mission churches.Footnote 41 As a consequence of their co-option into the colonial state by missionaries and administrators, members of the Christian elite had a monopoly over the public expressions of loyalty, thus creating the impression that they constituted a sizeable majority of loyalists. This interpretation further appeared to confirm what scholars could observe in postcolonial Kenya. Elite loyalists retained a dominant position in local areas long after Mau Mau. Their hegemony, logic suggested, could be extrapolated back into the past. This paper will make a different argument.
Many Gikuyu, Embu and Meru were pushed towards Mau Mau by exclusion from the means of achieving self-mastery within the colonial political economy by settler farmers, colonial administrators and land-hungry patrons. That choice first entailed a rejection of the leadership of many patrons, particularly the chiefs who, as one vernacular newspaper article argued in January 1948, ‘should know that to be respected through fear is not as good as respect through love’.Footnote 42 However, dissidents intended, at least initially, that protest should remain disciplined and led by ‘educated Africans’.Footnote 43 Even after Mau Mau's fighters had taken to the forests, they sang ‘We don't want war we want justice’.Footnote 44 Unity was considered, in a pamphlet published in April 1952, ‘as the foremost requirement if we are to achieve our ultimate goals; without unity we can do little’.Footnote 45 ‘Africans have no weapons’, the newspaper Mumenyereri observed, ‘but their weapon is to speak the truth and to be honest’.Footnote 46 For this reason, education was considered particularly important to political activists. They were greatly proud of the independent schools system that had spread across Central Province from the 1930s.Footnote 47 In Mumenyereri it was argued that ‘There is no other way of progress except education in order that slavery may be abolished’.Footnote 48 In both the independent churches attached to the schools and those of the European missions, many Christians came to believe that to be oathed was a religious duty.Footnote 49
The politics of protest became radicalized, a trend given impetus by some of those returning from service in the armed forces during the Second World War. After serving overseas ‘We could no longer accept the belief that a mzungu (European) was better than an African’.Footnote 50 Their domestic opponents could scarcely ignore the ferocity of the discontent exhibited by some of the former servicemen. Chief Stanley Kiama traced the origins of the rebellion to the moment ‘when the young people who were serving in the army came back to the reserve’.Footnote 51 The growth of militancy led by Kaggia and others required the sacrifice by Mau Mau's supporters of their desire for immediate wiathi in the hope successive generations would enjoy that privilege: ‘We fought for independence with the intention of bequeathing it to our children’.Footnote 52 The criminality that Mau Mau unquestionably and increasingly relied upon for survival could not beget self-mastery, as the gains of violent and criminal acts were dishonourable.Footnote 53 Jomo Kenyatta told a Kenya African Union meeting in May 1948 that ‘we cannot progress if we are criminals and unwilling to work hard’.Footnote 54 Only honourable, honest labour would lead to self-mastery: ‘For work is actions which are said to speak louder than words. It follows, hard work, knowledge and dissemination of knowledge, unity, love for one another are all the ways which point towards victory for our people’.Footnote 55
By pursuing what were seen as selfish goals, rather than working hard in concert with the rest of society, loyalists were accused at first of betraying their brothers and sisters. ‘Unity is strength and is unbreakable’, Mau Mau supporters sang, ‘Where will all the stooges go? They will remain slaves for ever. Do you know the fruits of unity? We shall get freedom and our property’.Footnote 56 At first, Mau Mau supporters brushed off loyalist taunts by playfully adopting the label of ‘uncircumcized boys’ given to them.Footnote 57 Indeed, in Laikipia, Mau Mau supporters made the same accusation of loyalists with greater potency.Footnote 58 Loyalists were until mid-1954 isolated, often unrewarded and compromised by their connections to the colonial regime. Loyalists' jibes aimed at Mau Mau sympathizers carried no moral authority and their adoption of the nomenclature of junior elderhood, kamatimu, appeared ridiculous. Dismissed as boys, loyalists were thought unqualified to lead political activity. Mau Mau wreaked their vengeance on patrons who acquiesced to land alienation by white farmers and the disenfranchizement of the evicted tenants.Footnote 59 They protested that loyalists had destroyed the households of many in Central Province. One Mau Mau song told loyalists that ‘When a Kikuyu baby cries you tell it to stop because it's father's in Manyani (detention camp) and the mother's in Kamiti (prison)’.Footnote 60 However, as the war progressed many became aware that loyalism offered a more realistic path towards self-mastery than that of Mau Mau. Sam Thebere, a Mau Mau forest fighter, once described his motives for joining the insurgency as the desire ‘to regain stolen lands and to become an adult’.Footnote 61 Few loyalists understood their political goals and private aspirations in any appreciably different manner once they became convinced of the merit of collaboration. Where loyalists differed from their rivals amongst the insurgents was in their belief that their interests were best protected, for the short term at least, within the confines of a patron–client relationship.
LOYALISM IN THE FIRST PHASE OF THE WAR
At first, few responded to the appeal of Harry ThukuFootnote 62 to join him ‘in denouncing Mau Mau with all our might’.Footnote 63 The Mau Mau insurgency morphed into civil war only because the conflict was forced upon the people of Central Kenya. With security forces stretched thinly across the region and the loyalist auxiliary Home Guard poorly organized,Footnote 64 protection from Mau Mau was in short supply for its opponents. By refusing to be oathed for religious reasons, Christians posed the first threat to Mau Mau's demand for silence.Footnote 65 Some paid for their dissent with their lives. While members of the Home Guard, headmen and chiefs made up the bulk of the loyalist casualties of the war, it should also be remembered that amongst the hundreds of Mau Mau's African victims were elders, agricultural instructors, nuns, schoolchildren, preachers, teachers and tax clerks.Footnote 66 Fear of being declared a loyalist drove many to take oaths in order to protect themselves.Footnote 67 Mau Mau did not solely resort to terror to build support. Its appeal to widespread grievances, especially the desire to expand access to land, made Mau Mau a popular cause while there was no viable alternative. Moreover, the use of violence and Mau Mau's initial relative strength allowed it to gain the begrudging endorsement of waverers when they were forced to choose.Footnote 68
Despite public pronouncements of support for the government, many loyalists provided covert assistance for Mau Mau units.Footnote 69 ‘It is’, one colonial official conceded, ‘very hard to say who is a loyal Kikuyu’.Footnote 70 Such practices later became less common. Repatriation to Central Province of large numbers of disaffected labourers from Nairobi and the White Highlands, a growth in the strength of the security forces, and the course of events in the war in the forest meant such practices steadily became less common. The repatriation to Central Province of society's most radical elements was an attempt to constrain the geographical spread of the rebellion. However, within the Reserves this process provided a groundswell of further embittered recruits for the Mau Mau units.Footnote 71 The military effects of the moves were negated to a certain degree by a concurrent significant increase in the numbers of security forces operating in the Reserves, particularly the loyalist Home Guard. By threatening the supply of recruits, funds and provisions to Mau Mau at source, loyalists became the main target of the rebels.Footnote 72 Between April and August 1953, particularly in Fort Hall, the insurgents made a concerted effort to destroy the embryonic Home Guard.Footnote 73 However, the security forces steadily regained the initiative.
From the end of 1953, Mau Mau's guerrillas were slowly forced away from their preferred bases close to their home areas, which had plentiful access to food, intelligence and reinforcements.Footnote 74 As they became dislocated from their constituency, Mau Mau fighters chose to become more predatory in order to survive. The constraints on violence intrinsic to a conflict between neighbours and siblings were destroyed.Footnote 75 Furthermore, the heat of battle evaporated some of the ambiguities of the earlier period. A Mau Mau activist captured in March 1954 told his interrogators that ‘the war between the gangsters and the Homeguard will never end, as the Homeguards were the main enemies and not the Europeans’.Footnote 76 In return, from early 1954 onwards Mau Mau's foot-soldiers stood accused by loyalists of endangering the self-mastery of themselves and others. ‘There is plenty of work to be done but the workers are few,’ James Nyaga wrote: ‘Are you one of those who have reduced the number of the workers? Let me repeat again that if you have no work the devil has plenty of work to give you – Terrorism!’Footnote 77 For all Mau Mau's shortcomings, at this stage of the war loyalism offered no viable alternative for those seeking self-mastery. The government promised loyalists that they would form the foundation’ on which the government would ‘seek to build during the reconstruction period’.Footnote 78 But these pledges remained vague and formal rewards minimal during the initial stages of the war. Service in the Home Guard was unpaidFootnote 79 and fear of Mau Mau attack meant it was unsafe for loyalists to cultivate their landholdings in certain areas.Footnote 80 A package of increased rewards for Home Guards, including better rations, exemption from a Sh.20 Special Tax levied on Central Province to pay for the Emergency, and payment of school fees for loyalist children, was announced in December 1953.Footnote 81 Yet the combined benefits of membership of the Home Guard totalled just Sh.15 per month per full-time member of the force.Footnote 82 Even the repatriates from the Rift Valley could, if only in theory, earn Sh.30 per month in Fort Hall from their employment in labour gangs.Footnote 83 Mau Mau supporters in Nyeri scorned the Home Guards: ‘You work for nothing’.Footnote 84 This attitude was soon to change and with it the nature of loyalism.
WINNING THE WAR
In June 1954, a captured Mau Mau fighter told his police interrogators that, despite having been oathed, many people now saw loyalism ‘as a better way of achieving the objects of Mau Mau. They think that, after the Emergency, they will be able to persuade the Government to give them land in return for their services’.Footnote 85 While the moment at which a shift in sentiments became apparent differed from place to place, loyalism began in mid- and late 1954 to emerge as a more likely path to land, freedom and self-mastery than Mau Mau. Anti-Mau Mau action steadily became more popular.Footnote 86 Increased rewards made loyalism a political and economic investment. Furthermore, successful execution of a series of military operations provided loyalists with the security to oppose Mau Mau openly. Most significant of these was Operation Anvil, a mass screening and detention exercise carried out in Nairobi. The city remained one of the sources of Mau Mau's radicalism until 24 April 1954,Footnote 87 when a security cordon was thrown around it for a month. Nairobi's Gikuyu, Embu and Meru populations, approximately 50,000 strong, were systematically screened; 24,100 were detained and a further 6,150 repatriated to Central Province.Footnote 88 Assistance for the rebellion evaporated and the Home Guard in Nairobi enthusiastically translated their newfound power into ill-gotten material gains.Footnote 89
With their supply lines from Nairobi cut, Mau Mau supporters in Central Province found themselves isolated from one another and the general population. In October 1954, Chief Joshua Gacingiri of Kirimukuyu, Nyeri, wrote to the District Commissioner with his reflections upon his first year in office. At the time of his appointment ‘the majority of the population was far more intimidated by the large number of terrorists’, which could move ‘with very little and unsuccessful interference’. A year later, ‘the population in my location has begun to grow tired of helping and sheltering the Mau Mau’.Footnote 90 While 1,252 loyalists were thought to have lost their lives in the first two years of the Emergency, for the two years from October 1956 just 352 loyalists were believed killed by Mau Mau.Footnote 91 The process known as villagization, the centralization of the previously dispersed population into newly constructed villages, certainly improved the security of loyalists.Footnote 92 The villages, clustered around Home Guard posts, became the sites of widespread abuse of an effectively captive population. Home Guard misdemeanours included murder,Footnote 93 cattle rustling,Footnote 94 the theft and destruction of livestockFootnote 95 and property of those suspected of Mau Mau sympathiesFootnote 96 and the abduction of women.Footnote 97 Rape and sexual abuses committed by Home Guards and other members of the security forces were widespread,Footnote 98 and atrocities during interrogations were commonplace.Footnote 99 Ultimately, the extent of ill-discipline led to the disbandment of the official Home Guard and its replacement by a better-supervised Tribal Police force at the beginning of 1955.Footnote 100 However, the brutal nature of village life made continued support for the forest fighters difficult for all but the most committed.Footnote 101
Addressing the Home Guard of Fort Hall immediately prior to its transformation in early January 1955, Governor Baring announced that ‘You have earned the right to lead your people and you will be given privileges before those who failed to take an active part in the fight’.Footnote 102 Loyalists were not slow to claim their prize. They requested employment in the Tribal Police and Provincial Administration.Footnote 103 They asked for forestry, liquor, livestock trading and transport licences.Footnote 104 Communal labour was used to terrace loyalists' land.Footnote 105 Coffee licences were restricted to those who had not taken oaths.Footnote 106 Local councils created loyalist welfare funds from Emergency finesFootnote 107 and central government provided compensation for widows of Home Guards killed in action.Footnote 108 Famine relief was channelled through loyalists' shopsFootnote 109 and loyalist trading centres sprang up at the centre of the newly constructed villages.Footnote 110 In Embu, the Administration financed loyalist trading companies, a model farm and an agricultural training centre for the children of loyalists.Footnote 111
Throughout the Emergency, tenants on local-council-owned land who were suspected of supporting Mau Mau were evicted in favour of loyalists.Footnote 112 The Administration would be able to give greatest rewards to its most loyal allies during land consolidation, introduced as part of wider attempts to intensify African agricultural production but exploited as a counter-insurgency tool.Footnote 113 The necessity for the identification and measurement of existing dispersed and fragmented land holdings, the allocation of consolidated acreage, and the issue of private land titles provided opportunities for the punishment of Mau Mau sympathizers and rewarding of loyalists. This was achieved by allowing loyalists procedural control of the process.Footnote 114 In Fort Hall, where consolidation was most perverted by the context of the war, it was hoped by figures within the Provincial Administration that their allies should have ‘little difficulty in re-allocating land so as to benefit themselves and their fellow loyalists’.Footnote 115 Widespread and popular grievances born from consolidation quickly emerged,Footnote 116 and would last long into the postcolonial period.
Once set upon the path of the modernization of Central Kenya as a response to Mau Mau, the Provincial Administration heavily favoured landless loyalists during economic and social reconstruction, particularly through labour recruitment.Footnote 117 One district officer in Kiambu acted as a loyalist recruitment agency by maintaining registers of Home Guards for European employers wanting ‘the most trustworthy people you can get’.Footnote 118 With Tribal Police, screeners, Home Guards, chiefs, drivers, court elders and clerical staff on its payroll, the Provincial Administration was a significant employer of loyalist labour.Footnote 119 As the Forestry Department sought to restart timber operations abandoned earlier in the Emergency, loyalists were prioritized for resettlement in villages constructed in forest areas.Footnote 120 They were appointed to oversee the ex-detainee labour force on new rice-growing schemes at Mwea and Tebere.Footnote 121 Loyalists, including women, were urged to make good the shortfall in labour in the aftermath of the repatriations of squatters, mass detentions and Operation Anvil.Footnote 122 Large-scale resettlements of loyalist labour to the European farms in the Rift Valley took place throughout 1955 and 1956.Footnote 123 Within Central Province, movement restrictions were relaxed for loyalists earlier than for the rest of the population, thus enabling freer movement in search of work.Footnote 124 In contrast, many ex-detainees had restriction orders placed upon them by local loyalist screening committees at the time of their release, which made them unable to leave their home locations to seek work.Footnote 125 Beginning in 1955, loyalists took to the roads to the White Highlands and Nairobi in the search for work and the anonymity of new lives.Footnote 126 By 1959, the majority of loyalists in Nyeri had found work outside of the district.Footnote 127 They left behind those who had a reason to stay and gains to protect: a loyalist rump of landowners, chiefs and district officers, who, in the popular memory of the war that solidified as the detainees returned home in the late 1950s,Footnote 128 came to assume the role of all loyalists. Out of sight and mind, the landless and poor loyalists were quickly forgotten.
As the security of loyalists and potential benefits of collaboration improved, condemnations of Mau Mau became more commonplace. Many of those who publicly denounced the rebellion from 1954 onwards had been previously sympathetic to the cause of the insurgents, whom they now held to account for failing to deliver on their promises. This the loyalists did in letters sent to district newspapers established by the government. The letters, available now in translations sent for information to central government in Nairobi, consistently argued that the political, economic and moral debts of the rebellion could not be offset by any visible profit. Although reproduced for propaganda purposes, the letters are valid and important historical sources. The letters cited here are all attributable to individuals, some of whom can be cross-referenced with other qualitative evidence. Although far from infallible and unquestionably privileging the literate, collectively the letters and articles are the only contemporary sources in which we find loyalists explaining in their own words, albeit translated, the reasons for their opposition to Mau Mau. While the letters touch upon the themes of the propaganda campaign conducted by the colonial regime, they do so in a far more complex manner than does the presentation within official propaganda of the division between the two warring sides as a simplistic dichotomy between progress and backwardness.Footnote 129 The letters instead reveal loyalism to have been constructed upon similar intellectual pillars – such as self-mastery, modernity and respectability – to those which had been deployed earlier in the decade to justify support of Mau Mau. Whether self-justification, public pleas for understanding or rigorous internal examination of motivations, the letters' echoing of the metaphors and idioms found in the pre-Emergency pamphlets and vernacular newspapers, discussed above, indicate that the criticisms of Mau Mau were rooted in the same intellectual debates that spawned the rebellion.
Many loyalists used the rhetoric of Christianity to condemn the rebellion. Loyalists, Maina Kinaichu told his readers, ‘are the light of your future country. They are the people who could give light to the people who are in the Mau Mau darkness’.Footnote 130 James Mbogo Mwangi wrote of Mau Mau that ‘As a result of refusing to obey God's commandments these people could have no good in themselves and nothing good could be produced by them’.Footnote 131 Lessons absorbed from the pews of mission churches were put to use to explain the often un-Christian response to Mau Mau. Samuel Mugo wrote in June 1954: ‘We read in [the] Holy Bible that what you put in seed the same you will harvest. Now, Mau Mau have planted death in the country and now the time has come for them to harvest what they have planted and that is death’.Footnote 132 Few Christian loyalists were pacifists. Even many of those who refused to carry weapons or to join the Home Guard saw no problem in the use of extreme force to crush the insurgency. The future politician, Jeremiah Nyagah, wrote in October 1954: ‘The terrorists have to and must be defeated with their own weapon – force’.Footnote 133
Some of those most closely acquainted with the military force of the colonial regime were convinced of the hopelessness of the Mau Mau's position. Justus Njoroge Wanyaga, a veteran of the Burma campaign during the Second World War, joined the Home Guard in the Rift Valley as he was ‘determined to help again with Her Majesty's Government in Kenya’.Footnote 134 However, most ex-servicemen within the loyalist ranks in the 1950s appear to have been motivated more by the futility of Mau Mau's violence in the face of the armed forces of a mighty empire than by any lingering loyalty to the Crown. Memories of the destructive power of the British armed forces left indelible memories on those who had witnessed it. Maina Kinaichu wrote: ‘How can they [Mau Mau] win this war? Did you not see the war of the British and the Japanese, Italian, and the Germans? What are you compared to all that?’Footnote 135 Ex-soldiers could become loyalists as well as rebels. Their concerns about an overwhelming colonial military response merged into a much deeper strand of memory. Senior elders could easily recall the violent suppression of earlier Gikuyu mass protest movements, such as that led by Harry Thuku, and the colonial conquest.Footnote 136
Other loyalists saw Mau Mau violence not just as futile, but as evidence of the indolence of the insurgents, who were accused of attempting to take by force what they did not have the energy or patience to acquire through hard work. Mau Mau supporters ‘left the other people working for the progress of their country and took the Mau Mau oath because of their laziness and selfishness and went to live in the forests like wild animals’.Footnote 137 Loyalist criticisms of Mau Mau returned again and again to the question of labour. As a Home Guard from Riakiania observed, Mau Mau caused ‘other people to be punished and do hard work without gain’.Footnote 138 The congregation of the Chogoria Presbyterian church sang, ‘Work, for the night is coming’.Footnote 139 The discipline demonstrated by the creation of wealth by one's own labour remained the ultimate measure of virtue. Deshon Waweru wrote that Mau Mau supporters ‘use force as they please and at the same time eat and spend what they have not worked for. What sort of goodness can we expect from such?’Footnote 140 As Leonard Njeru, of the Keboria Intermediate School in Embu, wrote, ‘the outcome of laziness is theft’.Footnote 141 Young ‘Cowboys’ were held responsible by Benjamin Njue M'Chandi for the growth of Mau Mau. They had, he claimed,
ignored working to earn their own living and who later when they became poor and with nothing whatsoever, cunningly and cleverly found this Mau Mau movement through which they could get everything they required for their own living, by deceiving other people that if they help them with money, food etc. they will expel all Europeans out of this country, and thereby acquire for them the nicest thing – self-government.Footnote 142
Mau Mau's youthful ill-discipline was a common complaint of loyalists. Chief Muhoya bid Mau Mau to ‘Go back to your ordinary life of obedience to your parents’.Footnote 143 Muhoya's fellow chief, Stanley Kiama, bemoaned that with Mau Mau ‘young people started to ignore their parents’ advice’ and ‘got into the filthy things’.Footnote 144 It was the ‘children and boys wandering about in the markets and Towns in this district without doing any work’ who, according to Bernard Ngari Harrison of the Kegonge School in Embu, formed ‘terrorist gangs’ and ‘deceived others to enter the forest’.Footnote 145 Loyalists' condemnations of the insurgents' youthfulness were a response to the challenge that Mau Mau posed to ‘all aspects of birth, life, and death’,Footnote 146 and the political and social consequences of this dissent. Maina Kinaichu asked Mau Mau activists:
How do you think people can live harmoniously without a leader? Your policy is to kill all the leaders; how then shall we manage the life? There is a Kikuyu saying and it is worth while quoting it here that a family without a father or a mother takes long to develop.Footnote 147
The authority to lead was to be earned by the virtuous masters of domestic space, because ‘if you follow deceitful leadership, you will fall into the pit of destruction’.Footnote 148 The insurgents were condemned for their poverty by one headman: ‘My friends, Mau Mau terrorists are after no good, they are poor people and as you can see so far from their actions, they will in no way defeat the Government’.Footnote 149 Mau Mau supporters were belittled by loyalists as impoverished criminal delinquents and so, it was believed, morally ill-equipped to lead political action or participate in debate: ‘When you kill your fellow men because of foolishness, I tell you that you are far from becoming a leader of any sort’.Footnote 150
Mau Mau stood accused of destroying the political unity and social cohesion that many considered essential for development. Despite the troubles of the 1950s, Nancy Njarua believed ‘one thing we must not drop is the progress. This we must carry on in spite [of] the emergency’.Footnote 151 Mau Mau's forest fighters were frequently derided by loyalists as ‘wild animals’ and in particular as ‘hyenas’.Footnote 152 Allegories were used to condemn those who shirked the labour required to gain wealth and virtue, apparently preferring instead to steal and scavenge.Footnote 153 In contrast, loyalism was identified as the only way ‘to help in the growth of our country and our tribe’.Footnote 154 Loyalists complained that Mau Mau was hindering progress. One wrote that Mau Mau ‘made our country go back into darkness’.Footnote 155 Another urged the people to think only of ‘ways which would raise our standard of living abandoning what would keep us behind’.Footnote 156
Loyalist women enunciated their opposition to Mau Mau through the domestic modernity preached by the Maendeleo ya Wanawake (Women's Progress).Footnote 157 First established in 1952, the government's Maendeleo ya Wanawake established local clubs across Kenya. By 1954 there were 508 clubs, over half in Central Province and Nairobi, in which African women were taught domestic science as conceived by European community development workers. Building on pre-Emergency notions of social welfare, the clubs were adapted to become a counter to Mau Mau.Footnote 158 In Central Province, ‘no woman shall be a member of a Maendeleo Club unless she has foresworn Mau Mau’.Footnote 159 Mary Muthanji, an employee of the Community Development department, established a branch at Kirigi village in Embu with the support of the local district officer and loyalist elite. ‘In this club’, Muthanji wrote, ‘I teach women general cleanliness, children welfare and laundry. I also teach them some gardening work, because as you know Kenya is a farming country’. However, ‘all work and no play make Jack a dull boy’, and sport played a prominent part of the group's activities.Footnote 160 Hygiene, an issue of critical importance in the Emergency villages, formed a major part of the message of the Maendeleo ya Wanawake. On 7 June 1955, the Gitumbi club ‘went round the whole village and collected all youths and bathed them, cut their hair, took their jiggers off and washed their clothes’.Footnote 161
Juliana Muthoni joined her branch of the group in 1953 ‘because I missed any chance to get any education when I was a girl’. She compared her membership of the Maendeleo ya Wanawake, where ‘I have benefited much’, with Mau Mau, ‘which will bring you no good rather than to destroy anything which could help your children in future’.Footnote 162 Through the Maendeleo ya Wanawake women opposed to Mau Mau also explained their stance with reference to the insurgents’ presumed anti-progressive agenda and as an expression of their gendered experience of the conflict. With many men fighting or detained, villages were dominated by women and children. In Kabare village in Embu, of the 1,360 inhabitants in 1956 just 176 were men.Footnote 163 While many women resisted male coercion, as described by Thomas for example, increasingly from 1954 women impelled Mau Mau fighters to surrender.Footnote 164 They were no longer able to make the sacrifices necessary to support themselves, their families and a losing guerrilla army.Footnote 165 Nancy Njarua pleaded to her fellow Gikuyu women: ‘To save your life and save your children's lives you should try in whichever way possible to see that the few remaining gangsters have surrendered’.Footnote 166 While self-mastery was an expression of male dominance of the household, its meaning was debated by women too.
In the 1940s, landlessness ‘compelled husbands and wives to argue about masculinity and marriage in a context where men could not be good husbands’.Footnote 167 In the midst of war, the conditions for this argument were multiplied many times over. With land confiscations commonplace, detention widespread and the level of bride-price rising significantly, women's loyalism was in part a condemnation of the failure of men to be husbands.Footnote 168 Those who turned to the Maendeleo ya Wanawake used its brand of modernity to consolidate control of households. Whether the product of widowhood, orphanhood or a sense of abandonment derived from the death and detention of men, during the Emergency, Gikuyu, Embu and Meru women acquired what Heyer terms ‘an independence and self-sufficiency’.Footnote 169
Both male and female loyalists accused Mau Mau of pursuing an anti-education agenda, thought to be primarily demonstrated by an arson campaign against mission schools.Footnote 170 During the twelve months from June 1953, 67 schools were torched in Embu alone.Footnote 171 In the short term, these attacks were no doubt in response to the loyalist activities of teachers and parents, and attempts to procure the materials necessary for the construction of the impressive counter-state established in the forests.Footnote 172 However, such actions were the product of longer-standing grievances against the preference given to mission schools at the expense of independent Gikuyu schools in the pre-Emergency period.Footnote 173 The attacks did not represent Mau Mau opposition to education per se. Whatever the cause, the arson campaign did much to solidify support for loyalism. Progress was widely seen as dependent on the growth of education. In the words of one Nyeri loyalist, ‘in the true education lies the chief hope of [the] African race and it is the key to the welfare and happiness of the people’.Footnote 174 ‘In order that a country may acquire self-government,’ wrote another, ‘it must first have many educated people’.Footnote 175 Education for girls was a recurrent topic of discussion. ‘The only way to step towards modern civilization is to have educated men and women,’ Samuel King'ori believed.Footnote 176 Grace Wambura claimed ‘the happiest people are those married to educated girls’.Footnote 177 In contrast to the insurgents’ arson campaign, the government paid school fees for up to three children per familyFootnote 178 and issued grants to schools in loyalist areas.Footnote 179 Loyalists were not slow to realize that the Emergency increased the educational opportunities for themselves and their children. One wrote that:
owing to the loyalty of the people in this country, there has been great improvement in Education. Many people now who two years ago could neither read nor write are quite happy to see themselves able to read as well as to write.Footnote 180
In the early 1950s ‘we thought that in the very near future Mau Mau would do much for the development and welfare of our country and so we help it with all our strength’.Footnote 181 By late 1954, loyalists could advocate cooperation with government as a way of attaining self-mastery and accuse Mau Mau of hampering that quest. Muthoni Karanga, a schoolgirl from Embu who lived at the Githure guard post, wrote in November 1954: ‘Why are you giving help to Mau Mau terrorists in the bush as if they are growing food for you in the bush? Why are you foolish to go naked and hungry and still give Mau Mau your money and food, what good will they do to you?’Footnote 182 A Catholic loyalist from the Baricho mission argued: ‘You should know that the meetings and the words which are brought to you at night by those dirty people with long hair, are the ones which make your country poor’.Footnote 183 Mau Mau, according to Eusebio Ngari, ‘have brought poverty, famine, and murdering in the country’.Footnote 184 ‘Freedom’, Headman Stephen Mututo Kibubu wrote, ‘does not come from hatred and such things like murdering’.Footnote 185
At the heart of Gikuyu politics and conceptualizations of leadership and resistance lay the need to protect access to land. In the 1930s, Gikuyu elders abdicated responsibility for organizing political activity by failing to find recompense for land alienations.Footnote 186 Mau Mau initially emerged as a vehicle for redress of those grievances. Ironically by inducing consolidation, confiscations and the introduction of private tenure, Mau Mau stood accused of exacerbating those same injustices in the mid-1950s. As one correspondent argued, ‘When the war started the points were that the Mau Mau will be able to chase [out] all the foreigners in this country and by so doing the people will have a very good freedom, and developments. That is not what is happening now’.Footnote 187 B. M. Njeru, working at the Kianyaga detention camp, wrote that ‘Mau Mau self-government is for one to be deported or to be imprisoned or to lose his life. That is what Mau Mau mean by self-government’. After urging Mau Mau activists and sympathizers to surrender and confess, Njeru concluded:
I warn you now, and come and let us build ourselves together for peace and prosperity of our country and when the time comes, when we will have reached the standard, the good Government will give to us the real self-government, as it has done to other countries.Footnote 188
Through preferential treatment during land and political reform and the post-conflict reconstruction of the local economy, loyalism had become a path towards land, self-mastery and, inadvertently, freedom. When independence eventually arrived in 1963, it bore a striking resemblance to colonial subjugation due to the state's continuing reliance on patron–client networks, and thus the use of moral ethnicity by all concerned in order to mediate those relationships. With the chiefs and headmen having been supplanted from influence as part of a deliberate policy of modernization during the counter-insurgency campaign,Footnote 189 the colonial government turned to the alumni of Alliance High School, Makerere, Fort Hare and Oxford during decolonization.Footnote 190 Land consolidation, large-scale resettlement schemes, relocation to Nairobi and the Rift Valley, elections and Africanization of the Provincial Administration provided this latter group with the resources with which they could construct their own networks of clientage. Once again the state was effectively linked to households, even those of former Mau Mau sympathizers, by a sequence of patrons and clients. Although not usurped entirely, chiefs and headmen were demoted and replaced in the upper echelons of patron–client networks by African legislators and administrators appointed as Kenya began to prepare for decolonization. In order to meet the challenge of Mau Mau effectively, loyalism had been constructed not on the basis of custom and tradition, but upon a self-consciously modern moral ethnicity increasingly represented within the offices of the Provincial Administration and Legislative Council, and which would come to dominate postcolonial Kenya.Footnote 191
Mau Mau's insurgents took up arms ‘to regain stolen lands and to become … adult[s]’.Footnote 192 But by the end of 1956 they could not hope to achieve either aim. Throughout its existence, Mau Mau was subject to a Gikuyu theory of labour that asserted ‘everyone who cultivates the soil is a Kikuyu’.Footnote 193 The insurgency's answers to that rigorous and ongoing examination became progressively less and less satisfactory. Land reform and the terror of the counter-insurgency war had dispossessed and disenfranchized many of the movement's supporters. Once economic and political rewards, most notably land, for collaboration were formalized, loyalism travelled in the opposite direction along the continuum of labour, wealth and virtue. From being told ‘You work for nothing’,Footnote 194 landless and landed loyalists were able to toil towards wealth.
In February 1957, Maina Wambugu, an employee of the Community Development department in Othaya, described a tea party held at Gatugi village in Nyeri. ‘One could hardly see any gloomy or dirty person at the occasion’, Maina wrote; ‘All were singing, laughing and making themselves cheerful’. He continued: ‘I heard one person remark that the country was experiencing social revolution. During days of trouble many of them could not imagine that such a happy day would again be enjoyed. But now people are nearing to a complete normal life’.Footnote 195 Loyalists had gained control of their households. No longer threatened by Mau Mau and free to enjoy the fruits of their labour, loyalists had satisfied Kenyatta's pre-qualification for political dominance: ‘You must rule yourselves in your own lives if you want to rule this country.’Footnote 196