Clio Edition 4 - page 5

African Study Union, which was a front for a political party
with strongly anti-colonial views. Jomo Kenyatta, later to
become Kenya’s first president, was an active member of this
party, and they pressed the colonial government for political
rights and land reforms, but in vain.
In 1952, attacks begun against settler farms, with the militant
branch of the KAU being given a name: Mau Mau. On the
9th October, Senior Chief Waruhiu, a key supporter of
the colonial government, was assassinated. This led to the
colonial government declaring a State of Emergency, before
arresting 180 suspected Mau Mau insurgents. Ironically,
many of those arrested, such as Kenyatta, did not advocate
violence and the leaders of the violent resistance fled arrest.
The reaction then seen was as harsh as it was distorted by the
colonial powers at the time. The Mau Mau were described as
“an irrational force of evil, dominated by bestial impulses and
influenced by world communism”, and the brutal attacks by
the Mau Mau meant that the colonial government were able
to completely dehumanise them and justify the inhumane
actions they then took. The Mau Mau was largely fought
as a guerrilla war, with much of the fighting occurring in
forests. Meanwhile, the colonial government strategically
resettled Kikuyu in ‘protected villages’, whilst in an attempt
to control non-loyal Kikuyu tens of thousands were deported
to reserves, which soon became overcrowded and conditions
poor. Over the course of the rebellion, 100,000 Kikuyu
were detained without trial, for periods of between 3 and 7
years and 11,000 were killed throughout the course of the
The detention camps used by the British in order to control
and illegally detain the Kikuyu insurgents saw appalling
conditions and unspeakable human rights abuses. They were
described by the attorney general of Kenya at the time as
“distressingly reminiscent of conditions in Nazi Germany
or communist Russia”. This “detention and rehabilitation”
system was termed “The Pipeline” with detained inmates
being divided into three categories: ‘white’; ‘grey’ and ‘black’,
with ‘white’ being the most compliant of the detainees and
‘black’ the ‘hardcore’ of the Mau Mau, who refused to confess
their Mau Mau oath to the colonial authorities. Transit
between camps provided little or no sanitation or food,
and once arrived communication was allowed only within
the sleeping huts of the detainees. The poor sanitation of
that camp meant that diseases like typhoid spread quickly
amongst inmates, with camps such as Langata and GilGil
forced to close due to the rampant medical issues. Those
within the camps were used as forced labour on projects such
as a 37 mile long irrigation furrow and by 1955, the detention
system had become formalised, with guards regularly
rotated to ensure that they did not develop relationships
with inmates. A system of informers developed within the
camp, with those suspected of informing often strangled
‘Detention camps used by
British were “distressingly
reminiscent of conditions
in Nazi Germany”
British policemen
search the huts of
Mau Mau suspects
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