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Those of an older disposition may recall something they heard whilst they were children and though newspapers, radio and a TV service in its infancy brought news and pictures of the horrific events of the 1950’s in Kenya would have meant little to the average child of Great Britain. The words were Mau-Mau and whilst many colonies of the European powers were exploiting the uncertain times of a world rebuilding after the Second World War in Africa many years of colonialisation were coming to a violent conclusion that would result in the independence of Kenya.
The phrase Mau-Mau uprising was on many lips at the time, territorial army reservists were mobilized and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office tried unsuccessfully from 1952 until 1960 to protect the British colonialists that had settled in Kenya over many years. Despite a huge military police action the Mau-Mau terrorism seemed unending.
The level of violence and intimidation was at that time unprecedented, even by the standards of what is arguably the most violent and lawless continent on Earth.
The words Mau-Mau was not coined by the insurgents that sought independence from their colonial overlords who were mostly of the Kikuyu tribe together with an alliance of lesser factions drawn from the Embu and Meru. The British Government referred to it as The Kenya Emergency but the rebels called themselves Muingi, [The Movement], Muigwithania [The Understanding] Though the words Mau-Mau is untranslatable it broadly meant “That which was talked about and understood”. The violence that became the trademark of the uprising was bloody and aimed directly at the British farmers who had settled the country. Beatings with cudgels and sticks were an almost daily occurrence and isolated farms were often attacked leaving any “White” settlers hacked to pieces by vicious machete` attacks. The attacks however were not restricted to the white settlers and though most of the atrocities that were widely reported were directed against the “Whites” there were incidences of massacres of whole Kikuyu villages by the rebels where there was a belief that the village was still loyal to the crown. The worst was believed to be at Lari on the night of March 25th 1953 where more than 120 Kikuyu were herded into their grass huts and then the huts were burnt to the ground. Many of the murdered victims of the Mau-Mau uprising were so badly mutilated they could never be identified, many of the bodies were never found but as with all terror campaigns the rumour mill wreaked more terror from what was suspected than from that which could be proved. The atrocities were not restricted to the rebel side; there was retaliation by both Kenyan government and British forces too. As the situation deteriorated, the line drawn between “An Emergency” and “Civil War” was so sketchy that no one knew for sure just how close the country came to imploding into full scale genocide.
The “Emergency” came to an abrupt end in 1960 when a large number of Kikuyu were imprisoned and several were hung for crimes of mass murder that could be proved. One of those who survived the retribution was Jomo Kenyata who later became the leader Kenya upon its independence in 1963.

The atrocities of 1953 and the remainder of ensuing decade resurfaced in the guise of dissatisfaction with the outcome of the recent Kenyan election when opposition candidates claimed that the Kikuyu dominated Kenyan government had rigged the election result in favour of the “Status-Quo” in order to remain in power. Though any irregularity has been vehemently denied the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki has offered a compromise with the opposition of a “Government of national unity” which amounts to a coalition leaving Kibaki at the head of government. He has been forced to this position by the “Civil unrest” now stalking the streets of Nairobi and other major cities of Kenya reminiscent of the events of the 1950’s Kenya Emergency.
The machete` attacks have begun again accompanied by the cudgel and stick beatings but perhaps the worst reminder so far was the incineration of the congregation of a church, some 200 souls as they sought refuge from the violent past and present of Kenyan politics.
In fact the opposition led by Ralia Odinga actually won 95 of the 122 seats in the Kenyan government and more than half of Kibaki’s Government Ministers failed to gain enough votes to retain power. Even without the suggestion of impropriety Kirbaki could not have formed a government without including members of the opposition as ministers. The concession has the hollow ring of imminent defeat and will most probably be disregarded by the opposition leader, Ralia Odinga. If that is so then the imminent violence will intensify.
The Kenyan Army has been deployed upon the streets of Nairobi to keep the conflicting factions apart, so far their weapons of choice have been, tear gas; water cannon; clubs; baton charges and summarily arresting the perpetrators but as the holding cells fill up there is a fear that the “Restraint” will escalate to deliberate gunfire resulting in a great many deaths.

In the meantime the Exodus of civilians displaced by the epic violence already becoming commonplace is reaching biblical proportions in a country that was once the envy of African states that made a success of independence. Kenya was the most stable both economically and politically albeit corruptly but with the current dissatisfaction it is just possible that some of its neighbours, Somalia; Sudan: Ethiopia;
Uganda and Tanzania may take advantage of the turmoil. Most have their own breed of insurgents who would not be averse to grabbing what might be up for occupation.
The refugee columns fleeing from the present troubles is approaching half a million now. Few have any food or water and though most refugees would be seen as food or possession poor they would be easy targets for the quasi-military gangs that lie in wait along the borders of Ethiopia/Sudan/Somalia and Uganda. This is a humanitarian crisis in the making unless it can be averted before it starts.
As the aid agencies marshal their meagre resources to deal with the impending disaster the intransigence of Odinga and Kibaki to resolve the electoral crisis of Kenya is pushing the population of a country deemed to be one of Africa’s most stable is doing nothing to help. Kenya is still an economy based on the cooperation its forty constituent tribes but overshadowed by just one, the Kikuyu. The key is the Army; whilst it remains loyal to Kibaki he can retain power, if the Army’s loyalties shift he will not.
A mediator is said to be en-route and until he arrives very little food will reach the starving,it is there already but it is still on the trucks which cannot move past the police checkpoints,stalemate.



Posted: January 6, 2008 

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