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The "WE" Of Co-exixtence In Kenya Colonial History

By Edited Jun 10, 2016 0 0

Archaeological excavations have revealed that Africa South of the Sahara is the genesis and the cradle of the human race. The pre-historic and primitive man is ascertained to originate in Kenya. In his archaeological excavations at Kariandusi and Olduvai Gorge in the Rift valley, Louis Leakey has authenticated this to be an historic truth. Charles Darwin and Louis Leaky concur that the pre-historic primitive man evolved in Kenya.

The primitive societies of Africa South of the Sahara have been rated by Luijpen fifty thousand years behind the civilized man. The dawn of European civilization brought them the “Lumen” of literacy and civilization.

It must be born in mind however, that these primitive societies neither appealed nor invited European countries to come and colonize their countries. The Great Western powers scrambled for colonies and partitioned Africa for their own self-gain and interest. Colonization in the continent of Africa, South of the Sahara was essentially exploitation.

Four primary reasons justified the scramble and the partition. New settlements were in demand for the European “Surplus population.” The civilized West had the spur of bringing civilization to the backward primitive societies living in “darkness” – the absence of literacy and civilization. Africa is a country potentially viable for Agriculture. Hence, the plantation of cash crops and the exploration of minerals was going to provide European industries with abundant raw materials. The “dark” continent of the “primitive” peoples was assessed and determined to be a feasible market for the European manufactured goods.

In 1895, Kenya became a British colony and protectorate of the ten mile coastal strip under the Sultan of Zanzibar. The cooperation with the Sultan was a “conditio sine qua non” for Britain to succeed in the colonization of Kenya. In the past, the Portuguese had the ambition to gain mastery and control of the Indian Ocean and establish a trading empire. In order to achieve the ambitious objective, they planned to wage  war of crusade against the Arab Muslims. The Arabs were much aware of this plot and hence became strongly opposed in allowing Christian rivals to trade in their  markets. The East Coast of Africa became a scene of rivalry and war between the Portuguese and the Arabs. In 1698, the Oman Arabs defeated the Portuguese when they besieged and financially bombarded Fort Jesus. The British did not want a repeat of the historical rivalry with the Arabs.

Sir Charles Eliot served as the first British commissioner from 1900 -1904. The British diplomat was a whole-hearted believer in white supremacy. The diplomats’ dream of Kenya was to make the potential Kenya highlands the domination of the white man’s country. In order to actualize this into a reality, he encouraged settlers to take advantage of turning the wild wastes of land into arable land and pasture. An influx of white settlers on a high swing and on serious large scale farming came into the country. The famous Lord Delamere was one of the earliest settlers. The interested parties came not only from Britain but also from other commonwealth countries; South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The natives were either positive or negative in their traditional humane demeanor of giving hospitality to visitors. Some of the ethnic groups were humane in according hospitality and cordiality to the foreigners, an ethical mode of accompanying one another. Two ethnic groups gave the colonial government their absolute cooperation. And these were the Maasai under their leaders(Laibon) Lenana and the Luhya leader (Nabongo) Mumias of the Wanga kingdom

Lenana the Laibon of Maasai
Nabuongo Mumia(44841)

Lenana, the Laibon of the Maasai                                                                 Nabongo Mumia (centre) of the Luhya kingdom of Wanga

As many other ethnic groups armed themselves to the tooth with spears and arrows to resist the white settlers’ encroachment on their ancestral lands. The relationships of the natives and the settlers became henceforth poisoned by raids and counter raids. The colonial government used aggressive and repressive military force to quel and subdue any resistance.

The targeted ethnic groups that posed a  resistance to the white settlers were : the Bukusu, Luo, Abagusii, Kalenjin and Kikuyu. The military expeditions used punitive measures, raided villages, burnt huts and destroyed crops. The military killed 3,299 native men. And looted 208.543 domestic animals- cattle, sheep and goats, the sole livelihood of the people. The Nandi leader (Orkoiyot) Koitalel Arap Samoeli and his followers were shot by a local british commander, Colonel Meinertzhagen who pretended to pay a courtesy visit at the home of the Orkoiyot.  The superiority of the arms - the guns silenced and subdued the rebellious natives. The cruelty of the colonial government was obviously a crime against humanity. Notwithstanding, the white settlers defended themselves saying that they were fighting for their own existence. The natives too, were justified to wage a resistance in order to protect their ancestral lands from foreign encroachment. The rivalry of the two sides was caused by an conflict of interests that doomed peaceful and humonious co-existence for sixty years. Independence in 1963 brought a sigh of relief.

The white settlers took control of the potential highlands in the Rift valley and on the slopes of Mt. Kenya. An influx of Indians immigrants came into the country, with British citizenships to take a share in the Kenya highlands. The dream became a racial discrimination to them. The white settlers denied them the possibility of ever possessing and owning land in the Kenya highlands. The alternative occupation of the Indians that proved a great success was the monopoly and domination of entrepreneurship.

The African sacred tradition of possessing and owning land became a nightmare. The land became the possession and ownership of the white settlers. The Maasai, represented by their leader, Lenana , signed a treaty with the colonial government that remained delusive and meaningless. The purpose and intent of the treaty was solely to benefit the white settlers whose main gain and interest was the domination of the highlands- the white highlands.

The treaty had two destructive effects on the Maasai. Firstly, they were driven out by force from their ancestral lands in Laikipia and Uashin Gishu plateaus in the Rift valley. Secondly, in offering them an alternative permanent settlements, the pastoralists were forcefully pushed to the Southern semi-arid reserves in Narok and Kajiado where they co-existed with the wild animals.

The settlers grabbed millions of land hectarage on the extensive highlands lying on the slopes of Mt. Kenya. As a consequence, lots of ethnic groups, Kikuyu, Embu and Meru became landless peasantry. The evacuated legal owners survived by growing subsistence crops on the road reserves. Many of others became squatters and slum dwellers.

More repressive measures were yet in the course. Africans were not allowed to grow cash crops. Like coffee, tea, cotton and pyrethrum in the early years. The colonial government made the ban with two motifs. The Africans were used by the white settlers to provide cheap as well as forced labour in the plantations. The toiling labourers received a meager monthly salary that gave them but a provision of a day’s bread.

The colonial government imposed hut tax of a “rupee” on each household to a people used to barter trade. The introductions of currency called on the natives to seek for employment. Many youthful natives migrated to the capital city to seek employment in Indian and European households as well as in white settlers’ plantations. The intent was an effort to secure money to pay tax and thus avoid penalty. Persons migrating to urban centers were forced to possess identification. The colonial government designed a miniature metal plate bearing the name of the holder. This means of identification was hang on the neck. Corporal punishment too was introduced as a means of disciplining the criminals who served a jail sentence. The abominable means of identification and the cane were scathingly loathed by the Africans.

Racial segregation was observed by instinctual norms if not by enforced laws. The governing and the governed remained distantly apart in space and time. Encounter with, presence to, accompanying one another and dialogue between the two races was unimaginable. Schools and hospitals existed separately for the whites and the blacks. The gap was further widened with the creation of separate area of residence and hotels. The classic policy of apartheid in South Africa was being experienced live light here in the country.

The colonial government used indirect method of administration. In implementing this policy, the colonial District Officers used chiefs as puppets to intermediate between the government and the Africans. The colonial chiefs came to be hated by their own people for their brutality, harshness and severity.

The encounter and presence of the whites and the blacks was dictated only by functions and roles played by the Africans. The I-thou, an impersonal relationship was based on functions, roles and duties. The historical cold relationship lacked the mode of “Be with me” which is an ethical invitation of accompanying one another and dwelling together.

The appeals addressed by the oppressed existential human situation fell on deaf ears. What exactly did the Africans appeal for? They appealed for the right to possess and own land, equality, freedom and justice. The denial of these fundamental rights was an act of outrageous arrogance, injustice and pride. The end result of the two repellant attitudes created the “we” of hatred and indifference.

In his treaties on the phenomenology of hatred, Luijpen has this to say, “Hatred means that I cannot accept that my fellowman is a subject, cannot bear that he realizes himself as a person, brings about his own personal history. Hatred means a refusal to dwell “together” in “our” and bring about “our” history. Hatred is an attempt to reduce the other’s subjectivity to a factor in my project of meanings. I project for myself. Doing that is slavery and murder. He who hates his brother is a murderer, for he destroys the subjectivity by which his brother is a human being.”

The lamentations of the Africans hinge on three cardinal injustices. The denial of the previously enlisted human rights. The experiences of cold impersonal relationships. And the apparent condemnation of being slaves of the white masters in their own mother land. In view of these lamentations, Luijpen asserts, “The encounter in the “we” of indifference has no genuine human meaning in that no one is someone because no one cares for any one. The “we” of indifference is the empty unfeeling, dull of a society which is increasingly loosing its humanity.”

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