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Mau Maus of the Mind: Making Mau Mau and Remaking Kenya1

  • John Lonsdale (a1)

This article explores the imaginative meanings of Mau Mau which white and black protagonists invented out of their fearful ambitions for the future of Kenya. Within the general assumptions of white superiority and the need to destroy Mau Mau savagery, four mutually incompatible European myths can be picked out. Conservatives argued that Mau Mau revealed the latent terror-laden primitivism in all Africans, the Kikuyu especially. This reversion had been stimulated by the dangerous freedoms offered by too liberal a colonialism in the post-war world. The answer must be an unapologetic reimposition of white power. Liberals blamed Mau Mau on the bewildering psychological effects of rapid social change and the collapse of orderly tribal values. Africans must be brought more decisively through the period of transition from tribal conformity to competitive society, to play a full part in a multi-racial future dominated by western culture; this would entail radical economic reforms. Christian fundamentalists saw Mau Mau as collective sin, to be overcome by individual confession and conversion. More has been read into their rehabilitating mission in the detention camps than is warranted, since they had no theology of power. The whites with decisive power were the British military. They saw the emergency as a political war which needed political solutions, for which repression, social improvement and spiritual revival were no substitute. They, and the ‘hard-core’ Mau Mau detainees at Hola camp who thought like them, cleared the way for the peace. This was won not by any of the white constructions of the rising but by Kenyatta's Kikuyu political thought, which inspired yet criminalised Mau Mau.

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2 I was unable to give a satisfactory answer when John Dunn put this question at a Cambridge University African Studies Centre seminar; this essay is a second attempt. But I end with the same question, put to me in 1988 by Justus Ndung'u Thiong'o. Much of the impact of ‘Mau Mau’ on the mind lay in its name; many different origins have been proposed for it. The most plausible comes from Thomas Colchester, lately of the Kenya administration: in Swahili ka is a diminutive prefix, ma an amplifying one, enhanced by repetition. Mau would thus connote something larger than Kau (the colloquial form of the Kenya African Union). The beauty of this explanation is that it needs no originator, merely a common play on words.

3 Kanogo , Squatters, 129–37; Furedi Frank, The Mau Mau War in Perspective (London, 1989), chapters 3 and 4.

4 Willoughby (‘Tommy’) Thompson, Kandara division (Fort Hall) handing over report, 1 March 1955: Rhodes House, Oxford, [RH] Mss. Afr. s. 839 (1); Kenyatta Jomo, Facing Mount Kenya (London, 1938), 304.

5 For a brief outline of the war, see Clayton Anthony, Counter-insurgency in Kenya 1952–60 (Nairobi, 1976). My research student Mr Randall W. Heather, whose Ph.D. thesis on the intelligence war is nearing completion, has been generous with material and ideas.

6 Bennett George and Rosberg Carl, The Kenyatta Election: Kenya 1960–1961 (London, 1961), 22.

7 SirBlundell Michael, So Rough a Wind (London, 1964), 283; similar symbolism was used by white demonstrators in Pretoria on 10 February 1990, the day before the release of Nelson Mandela.

8 W. S. and Routledge K., With a Prehistoric People (London, 1910), 195.

9 From his upcountry retirement, former governor Mitchell warned settlers that ‘loyalists’ would expect fundamental change after the war: SirMitchell Philip, African Afterthoughts (London, 1954), 268.

10 ‘Report on the sociological causes underlying Mau Mau with some proposals on the means of ending it’ (mimeograph, 21 April 1954, seen by courtesy of Greet Kershaw), paras. 2 and 34.

11 Martin Kingsley, ‘Kenya report’, New Statesman and Nation (London), 15 November 1952.

12 Buijtenhuijs Rob, Essays on Mau Mau (Leiden, 1982), 35–6, discusses Mau Mau recruitment rates.

13 Figures seen by courtesy of Greet Kershaw; full discussion must await her own publication, but some of her evidence suggests that many joined Mau Mau during Kenyatta's trial in late 1952 and early 1953. They both wished to support Kenyatta and were reassured that Mau Mau could not have been as dreadful as they imagined if he had, after all, been in charge of it.

14 Fazan S. H., History of the Loyalists (Nairobi, 1961), 78.

15 Ibid. 12–16.

16 Barnett Donald L. and Njama Karari, Mau Mau from Within (London, 1966), 153–97.

17 For some details, see, D. Macpherson (Criminal Investigation Department) to Commissioner of Police, 23 December 1954: Arthur Young papers, RH Mss. Brit. Emp. s. 486 (3), seen by courtesy of Mr Heather; Judgement by Acting Judge Cram, Supreme Court of Kenya, criminal case No. 428 of 1954 (‘the Ruthagathi case’), given on 10 December 1954, and published as a 33-page mimeo by the Federal Independence Party, under the title ‘Kenya's Belsen?’ more generally: Clayton, Counter-insurgency, 46–7.

18 Barnett and Njama , Man Mau front Within, 138–9, 142, 155, 193–5; ‘Interrogation of Waruhiu s/o Itote, alias “General China”’ (Kenya Police Special Branch, Nairobi, 26 January 1954), para. 219: privately held.

19 This point is briefly developed at the end of the essay, with reference to the komerera.

20 To use the language of Beecher Bishop L. J., ‘Christian counter-revolution to Mau Mau’, in Joelson F. S. (ed.), Rhodesia and East Africa (London, 1958), 82.

21 Gunther John, Inside Africa (New York, 1953, 1954, 1955), 361.

22 Graham Greene to editor, The Times (London) 1 December 1953, under the heading ‘A nation's conscience’.

23 Clayton , Counter-insurgency, 42, n. 84.

24 Wilkinson J., ‘The Mau Mau movement: some general and medical aspects’, East Africa Medical J., XXXI (July, 1954), 309–10.

25 Statistics from Colonial Office, Historical Survey of the Origins and Growth of Mau Mau (Cmnd. 1930, May 1960), 316 (hereafter cited as Corfield report), and Clayton, Counter-insurgency, 53.

26 As in Nellie Grant to Elspeth Huxley, 20 Oct. 1952, in Huxley Elspeth (ed.), Nellie: Letters from Africa (London, 1980), 179.

27 Compare Ranger Terence, ‘Bandits and guerrillas: the case of Zimbabwe’, in Crummey Donald (ed.), Banditry, Rebellion and Social Protest in Africa (London, 1986), 373–96; Kriger Norma, ‘The Zimbabwean war of liberation: struggles within the struggle’, J. Southern Afr. Studies, XIV (1988), 304–22.

28 All this is to be found not only in white narratives and Mau Mau memoirs but also in a scholarly Kikuyu account: Githige R. M., ‘The religious factor in Mau Mau with particular reference to Mau Mau oaths’ (M.A. thesis, University of Nairobi, 1978). The attitude of most Europeans to the oaths can conveniently be found in Corfield report, 163–70.

29 As suggested by Kariuki Josiah M., ‘Mau Mau’ Detainee (London, 1963), 33.

30 Blundell , Wind, 168; one must be thankful that the British popular press did not then include The Sun.

31 Report to the Secretary of State for the Colonies by the Parliamentary Delegation to Kenya January 1954 (Colonial Office: Cmd. 9081, 1954), I. Nellie Grant provided her usual back-handed sanity, remarking that in the first world war some Australian troops billeted in Wiltshire were said to have given some polo ponies venereal disease ‘and no one worried much.’ Huxley , Nellie, 299 (letter of 28 February 1954).

32 Clayton , Counter-insurgency, 7, n. 12.

33 R. D. F. Ryland (Officer-in-charge, Nairobi extra-provincial district) to R. G. Turnbull (Minister for African Affairs), 23 December 1954: Kenya National Archives, Nairobi [KNA], MAA. 9/930.

34 KNA, Rift Valley Province annual report (1953), 2, 16, reporting the systematic screening of the remaining Kikuyu farmworkers after large-scale repatriation to the reserve in early 1953: while 95 per cent were shown to have been oathed, no less than 80 per cent were allowed to remain at work. Much evidence could be cited which casts doubt on the factual details of the ‘advanced’ oaths other than in the minds of some interrogators. But there is no reason to doubt the public masturbation (mentioned also by Frank Kitson, below). See, Leakey L. S. B., The Southern Kikuyu before 1903 (London, 1977). vol. 1, 24; vol. 2. 691–2; and Lambert H. E., Kikuyu Social and Political Institutions (London, 1956), 53–4, for the ceremonial group rape-cum-masturbation performed by circumcision initiates in the past, to symbolise the ending of adolescent restrictions. Leakey's material was collected in 1937, Lambert's in the 1930s and '40s.

35 Leakey L. S. B., Mau Mau and the Kikuyu (London, 1952), 98ff.; but the social horror of women's oathing in the minds of Leakey's informants may be part of the Kikuyu male imagination of Mau Mau. Larger numbers of women took the oath (on Kershaw's data) and played a more active role than can be explained by their men's reluctant induction of them; see also Presley Cora, ‘Kikuyu women and their nationalism’ (Ph.D. thesis, Stanford University, 1986).

36 Leakey L. S. B., Defeating Mau Mau (London, 1954), 7781.

37 Blundell , Wind, 171.

38 See Thiong'o Ngugi wa, Weep not Child (London, 1964), 83–4, where the elderly Ngotho saw no harm in Mau Mau oaths but was shocked that they were administered by his son. Also, Ogot B. A., ‘Revolt of the elders’, in Ogot B. A. (ed.), Hadith 4: Politics and Nationalism in Colonial Kenya (Nairobi, 1972). Born in 1903 in Kikuyuland, Leakey was an initiated first-grade elder by his early thirties: Leakey L. S. B., Kenya, Contrasts and Problems (London, 1936), vii. The other white Kikuyu expert, superintendent Ian Henderson, gave as flat an account of the oaths as Leakey in his prosecution evidence at Kenyatta's trial, when one might have expected him to be more colourful: Slater Montagu, The Kenyatta Trial (London, 1955), 95–6.

39 Leakey , Southern Kikuyu, vol. 3, 1037–48, 1056–67, 1234, 1238, 1269–70, 1276, for the customary controls on violence.

40 Leys Norman, Kenya (London, 1924), 303.

41 Ibid. 305–6, quoting an East African Standard editorial of February 1924.

42 The metaphor is John Gunther's: Inside Africa, 9.

43 For the debate in Kenya see, Gregory Robert G., Sidney Webb and East Africa (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1962); Kipkorir B. E., ‘The Alliance High School and the origins of the Kenya African elite’ (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge University, 1969); King Kenneth J., Pan-Africanism and Education (Oxford, 1961); Berman Bruce, The Dialectics of Domination (London, 1990); and in South Africa for the same period, Dubow Saul, Racial Segregation and the Origins of Apartheid in South Africa 1919–36 (Basingstoke, 1989).

44 Throup, Origins; Berman, Dialectics. For the pre-war origins of conflict between segmentary and centralised politics see my ‘The depression and the second world war in the transformation of Kenya’, in Killingray David and Rathbone Richard (eds.), Africa and the Second World War (Basingstoke, 1986), 97142.

45 An idea which he seems to have first adumbrated in 1938 when governor of Uganda: Macpherson Margaret, They Built for the Future (Cambridge, 1964), 26.

46 Governor Mitchell to Secretary of State Creech Jones, confidential despatch 16, 30 May 1947; KNA, African Affairs file ii (reference noted in 1965 but not checked since the revision of the archives classification).

47 Clayton Anthony and Savage Donald C., Government and Labour in Kenya 1895–1963 (London, 1974), 265346; Stichter Sharon B., ‘Workers, trade unions and the Mau Mau rebellion’, Canadian J. Afr. Studies, IX (1975), 259–75; Cooper Frederick, On the African Waterfront (New Haven and London, 1987), 78203.

48 The earliest reference I have seen to squatters seeing the ‘White Highlands’ as their own (other than that small portion which was once Kikuyu) comes from Kenyatta in June 1932: Kenya Land Commission Evidence, vol. 1 (Nairobi, 1933), 430. Something more than an old retainer's loyalty brought former headman Njombo back to Nellie Grant's farm to die in 1947; eighteen years later his heirs were among those who bought her out in a syndicate called Mataguri (‘we have been here a long time’) Farm: Huxley , Nellie, 165, 270.

49 Kanogo, Squatters; Furedi, Mau Mau War; Throup, Origins, chapter 5.

50 Kikuyu politicians must have distrusted Kenyatta as much as whites; before his departure for England they had sworn him against going with white women. Conversely, it seems that Kenyatta was more terrified by Moscow than inspired; see, Cohen Robin, editor's ‘Introduction’ to Nzula A. T. et al. , Forced Labour in Colonial Africa ([Moscow 1933] London, 1979), 15. I owe this reference to David Throup.

51 Throup , Origins, 152–64, shows that the administration little understood Kenyatta's position in this heavily politicised ‘terrace war’.

52 Murray-Brown Jeremy, Kenyatta (London, 1972), 45, reports how the young Kenyatta was nursed through phthisis by Scots missionaries in 1910; by 1951 phthisis had become ‘some spine disease’, an operation for which saved his life: see W. O. Tait, memorandum, May 1951, in press cutting file on Kenyatta with The Standard, Nairobi.

53 M. G. Capon, ‘Kikuyu 1948, a working answer’, September 1948: KNA, DC/MUR. 3/4/21.

54 Throup , Origins, 129–30.

55 As in footnote 46 above.

56 Carothers, Psychology, 16, is cautious on this point; Beecher ‘Christian counter-revolution’, 82, much less so, comparing him with Marx and Engels in the British Museum. This accusation lingered long after it was understood that there was nothing exotic about the oaths, which merely reworked Kikuyu symbols of dangerous power: the strongest white attack on Kenyatta on this point was also the last; see, Corfield report, 169–70.

57 Baring, top secret telegram to Lyttelton, 10 Oct. 1952: PRO, CO 822/443, and reproduced in Douglas-Home Charles, Evelyn Baring, the Last Proconsul (London, 1978), 227–8. That a beer boycott and Mau Mau should be thought to be of equal existential weight is an extraordinary indication of the assumption of African malleability. See also, Kingsley Martin's reports in New Statesman, 22 November 1952, ‘The case against Jomo Kenyatta’; and 6 December 1952, ‘The African point of view’.

58 I am grateful to Malcolm Ruel for urging me to clarify my thoughts at this juncture.

59 (James) Ngugi (wa Thiong'o), London, 1965.

60 Two illustrated accounts of Mau Mau are Roberts Granville, The Mau Mau in Kenya (London, 1954), and anon, Mau Mau, a Pictorial Record (Nairobi, nd., ?1954).

61 Ibid. Foreword.

62 For histories of white settler achievement, see Lipscomb J. F., White Africans (London, 1955) and We Built a Country (London, 1956); Hill M. F., Cream Country (Nairobi, 1965); there were farm memoirs too. For works which contrasted this with African stagnation or worse, see Wilson C. J., Before the Dawn in Kenya (Nairobi, October and December 1952, January 1953) and Kenya's Warning (Nairobi, 1954); Stoneham C. T., Out of Barbarism (London, 1955). The only work sympathetic to African civilization was Leakey's Mau Mau and the Kikuyu.

63 Lipscomb , White Africans, 82; Wilson , Kenya's Warning, 13.

64 Kingsley Martin, ‘The settler case’, New Statesman, 29 November, 1952.

65 Among the useful phrases for settler wives to learn in Swahili or Kikuyu, in the Kenya Settler's Cookbook (Nairobi, 1959), was the injunction ‘it is better not be sulky’.

66 Kanogo , Squatters, 45, 65, 72.

67 Uasin Gishu district council resolution, April 1947, quoted in Furedi, Mau Mau War, 35–6.

68 Pictured on the blood-red dustcover of Wilson, Kenya's Warning.

69 Greene Graham, Ways of Escape (London, 1980), 188; I owe this reference to David Throup.

70 Wilson , Kenya's Warning, 56.

71 Ruark Robert, Something of Value, (London, 1955), 368. For Kimanl's earlier appreciation of settler hospitality to Kikuyu squatters on Maasai land, see ibid. 272–4. It was one of the ironies of Mau Mau, as Richard Waller has reminded me, that the squatters shared the settler view that they had cultivated civilisation on Maasailand's transhumant pastures: see Mugo Gatheru's reflections on his squatter childhood, Child of Two Worlds (London, 1964), 78.

72 Most succinctly put by Wilson , Kenya's Warning, 59.

73 Stoneham , Barbarism, 105.

74 ‘The voice of the settler’, anonymous correspondent to New Statesman, 4 October 1952, 378.

75 In April 1952 the director of intelligence and security submitted a memorandum on Mau Mau (KNA, GO. 3/2/72) which, while comparing the movement to Nkrumah's Convention People's Party in the Gold Coast (whence the director had recently been posted), traced it back to a supposed ‘Supreme Council of Elders’, all ‘experts in witchcraft’ who in days past had specialised in cursing wealthy upstarts. This information was said to have been supplied by ‘a well known authority’, but nothing remotely like it can be found in the obvious sources, Routledges, Prehistoric people; Hobley C. W., Bantu Beliefs and Magic (London, 1922); and Cagnolo C., The Akikuyu (Turin, 1933). Neither Lambert's nor Leakey's works were then available (see footnote 34 above), nor do they support the idea of a wizard's council. It is possible that it was derived from one of the earliest Kiambu settlers, W. O. Tait, an amateur historian who claimed to have been a member of the council (Stoneham, Barbarism, 112–13), and who twenty years earlier had spoken of ‘a secret society among the Kikuyu which nobody ever gets to know much about’: Kenya Land Commission Evidence, vol. 1, 590.

76 Stoneham , Barbarism, 122.

77 This composite picture is drawn from ibid.; and Wilson, Before the Dawn and Kenya's Warning.

78 Baring to Lyttelton, 9 October 1952: PRO, CO 822/443.

79 Lyttelton, radio broadcast from Nairobi, 4 November 1952 (transcript in KNA, CD. 5/73); and repeated in his statement to parliament: House of Commons Debates, 5th series, vol. 507 (7 November 1952), col. 459.

80 W. Gorell Barnes to Baring, 10 September 1952; note of a meeting with Baring, 23 September 1952: PRO, CO 822/544. The KAU was already split; official belief in its unity, in thrall to Mau Mau, caused it to be banned early in 1953.

81 I have adopted Kingsley Martin's reading of the situation: New Statesman, 8 November 1952.

82 For instance, official press handout no. 70 of 19 April 1953, purporting to show a Mau Mau central committee circular, omitted all its reference to ‘peace’ and ‘freedom’; Baring to Lyttelton, 19 April 1953: PRO, CO 822/440. Wilson, Kenya's Warning, 63, made much play with what was made public, including threats to drink the blood of enemies and to castrate and decapitate anybody who helped the government.

83 Rogers, minute to Gorell Barnes, 24 October 1952; Rogers, minute to Sir Charles Jeffries, 16 February 1953; Lyttelton to Baring, 5 March 1953: PRO, CO.822/440.

84 Jeffries, minute to Lloyd, 17 February 1953 (original emphasis): CO.822/440.

85 T. G. Askwith, typescript memoirs, chapter on ‘Mau Mau’ p. 8, seen by courtesy of the author.

86 Colony and Protectorate of Kenya [CPK], Community Development Organization Annual Report 1953 (Nairobi, 1954), 23; CPK, Annual Report of the Department of Community Development and Rehabilitation 1954 (Nairobi, 1955), 2133.

87 Dr J. C. Carothers, in conversation, 26 July 1989.

88 Carothers J. C., The African Mind in Health and Disease (World Health Organization, Geneva, 1953), 54–5, 130–3.

89 CPK: Carothers J. C., The Psychology of Mau Mau (Nairobi, 1954), 618.

90 Carothers J. C., ‘The nature-nurture controversy’, Psychiatry: J. for the Study of Interpersonal Processes, XVIII (1953), 303; this was in response to critics of his WHO monograph, but the same method was openly employed in his pamphlet on Mau Mau. See, Psychology, 20–1: ‘assessments of other people must continually be based on re-assessments of oneself.’ The first half of the pamphlet described the Kikuyu in admittedly ‘derogatory’ terms; the second half turned the tables on the whites; for Kikuyu were, of Kenya's African peoples, ‘the most like ourselves’.

91 Carothers, Psychology, 22–4; a message to which I have been alerted by the work of Luise White.

92 The best summary statement of the district commissioner's view is in Perham Margery, ‘Struggle against Mau Mau II: seeking the causes and the remedies’, The Times (London), 23 April 1953; while reprinted in her Colonial Sequence 1949 to 1969 (London, 1970), 112–15, it has been given the disastrously wrong date of 1955.

93 CPK, Report of the Committee on African Wages (Nairobi, 1954).

94 CPK, A Plan to Intensify the Development of African Agriculture in Kenya (Nairobi, 1954).

95 For Mitchell's statement, see Church Missionary Society [CMS], Mau Mau, What is it? (London, 1952), 8; and Church of Scotland Foreign Missions Committee [CSM], Mau Mau and the Church (Edinburgh, 1953), 4, where ‘organic’ is rendered, in a splendidly illustrative slip, as ‘organised’.

96 The colony's director of education conducted a survey of the first detainees to investigate the sources of their schooling and discovered that they showed no significant difference from other Kikuyu; there was thus no solid evidence for the general suspicion of the independent schools, another private doubt which did not sway the conventional wisdom: CPK, Education Department Annual Report 1953 (Nairobi, 1955), 3940.

97 CMS, Mau Mau, 5. An indication of the aroused imaginations of the time is given on the same page, where the difficulty of obtaining evidence against Mau Mau is compared with the fruitless enquiry into the murder and sexual mutilation of a woman missionary in 1930. Yet there was never any suggestion that Mau Mau murders involved circumcision–or, indeed, rape.

98 For two Kikuyu accounts, see Wanyoike E. N., An African Pastor (Nairobi, 1974), 151–68; Kariuki Obadiah, A Bishop facing Mount Kenya (Nairobi, 1985), 4659, 78–9; Kariuki gives a glimpse of his relations with Kenyatta, his brother-in-law, Ibid. 79–81.

99 CSM, Mau Mau and the Church, 5. For Kikuyu comparisons between Revival and Mau Mau see, Wanyoike, African Pastor, 175, 180–85, 195f. By contrast, Githige, ‘Religious factor’, arguing from oral reminiscence, is doubtful of Christianity's influence on Mau Mau, whether as inspiration or antagonist.

100 Which may not be sufficiently clear from the brief treatment in Rosberg and Nottingham, Myth, 340.

101 CPK, Annual Report of the Department of Community Development 1954, 26.

102 The one notable exception to Christian pacifism was shown by the independent Africa Christian Church in Murang'a, whose headquarters at Kinyona was so bellicose that Mau Mau fighters christened it ‘Berlin’: ‘A book of forest history’ recovered by Willougby Thompson in December 1953: RH.Mss.Afr.s.1534. See also, Sandgren David P., Christianity and the Kikuyu: Religious Divisions and Social Conflict (New York, 1989), 158.

103 Bewes T. F. C., Kikuyu Conflict: Mau Mau and the Christian Witness (London, 1953), 41–2. 68.

104 As in all other aspects of this essay, there is a deeper history to be told; this analysis is derived principally from S. A. Morrison, ‘What does rehabilitation mean?’, 5 June 1954, seen by courtesy of Greet Kershaw who was employed by the CCK in the 1950s. For an indication of a wider approach see, John Lonsdale, with Booth-Clibborn Stanley and Hake Andrew, ‘The emerging pattern of church and state co-operation in Kenya’, in Fashole-Luke Edward et al. (ed.), Christianity in Independent Africa (London, 1978), 267–84. (My two co-authors were also CCK employees in the 1950s).

105 Carothers , Psychology, 1920, 28–9.

106 T. G. Askwith, in conversation, 27 July 1989; Terence Gavaghan, in conversation over the years.

107 General Sir George Erskine, despatch, ‘The Kenya emergency June 1953–May 1955’, 2 May 1955: PRO, WO 236/18 (seen by courtesy of Mr Heather).

108 Kitson Frank, Gangs and Counter-gangs (London, 1960), 131.

109 Ibid. 158; for his later thoughts, see his Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency and Peacekeeping (London, 1971).

110 Lyttelton, secret and personal telegram to prime minister Churchill, 18 May 1953: PRO, CO 822/440; Lyttelton Oliver, The memoirs of Lord Chandos (London, 1962), 41, 59.

111 Blundell, Wind, chapter 4 and p. 184.

112 Cameron James, ‘Bombers? Kenya needs ideas’, News Chronicle (London), 15 Nov. 1953.

113 Walzer Michael, Just and Unjust Wars (Harmondsworth, 1980), chapter 11.

114 The quoted phrases come from Erskine's despatch of 2 May 1955, para. 17: PRO, WO 236/18; and Kitson, Gangs, 46.

115 Erskine's despatch, 2 May 1955, paras. 15, 17, 40, 74.

116 For settler outrage see, Blundell, Wind, 189–92, but discussion of the surrender offers must await Mr Heather's findings.

117 ‘Interrogation of “General China”’, para. 14.

118 ‘Flash Report No. 1—Interrogation of Kaleba’, Special Branch headquarters, 28 Oct. 1954, para. 37: KNA, DC/NYK.3/12/24 (by courtesy of Mr Heather). This statement accurately summarises two themes of guerrilla doctrine. They called their movement ‘ithaka na wiathi’, which is better rendered as ‘land and moral responsibility’ or ‘freedom through land’, the highest civic virtue of Kikuyu elderhood, rather than the more common ‘land and freedom’ which invites the retrospective connotation of ‘land and national independence’. The ‘power of self-determination’ by which wiathi is rather well translated in this police report was essentially moral and individual. Secondly they called themselves itungati, a reserve of seasoned warriors who neither commanded nor attacked on raids but acted as bodyguard to the leaders and then beat off counter-attacks as a successful raiding party withdrew. For these former military tactics see, Kenyatta Jomo, Facing Mount Kenya (London, 1938), 206; Lambert , Kikuyu Institutions, 70f.; Leakey , Southern Kikuyu, vol. 3, 1051–3.

119 Foreword to Kariuki, ‘Mau Mau’ Detainee, XV.

120 Wanjau's Gakaara wa prison diary, published as Mwandiki wa Mau Mau ithaamirio-ini (Nairobi, 1983) and Mau Mau Author in Detention (Nairobi 1988), is driven by such reasoning. Wanjau's father, a Presbyterian minister, was killed at the outset of the war; he himself was a noted political songwriter and pamphleteer.

121 As argued by Darwin John, Britain and Decolonisation: the Retreat from Empire in the Post-war World (London, 1988), 244–69.

122 As African leaders complained to Kingsley Martin: ‘The case against Jomo Kenyatta’, New Statesman, 22 November 1952.

123 As Governor Mitchell almost said in retirement: Afterthoughts, 268.

124 Barra G., 1000 Kikuyu Proverbs (Nairobi, 1974, first edition 1939); Njururi Ngumbu, Gikuyu Proverbs (Nairobi, 1983). What follows is a too brief sketch of Kikuyu political thought which I intend to develop elsewhere.

125 See, Mwangl's Meja novel, Kill me Quick (Nairobi, 1973).

126 ‘Classification report no. 3468: John Michael Mungai’, (17 May 1956), 9–10: RH, Mss.Afr.s. 1534; the only direct indication I have found of Makhan Singh's thought on pre-colonial Kenya is in his History of Kenya's Trade Union Movement, to 1952 (Nairobi, 1969), 12, from which the quotation comes.

127 Kingsley Martin studied extracts of the vernacular press and found there only liberal nationalism, not Marxism: ‘Kenya report’, New Statesman, 15 November 1952. The most likely source for any Mau Mau class ideology would be Kaggia, Roots of Freedom 1921–63 (Nairobi, 1975), but the nearest he comes to that is syndicalism; no memoir of Mau Mau initiation suggests that the political education given to recruits referred to class struggle; conversely, a ‘typical notice’ of a Mau Mau initiation contained, as its sole programmatic statement, a threat to ‘all those who try to stop us selling our goods where and when we want’: Corfield report, 164. Kinyatti Maina wa (ed.), Thunder from the Mountains, Mau Mau Patriotic Songs (London, 1980), gives a retrospective, socialist, twist to insurgent thought.

128 Rosberg and Nottingham , Myth, 234–76; Kaggia , Roots, 78115, 193–5; Tamarkin M., ‘Mau Mau in Nakuru’, J. Afr. Hist., XVII (1976), 119–34; Spencer John, KAU, the Kenya African Union (London, 1985), 202–49.

129 Editor (Kenyatta ), ‘Conditions in other countries’, Muiguithania, i, 3 (July 1928), translation by A. R. Barlow of the CSM. KNA, DC/MKS.10B/13.1.

130 Profile of Kenyatta Jomo in The Observer (London), 2 November 1952, doubtless by Colin Legum. The Corfield report, 301–8: Appendix F, (Assistant Superintendent Henderson's report on KAU mass meeting at Nyeri on 26 July 1952, with 25,000 estimated present) shows the difficulty Kenyatta could have in controlling a crowd.

131 KNA: Edward Windley, Central Province annual report (1952). This was certainly true of at least one future forest leader: see, Barnett and Njama , Mau Mau from Within, 7380.

132 Corfield report, 305.

133 I assume that Kenyatta spoke Kikuyu at this point, as remembered by Henderson a few months later at his trial (Slater, Trial, 93), and as recalled for me by one who was there as a schoolboy, Professor Godfrey Muriuki (in a letter of 7 February 1990); elsewhere, Kenyatta's Swahili was translated into Kikuyu by the KCA leader Jesse Kariuki.

134 For these and other translations I depend on Benson T. G. (ed.), Kikuyu-English Dictionary (Oxford, 1964), and on help from friends, especially John Karanja, Tabitha Kanogo, Mungai Mbayah, Henry Muoria Mwaniki, Godfrey Muriuki (both of whom advised Benson), and George K. Waruhiu. Both ngero and umaramari have Maasai forms, on which Richard Waller has advised.

135 Wamweya Joram, Freedom Fighter (Nairobi, 1971), 52.

136 Mutonyi Eliud, ‘Mau Mau chairman’, undated typescript, copy in author's possession.

137 This Kikuyu political logic is strong ground for thinking that Kenyatta was sincere in his denunciations of Mau Mau; if he did equivocate, he had good reason to do so in the threats made on his life by the Nairobi militants: evidence of Fred Kubai for Granada Television's ‘End of Empire’, screened 1 July 1985. While Wilson (Kenya's Warning, 54) made much of the mass Nyeri meeting of 26 July 1952, quoting long extracts from the East African Standard's record of the other speakers, he passed over Kenyatta in half a sentence, as if his pieties were indeed difficult to square with his demonic reputation.

138 Barnett and Njama , Mau Mau from Within, 180.

139 Ibid. 213, 221, 293–5, 376, 390, 397, 479, 498; Waruhiu Itote (General China), Mau Mau General (Nairobi, 1967), 139–41.

140 Barnett and Njama , Mau Mau from Within, 471–8; Itote , Mau Mau General, 78, 127–38. White, ‘Separating the men from the boys’, has much more on all this.

141 The full title of Gakaara wa Wanjau's 1952 pamphlet was ‘The spirit of manhood and perseverance for Africans’, as translated in an appendix in Mau Mau Author, 227–43.

142 Kenyatta Jomo, Suffering without Bitterness (Nairobi, 1968), 124, 146, 147, 154, 159, 161, 163–8, 183, 189, 204. My view of Kenyatta's attitude to Mau Mau at this time is thus entirely different to that proposed by Buijtenhuijs, Mau Mau Twenty Years After, 49–61, and is supported by the picture facing page 57 in this book, showing ex-Mau Mau in 1971 with the slogan ‘Mau Mau is still alive: we don't want revolution in Kenya’.

1 An earlier version of this essay was read to the Royal Historical Society in December 1989 and will appear in the society's Transactions. Much of my material is derived from a research project on ‘Explaining Mau Mau’ shared with Bruce Berman of Queen's University, Ontario. Some of my ideas are also his, but I have been unable to test on him this particular approach, which is preliminary to our larger work, and cannot ask him to share the blame. The classic study of the Kenya whites’ imaginative construction of Mau Mau is Carl G. Rosberg and John Nottingham, The Myth of ‘Mau Mau’: Nationalism in Kenya (New York and London, 1966); this essay is part of the revision to which this work is now subject with the availability of archival material. Four other colleagues to whom I am also grateful for help in understanding the European constructions of Mau Mau are: Frederick Cooper, ‘Mau Mau and the discourses of decolonization’, J.Afr. Hist., XXIX (1988), 313–20; Dane Kennedy, ‘The political mythology of Mau Mau’, paper presented to the American Historical Association, December 1989; David W. Throup, Economic and Social Origins of Mau Mau (London, 1987); Luise White, ‘Separating the men from the boys: constructions of gender, sexuality and terrorism in central Kenya, 1939–1959’, Int.J.Afr.Hist. Studies, XXIII (1990), 1–27. I also see myself as revising the ‘Euro-African myth’ presented in Robert Buijtenhuijs, Mau Mau Twenty Years After: The Myth and the Survivors (The Hague, 1973), 49–62, which has no consideration of Kikuyu political thought. For this I lean heavily on the unpublished work of Great Kershaw and on Tabitha Kanogo, Squatters and the Roots of Mau Mau (London, 1987). Richard Waller has commented wisely. Finally, I must thank those who were there at the time and who have shared their thoughts over the years, especially: Tom Askwith, Peter Bostock, Dick Cashmore, Thomas Colchester, Terence Gavaghan, Richard Hennings, Harry Hilton, Cyril Hooper, Elspeth Huxley, Frank Loyd, Desmond O'Hagan, Tommy Thompson, and Dick Turnbull. They bear no responsibility for my conclusions, which I hope they will find not too distorted by hindsight.

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