Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Where Are the Muindi Mbingus of 2004?

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A Look Back at One of Kenya's Unfinished Struggles...

By Onyango Oloo

1.0.‭ ‬Some‭ ‬Kenyan Cops Have Another Side They Often Hide...

Today I want to talk about a very famous Kenyan cop...

No, I am NOT talking about this one

Rather, I am talking of ANOTHER famous Kenyan policeman who fought for our freedom and for‭ ‬community-based land and property rights.‭ ‬He even has a very busy street in Nairobi named after him.

So let me start by praising Kenyan cops-‭ ‬and everyone knows how virulently opposed I am to police atrocities whether perpetrated by cops in Montreal,‭ ‬New York,‭ ‬Los Angeles,‭ ‬Toronto,‭ ‬Durban,‭ ‬Nablus,‭ ‬Falluja,‭ ‬Kabul,‭ ‬Jinja or Nairobi...

As we speak,‭ ‬one of my Kenyan friends in Toronto is painfully recovering from a‭ ‬severe beaing by three racist cops last month and he is just getting ready to seek redress....

Who says that‭ ‬Kenyan cops‭ ‬cannot and will not stand up for what is right‭?

Who says that all Kenyan cops are brutal and that brutality is all what all cops know‭?

Who says that all Kenyan cops do not have‭ ‬a democratic conscience‭?

Who says that‭ ‬all cops,‭ ‬Kenyan and their counterparts elsewhere-‭ ‬will always tolerate and participate in racism and other forms of discrimination‭?

Certainly not me‭!

Do you see the guy in the picture below

If he looks like an African-American cop it is because ‬HE IS an African-American cop.

But not just any African American cop.

Look at where ‬I found him and read more about them‭

I want to talk about a Kenyan policeman who still lives at our National Archives in downtown Nairobi-‭ ‬not literally of course.

So you think you know it all,‭ ‬and can find it all,‭ ‬with a flick of the all powerful wrist through a cursory all out‭ ‬web hunt‭?

So you think it is all there on the internet and‭ ‬you can find it all with the help of all‭ ‬powerful mouse and an ever ready dialogue box on the home page of one of those all in one,‭ ‬one in all search engine heavyweights‭?

Well,‭ ‬try looking for Muindi Mbingu online.

Good luck‭!

It is NOT AS IF I did not go that route...

735‭ ‬google entries.‭ ‬572‭ ‬teoma returns.‭ ‬453‭ ‬altavista offerings.

And all you get is the STREET not the MAN.

2.0.‭ ‬Rediscovering Muindi Mbingu in the‭ ‬21st Century

So who was Muindi Mbingu,‭ ‬I hear you ask sheepishly,‭ ‬having landed exactly where‭ ‬some of us landed already.

Well stay tuned.

I am going to share the little that I know.

But not now.

Wanna take one of my annoying strolls away from the topic at hand-‭ ‬seemingly.

Wanna see some pictures‭?

C'mon,‭ ‬they are cool pics.

Here-‭ ‬take a look:

Do you notice anything in common‭?

Well,‭ ‬if you are Kenyan and have ever ventured east of Nairobi along the Mombasa‭ ‬road,‭ ‬you will quickly recognize scenes from Athi River and Machakos.

But why Athi River and why Machakos ‬(or more properly,‭ ‬Masaku's‭)?

No-‭ ‬it has nothing to do with the fact that I‭ ‬became very familiar with both urban areas when I used to visit my dad there in‭ ‬1968‭ ‬from my auntie's place(Apt.‭ ‬#1748,‭ ‬Block K‭) ‬at the Mariakani Flats in Nairobi South‭ "‬B‭" ‬when he was the officer in charge of Machakos Prison.

It is because this essay will have a lot to do with Kaos and their cows-‭ ‬pun intended.

Yes we know that the KMC plant closed down in‭ ‬1987‭ ‬because of a number of factors

Here‭ ‬are some stories on‭ ‬the‭


the legal wrangles
around it,‭ ‬a business plan of some entrepreneurs who see
KMC as their main rival
a paper on how to boost the livestock
sector in a liberalized economy
; ‬there is this speech

Peter Kyalo Kaindi
area MP pleading with Kibaki to restore the KMC plant

Diagonistic Study on Animal Based Food Industry in Kenya‭

and just in case you are TIRED of plain old BEEF,‭ ‬a look into the ‬8th Annual Camel Forum,‭ ‬a special meeting FOCUSING ON

3.0.‭ ‬A Tale of Two Masaku Lives

You know how you can grow up in the very same neighbourhood as someone else,‭ ‬and yet have a totally different‭ ‬upbringing from them‭?

I am thinking of the‭ ‬Carr-Hartleys and comparing them to the Muindi Mbingus of Machakos District.

Many Kenyans recognize the Carr-Hartley name from Safaris and Big Game Hunting-‭ ‬in the same way the remember that other kaburu mlowezi from Taita Taveta,‭ ‬Basil Criticos from Safari rallies.

I managed to unearth an online autobiographical sketch penned by Brian, one of the most high profile members of‭ the Carr-Hartleys who has since moved back to the South Africa where his kaburu mother was born.‭ ‬Here is a link to‭ their family website
click here and you find yourself in

an online gallery

of one of the photographer scions of the same brood ‬and check out details of this‭

heart warming‭ ‬1957‭ ‬television series featuring‭ Michael Carr-Hartley as the 'Jungle Boy'

Here is how the series was publicized back then in the‭ ‬1950s:

Take a‭ ‬13-year-old white boy and a cheetah,‭ ‬the fast living creature
on four legs,‭ ‬and turn them loose in the African bush.‭ ‬Let them play
together,‭ ‬and become involved in the day-to-day problems of survival
in the Jungle.
The very idea is fantastic‭! ‬Many people would never believe that it
could happen.‭ ‬Yet this is what had to happen before Jungle Boy could be
brought to television audiences.‭ ‬Perhaps the most extraordinary thing
about this series of‭ ‬13‭ ‬half-hour films is the fact that all the animal
shots are genuine.
Only one boy in the entire world could have starred in Jungle Boy‭ ‬-
Michael Carr Hartley.‭ ‬The star of this series had to be a teenage
white boy,‭ ‬with acting ability and outstanding personality.‭ ‬He must
know East Africa,‭ ‬its people and its customs.‭ ‬But above all,‭ ‬he must
know how to gain the confidence and respect of the animals‭ ‬-‭ ‬from
pythons to elephants‭ ‬-‭ ‬and work with them without fear.
Michael has these outstanding qualifications.‭ ‬The other star is
‭'‬Cheetah‭'‬,‭ ‬the devoted friend of Jungle Boy.‭ ‬Without them both,‭ ‬this

amazing series could not possibly have been made.‭ ‬Michael is the son
of a famous animal-handler.‭ ‬He learned from babyhood to gain the
confidence of all wild creatures.‭ ‬Viewers will look in vain for
‭'‬tricks‭' ‬as Michael plays safely with animals normally considered
dangerous.‭ ‬There are no such‭ '‬tricks‭' ‬because Michael enjoys the
complete trust of his animal friends.
Jungle Boy is quite unspolied by any‭ '‬trick‭' ‬shots.‭ ‬All its scenes
are real and have been filmed on the spot in East Africa.‭ ‬There has
never a series like it before.‭ ‬It is doubtful whether there will ever
be a series like it again.‭ ‬A bold claim but once you have seen
‭'‬Adventures of a Jungle Boy‭' ‬you will know it to be true...

Here is a
video clip

from that"historic" colonial Kenyan series..


of the Carr-Hartleys is
a citizen of Botswana

Here is an old still taken from the Carr-Hartley farm in 1958:

There is actually a website called which is self explanatory...

Well after that illuminating slice of Kenyan kaburu life,‭ ‬I think it is time for a digital musical break:

For some reason the‭ ‬first song that jumped into my head as soon as I finished reading up on the Carr-Hartleys of Kenya and South Africa was‭
Mabepari (The Capitalists)the underground sizzler from Nairobi's anti-imperialist hip‭ ‬hop crew,‭ ‬Sinpare.

And as soon as I was done with that,‭ ‬I ‬craved Poxi Presha's‭
Vita Kwaliti‭ ‬put out only a few months AFTER Kibaki came to power and already in mid‭ ‬2003,‭ ‬expressing disappointment at the NARC regime.This being the first year anniversary of the POLITICAL ASSASSINATION of Dr Crispin Odhiambo Mbai the song‭
Roho Juu by the
equally militant group Do Klan Revolution who also composed the youth anthem called Vijana Kwa Vijana...

Muindi Mbingu DID NOT lead the CHARMED life of any of the Carr-Hartleys.‭ ‬Towards the second half of his life he spent a stint in Lamu as a guest of the colonial state,‭ ‬an internal exile,‭ ‬banished in another corner of his country because he was agitating in another one.

Muindi Mbingu did not,‭ ‬like the Carr-Hartleys,‭ ‬arrive in Kenya as a‭ ‬foreign settler to grab Kenyan land.‭ ‬He was BORN in Kenya and was one of those patriots who fought for Kenyans to control their land,‭ ‬their livestock and their livelihoods.

The guy was a Kao who was a karau okay- ‬oops‭! ‬that means that Muindi Mbingu was a Kenyan cop born of the Akamba ethnic group,‭ ‬in other words a Kamba speaking uniformed policeman-‭ ‬this translation from classic Sheng to plain English is for the mababi and washake‭ (‬hey‭ ‬I do not mean it,‭ ‬so do NOT stab me with a njora,my shangazis and wajomba from the gicagi‭; ‬do not ‬dust me with a simi my slightly unhip rural cousins,‭ ‬that is just the city slicker in me‭) ‬in the digital auditorium...

And he was educated up to Standard‭ ‬Three in the‭ ‬Thirties.‭ ‬But like my old man used to tell me,‭ ‬a primary school education back in the day counted for something.‭ ‬Look at the calibre of writing from this primary school graduate in this‭ ‬letter that Muindi Mbingu wrote to the Standard‭( ‬August‭ ‬3,‭ ‬1938‭ ‬edition‭)‬:

For centuries,‭ ‬we have regarded cattle as the most valuable form of wealth,‭ ‬and now it is a little difficult for us to agree with the sudden and unexpected policy of the Government that destocking sales are‭ ‬in our own interests.‭ ‬More so,‭ ‬when we remember that the best part of our land has landed in the laps of foreigners who have their‭ ‬farms adjoining the reserves.

There are some readers who will not have a CLUE about what Muindi Mbingu‭( ‬then going by his‭ ‬Christian moniker,‭ ‬Samuel‭) ‬was going on about.

And that gives me an excuse to reopen some pages of Kenya's history...

4.0.‭ ‬Euro-Centric,‭ ‬Afro-Centric,‭ ‬Romantic Revisionist or Authentic People's History‭?

For a couple of decades-‭ ‬the‭ ‬1960s and‭ ‬1970s-‭ ‬there was a fierce debate within Kenyan scholarly circles as to how Kenyan history was written.‭ ‬Initially of course,‭ ‬the colonialists largely echoed‭ ‬racists like C.G.‭ ‬Seligman and H.‭ ‬Trevor Roper in denying‭ ‬indigenous Africans their history and even a presence in‭ ‬the contours of global developments.‭ ‬Then we had the liberal nationalists like my uncle BA Ogot and his colleagues like‭ ‬Prof.‭ ‬Muriuki and the late G.S.‭ ‬Were who swung the pendulum almost the other way in arguing vociferously for an Afrocentric reading and rendering of our past-‭ ‬before they too were surpassed by militant Pan-‭ ‬Africanist and anti-imperialists histriographers like Maina wa Kinyatti et al.

Sometimes what got lost in these academic debates‭ ‬was the actual factual narrative and the role played by ordinary Kenyan men and women in shaping the‭ ‬contemporary developments of the nation that we are now part of.

Between the‭ ‬Eurocentric quest for the Noble Savage and the Afrocentric dream of‭ ‬our‭ ‬lost kingdoms we struggled to remember events as recent as the‭ ‬Mau Mau war for national liberation.

Without mentioning particular names,‭ ‬I must say that even those intellectual comrades who were inspired by Marxism-‭ ‬Leninism,‭ ‬fell into some kind of strange‭ ‬romantic trap in‭ ‬which they basically FICTIONALIZED and‭ ‬REMYTHOLOGIZED events like the struggles of Eliud Mutonyi,‭ ‬Isaac Gathanju,‭ ‬Fred Kubai,‭ ‬Bildad Kaggia,‭ ‬Stanley Mathenge,‭ ‬Domenico Ngatu,‭ ‬Mwangi Macharia,‭ ‬Dedan Kimathi and‭ ‬other members of‭ ‬Anake a‭ ‬40‭ ‬and future Kiama Kia Muingi stalwarts.

In as much as I recognize Kimathi wa Waciuri as a genuine anti-imperialist‭ ‬hero,‭ ‬I think it is intellectually dishonest and ideologically misleading to portray the Field Marshall as if he was some very clear headed‭ ‬revolutionary with‭ ‬Marxist-Leninist ideals whereas he was in fact a militant a far sighted revolutionary NATIONALIST.‭ ‬Likewise it is dangerous to reconfigure the KLFA as‭ ‬some kind of proto-communist outfit when we all know that the Mau Mau structures were fairly solid structures built along‭ ‬NATIONALIST lines.

Those of us who are Africans from the continent living in North America have often found ourselves having to gently chide and correct our earnest,‭ ‬well-meaning,‭ ‬dreamy,‭ ‬totally zonked out Diasporic‭ ‬brethren and sistren who romanticize Africa.‭ ‬This phenomenon prompted me to compose this‭ ‬poem about the Africa that‭ ‬I knew rather than‭ ‬the one that many of her lost children dream of:

Close your eyes
think about Africa
With your eyes closed
What do you see‭?
With your eyes closed
Can you see‭?
With your eyes
Could you see‭?

Close your minds and
think about Africa
Tell me
what do you see‭?
With your
minds closed
What can you see‭?

Do you see
wars and droughts
Do you see
hunger and starvation
Tell me,
what do you see
with your minds closed‭?

Do you see
grinding poverty and
stifling backwardness
Do you see
millions of
black hands
begging for
yellow cattle fodder maize

Close your minds
think about Africa
Tell me my brothers,
what do you see‭?
My sisters,
what could you see
with a closed mind

What do you see
you close your minds
my friends‭?

Do you see
Do you see
with spears
feasting on
Do you see
sweating and
being boiled
for supper
in big

When you
close your minds
look at Africa
What do you see‭?
Do you see
the aristocratic
Caucasian Tarzans
ruling over a
pygmy infested
Do you see
running wild
in the
an Africa filled
with animals
denuded of people

My friends,
my brothers,
my sisters
If this is
the Africa
that you see

If this is the
only Africa that
you know

they have
And I know
you know
who they are
If that is
the Africa
you see
that is
only Africa
they want
to see

No wonder
my brothers

So many of us
So many of us
Are ashamed
of our
good looks
No wonder so
many of us
cover up our
No wonder so
many of us
our African ancestry
Even as
our own
thick lips,
flat noses
and kinky hair
Mock us even
as we disfigure them
with the help of
plastic surgeons,
skin lightening creams
dangerous fluids to
the texture of
blond hair?.
I want you
to doze off
dream about Africa
When you
close your eyes
about Africa
My brothers,
my sisters,
my friends
When you dream
about Africa
what is
the content of
your hallucinations
In that continent
that has
so many
wobbly images
fleeting mirages
do you encounter‭?

In your fantasy,
is every
single African
you know
Of high nobility born‭?
Is every Ebony
Cocoa Brown
and Black Coffee sister
Actually a
Nubian Princess
in disguise‭?
Is every
and Tutsi brother
a forgotten Monarch
waiting patiently
to reclaim
his rightful Throne‭?

Tell me
my friends
what strange images
have your
vivid imaginations
conjured up‭?

My sisters and brothers
As long as
you have your blinkers

and blindfolds on
You will never
and enjoy
The real Africa,
the true Africa,
the living Africa

is there for you to know
If you want
to see Africa
please open your eyes
Please open your eyes
Please open your eyes
If you want
to know
the True Africa
please free your minds
Please free your minds

Free your minds
like the reggae prophet
and poet suggested
Emancipate yourself
from mental slavery
as the visionary
told us in song
those so many years ago

Forget about
Tarzan’s Africa
Forget about
Lion King
Forget about
the mass media’s
Forget about
the racist
Which is
better known
as European

my sisters,
Let us
to Africa
my brothers,
Accompany me
on a new journey to Africa

I am talking
about the true Africa
The living Africa
I am talking about the

and fighting Africa

I am talking about
The Africa
of the Mau Mau
The Africa
of the Umkhonto we Sizwe
The Africa
of Kwame Nkrumah
The Africa
of Patrice Lumumba
and Queen Nzinga
The Africa
of Graca Machel
and General Muthoni
I am talking
about the Africa
of comrade Thomas Sankara

The Africa
I am talking about is
A valiant continent
where millions of workers
have said NO
to Coca Cola,‭ ‬Pepsi Cola,
General Motors
Unilever and De Beers
The Africa
I am talking
about is an arena
of heroic battles
between peasants
and IMF supported
neocolonial dictatorships
The Africa
I am speaking about
is a place where
hundreds of thousands
of patriotic youth and
democratic students
go to jail,
and even die
standing up for their rights

The Africa
I am talking about
is a land where
multitudes of
African women
are striking blows
against sexism
and patriarchy

my brothers and sisters
My comrades and friends,
I invite you
to open your eyes
and expand your minds
To embrace contemporary Africa,
Africa live and direct,
Africa in the flesh
Open your eyes
and experience
the living,
and ever changing Africa
The Africa
that is at the doorstep
of its own century
An Africa
that needs your solidarity
Not tomorrow
or next week

But right about now‭!!

(Spoken Word piece performed by Onyango Oloo in a west end Toronto cafe during an Open Mic session,‭ ‬Toronto,‭ ‬June‭ ‬27,‭ ‬1999‭)

The above sentiments concerning Africa's realities‭ ‬later on helped to inspire fragments from this other poem‭ ‬in a somehow different and specific Kenyan national context‭ ‬:

To Our Mother Kenya on Her‭ ‬37th Birthday

who remembers bamuinge
who remembers makhan singh
who remembers moraa
who remembers syotuna
who remembers muindi mbingu
who remembers mary nyanjiru
who remembers me katilili
who remembers mwangeka
who remembers koitalel
who remembers pio gama pinto
who remembers wasonga sijeyo

why is an avenue in mombasa
named after moi
rather than abdilatif abdalla
why is a street in nairobi
named after banda
rather than bildad kaggia

when is cege kibacia
going to come alive
in our history classrooms
when is micere and ngugi
going to come back to our theatres
who is to reassign alamin mazrui's
kilio cha haki
and kinyatti's
thunder from the mountains
into our national curriculum again

ten thousand mau mau fighters
refused to emerge from the forest
after the con trick of december sixty three
and soon kenyatta's white air force bomber pilots
were flushing out the klfa stalwarts
from their bushy and mountainous strongholds

oginga odinga
spat out not yet uhuru
and murumbi following in his wake
could only stomach
the stench of official corruption
for a few months
before retreating into private obscurity

a national mythology
has grown around the fake
baba wa taifa
who squandered a powerful legacy
as a cherished pan africanist
to head one of africa's
most avaricious looting families
mortgaging our nation to the west
in the process
the grey iron fisted charismatic
who pledged
to forgive his colonial jailers
and forget the settler atrocities
soon bested the governor
in lording over state house

kenyatta and kanu at one time
showed so much promise
a promise of patriotic glory
a promise of a young nation
a promise of a land of freedom and justice
kenyatta and kanu
ushered in misery
inspiring ngugi wa thiongo
to chronicle the tribulations
of the disenchanted children
of a misbegotten uhuru
kenyatta and kanu
killed the dream
of uhuru na kazi

umoja ni nguvu
sisi kwa sisi
prompting nyerere
to denounce kenya
as a man eat man society

between sixty three and seventy eight
kenyatta and his kanu/kadu cabinet
of thieves,‭ ‬murderers and liars
presided over a growing nightmare
as jm kariuki decried
the sad,‭ ‬mad reality
of a nation of ten millionaires
and ten million beggars

in the seventies and eighties
the chelagat mutais
the marie seroneys
the moseti anyonas
the mwachengu wa mwachofis
the lawrence sifunas
the chibule wa tsumas
the james orengos
the koigi wa wamweres
tried to keep alive
the voice of militant protest
in the silenced house of parliament

while the njonjos and the omamos
the oloitiptips and the mudavadis
the sharrif nassirs and the letichs

warned the wachache wasiotosheka
to watch out
silent torturers from
nyati house and nyayo house
went on
with their mundane
and macabre duties
hounding patriots
into dungeons and into exile

the benign fascism
of the old man
and his coterie
of corrupt thugs
a culture of silence and fear
that forced
dissent underground
and gave rise to
the cheche kenyas
the december twelve movements
the kenya anti-imperialist fronts
the mwakenyas
the ukenyas
the uwakes
the mdks and the hdks
the kenya revolutionary movements
and the me katilili revolutionary movements

neocolonial fascism
led to a flowering
of socialist clandestine organizing

that paved the way
for the rubias
the matibas
the imanyaras
the muites
and all the other
not so young turks
of the late eighties
and early nineties

even though
all these latter day saints
of the kenyan pro-democracy movement
claimed credit
for creating
kenya's second liberation
those of us
who had spent years
discussing and agitating for
national democracy
social justice
genuine freedom
true independence
for years and years
under the hostile gaze
of the secret police
and under the very nose
of the murderous warders
even though
the johnny come latelys
of the reform movement
were thumping their chests
only hours
after they had decamped
from top positions in kanu
those of us
who had opposed
the one party dictatorship
kibaki was still vice-president
and matiba still a minister
those of us
who remembered the
embarassing court poetry
of oloo aringo
and the virulent
the pathetic grovelings
of john keen
those of us who remembered
the mahihus
the nyachaes
the mathenges
the yusuf hajis
and the otieno osares
those of us
who remembered
the brutality
of the provincial administration
and the pettiness
of the local sub-chiefs
those of us
of wananchi
who had borne the brunt
of the one party state for decades
merely chuckled
as we marveled
at the political gymnastics
of the newly minted anti-moi opposition

in this last decade
we have been through
two charades
as multi-party elections
in this last decade
we have seen
bankrupt opportunists
with a passion
for megalomania
golden opportunities
of ridding
our tortured nation
of the blight of the
moi-kanu one party dictatorship
we watch
with growing horror and disgust
as the railas and imanyaras of yesteryear
the ex-detainees
and ex-‭ ‬targets
of state terrorism of days still fresh
we watch with growing disgust and horror
as our heroes from ninety-two
in an insane competition
to verify
once for all
is the most depraved
from the former
pro-democracy camp

for the future
of our children
and the prosperity
of our nation
we have refused
to wallow
in the tempting luxury
of cynicism

in the face
of the growing poverty
still we hope and hanker
for a new kenya
in the face
of fetid and putrid
still we fight
for a new kenya
in the face
of growing repression
and rampant injustice
still we sing
the fiery songs
of freedom and protest
in the face
of the devastating AIDS calamity
still we hold tight
for a healthier
new kenya
in the face
of growing violence
against women
still we work for
gender equality
in a new kenya

we have refused to give up
on the mau mau fighters
who sacrificed life,‭ ‬liberty and property
we have refused to give up
on the patriotic and progressive intelligentsia
who defiantly spoke the truth
we have refused to give up
on the militant and determined students and youth
we have refused to give up
on the tortured and harassed prisoners and exiles of
state repression

as kenya
to celebrate
her thirty seventh birthday
in neo-colonial captivity
we rededicate ourselves
to the struggle

we refresh
our commitment
by reminding ourselves
of what ngugi told us
all those years ago:

there is no night
so long
that does not
end with
the break of dawn

‭(‬onyango oloo,‭ ‬toronto,‭ ‬4:16‭ ‬am eastern standard time monday,‭ ‬december‭ ‬11,‭ ‬2000‭)

5.0.‭ ‬From The Pages of Kenya's History:‭ ‬Muindi Mbingu and the Great Akamba March of‭ ‬1938

I am now going to revert to a seminal text I referred to in my previous essay.‭ ‬The book,‭ ‬The Myth of the Mau Mau:‭ ‬Nationalism in Kenya by Carl Rosberg‭ & ‬John Nottingham‭(‬Meridian,‭ ‬1970‭) ‬is to my mind one of the better‭ ‬history books written by non-Kenyans and compares very favourably with later progressive‭ ‬treatments by patriotic Kenyan historians.

Since they write very lucidly,‭ ‬I will just shamelessly reproduce entire chunks without comment.‭

Here goes:

Fragment the First:

...That the Kamba,‭ ‬the tribe from which so many members of the King's African Rifles and Police recruits had been drawn,‭ ‬and which was renowned for its cheerfulness and loyalty,‭ ‬should become a center of resistance is an ironic commentary on the side effects of the Kikuyu-European land dispute that had in large part led to the‭ ‬appointment of the Kenya Land Commission.‭ ‬The Commissioners,‭ ‬failing to‭ ‬recognize the paradox‭ ‬in reducing the cattle stock in supposedly economic and self-sufficient Reserves,‭ ‬recommended in Machakos the introduction of a‭ ‬policy of active destocking combined with a scheme for reconditioning areas that had been destroyed by erosion.‭ ‬In late‭ ‬1937‭ ‬the(Colonial‭) ‬Government‭ ‬confidently introduced a policy of compulsory destocking...the action was vigorously opposed,‭ ‬the protest culminating in the following summer,‭ ‬when some‭ ‬2,000‭ ‬Kamba,‭ ‬including women and children,‭ ‬trekked forty miles to Nairobi,‭ ‬where they demanded an audience with the Governor,‭ ‬Sir Robert Brooke-‭ ‬Popham,‭ ‬dramatically challenging the‭ "‬final solution‭" ‬of Kenya's land problems at the very moment that some of the new legislation it necessitated was under debate in the Colony's Legislative Council....

Fragment‭ ‬the Second:

...The huge ranches alienated to the Europeans along the railway line between Nairobi and Kibwezi,‭ ‬originally planned as a buffer area between the Maasai and the Kamba,‭ ‬border the Kamba Reserve.‭ ‬From the increasingly eroded land on his side of the fence the Kamba herdsman cast covetous eyes on the lush grazing land on the other,‭ ‬especially on certain unoccupied ranches.‭ ‬Before the‭ ‬Europeans had been given their frontier lands,‭ ‬the Kamba had developed a mixed economy,‭ ‬primarily based on cattle and admirably suited to the geography and ecology of their country.‭ ‬The greater portion of this was dry grazing land studded with massive hill lumps,‭ ‬usually well watered,‭ ‬on which sustained agriculture was possible.‭ ‬Traditionally,‭ ‬if there were not sufficient grass for the herds the Kamba would take their chance and march over their borders into the various no-man's lands with which they were surrounded.‭ ‬Sometimes they would be successful,‭ ‬sometimes not.‭ ‬But European settlement and closer administration gradually removed even this outlet from them at the same time as modern veterinary skills were preserving their herds from diseases that had previously carried out some natural destocking.‭ ‬The zeal for eradicating stock disease also meant that‭ '‬most of the native reserves having been kept in perpetual quarantine.‭' ‬and therefore the sale of cattle outside the Reserve was‭ ‬drastically restricted.‭ ‬No Kamba would willingly take his cows onto eroded land if there were good grass available.‭ ‬But as modern medicines increased the numbers of both his people and his herds,‭ ‬and British rule confined him within a Reserve,‭ ‬he was forced to‭; ‬and red hillsides,‭ ‬deeply scarred by erosion,‭ ‬became prominent features of the landscape of Ukambani.‭ ‬And unsigned article in the East African Agricultural Journal in July‭ ‬1935‭ ‬argued t‭ " ‬as the overstocking problem is the direct result of British rule,‭ ‬there is an obligation upon Government to devise adequate remedies.‭" ‬The author commented that the‭ "‬optimum carrying capacity of the native reserves was probably reached in‭ ‬1920‭" ‬since then the cattle population has doubled.‭"

Fragment the‭ ‬Third:

The local European farmers quickly realized that the contrast in conditions between their land and that of the Reserve might have‭ ‬dangerous consequences,‭ ‬and as early as‭ ‬1924‭ ‬the Ulu Settlers Association had lecturers had demanded immediate action‭ ‬on the problem from the‭ (‬Colonial‭) ‬Government.‭ ‬The‭ ‬Government claimed it had tried as early as‭ ‬1919‭ ‬to establish a meat factory.‭ ‬In‭ ‬1928‭ ‬the Governor appointed a Committee to enquire into overstocking.Sir Daniel Hall,‭ ‬Chief Scientific Advisor to the British Ministry of Agriculture,‭ ‬visited the district,‭ ‬saw people‭ "‬beginning to starve by reason of erosion,‭" ‬and prescribed compulsory limitation of stock and the building of a meat factory for its disposal.‭ ‬In‭ ‬1930‭ ‬in a debate on overstocking in the Legislative Council,Lord Francis Scott‭ (‬who was to succeed Lord Delamere as the settlers‭' ‬leader‭) ‬called for‭ ‬70‭ ‬per cent of the stock inthe district to be culled.‭ ‬In‭ ‬1934‭ ‬the Kenya Land Commission recommended that a special committee be set up to deal with the problem and the compulsion be used to reduce herds‭ “‬in areas in which the land is being devastated by overstocking.

Fragment the Fourth:

Another unsigned article in The East African Agricultural Journal,‭ ‬in January‭ ‬1936,‭ ‬pleaded for the use of‭ "‬compulsory measures‭" ‬in the interests of‭ "‬the generations to follow.‭" ‬In‭ ‬1937‭ ‬Colin Maher,‭ ‬the dynamic officer in charge of the Kenya Soil Conservation Service,‭ ‬considered the moment had come for an all-out assault on Machakos,‭ ‬whose increasing population and dearth of overspill areas,‭ ‬even in tsetse
regions,‭ ‬made the problem far more serious than in the other Kamba district of Kitui.‭ ‬Maher commented that‭ "‬every phase of misuse of land is vividly and poignantly displayed in this reserve,‭ ‬the inhabitants of which are rapidly drifting to a state of hopeless and miserable poverty and their land to a parching desert of rock,‭ ‬stones and sand.‭" ‬The‭ "‬end result of forty years of British administration is that the Reserve stands as a cruelly self-evident indictment of the Kenya policy of modified indirect rule.‭" ‬Maher stated that‭ "‬the only way out of the vicious circle of overstocking and decreased carrying capacity‭" ‬was‭ "‬systematic culling and destruction of the unwanted animals by Government,‭ ‬with or without compensation to the owners,‭" ‬at a rate of‭ ‬100,000‭ ‬within four years.‭ ‬He also recommended the extermination of all goats‭ (‬estimated at‭ ‬269,000‭ ‬in Machakos in‭ ‬1928‭) ‬within three years,and the closing of‭ ‬100,000‭ ‬acres a year to human beings and animals so that the vegetation could regenerate.‭ ‬The population would be resettled in uninhabited parts of the district then dominated by the tsetse fly.‭ ‬These would be cleared and fly-belts established.‭ ‬His views were generally supported by Sir Frank Stockdale,‭ ‬Agricultural Advisor to the Colonial Office,‭ ‬in a further report made on a visit to East Africa early in‭ ‬1937.The Kenya Land Commission had recommended that what was called the B2‭ ‬section of the Yatta Plateau,‭ ‬an area of some‭ ‬300‭ ‬square miles between the Athi and Mwita Syano rivers to the east of Machakos,‭ ‬should be added to‭ ‬the Kamba Reserve on condition that its use was tied into a general reconditioning scheme for the Reserve.‭ ‬One aspect of the scheme was the use of machines to recondition the hillsides‭; ‬the other was to find some outlet for the surplus stock.‭ ‬In August‭ ‬1936,‭ ‬therefore,‭ ‬negotiations were be with Liebig's,‭ ‬a commercial meat-canning firm that as early as‭ ‬1922‭ ‬had sent two representatives to Kenya.‭ ‬The negotiations resulted in their building a factory,‭ ‬which was opened by the Governor in March‭ ‬1938,‭ ‬at Athi River on the edge the Kamba Reserve.‭ ‬It would be unlikely that they would have committed themselves this deeply without some indication from the Government that they could expect a steady flow of cattle.‭ ‬In fact,‭ ‬they were promised‭ ‬100,000‭ ‬annually and an immediate supply of‭ ‬30,000‭ ‬head at the prices they mentioned.‭ ‬Such a factory would undoubtedly also have the effect of enhancing the value of the Machakos European ranches.

Fragment the‭ ‬Fifth:

On July‭ ‬14,‭ ‬1937,‭ ‬at a baraza at Machakos the Governor announced that action was imminent and that Government would be‭ "‬prepared to meet resistance.‭" ‬At the beginning of‭ ‬1938,‭ ‬with a‭ ‬£23,000‭ ‬loan to the Machakos Local Native Council from the Colonial Development Fund,‭ ‬new‭ ‬staff was drafted in‭ "‬to destock the reserve by compulsory sales.‭” ‬A free grant of‭ ‬£10,000‭ ‬was also made‭ "‬for the comprehensive treatment of‭ ‬100,000‭ ‬acres.‭ ‬ ascertain what can done to save these Reserves in Kenya from absolute destitution.‭"‬A.‭ ‬N.‭ ‬Bailward,‭ ‬the Machakos District Commissioner estimated that he had‭ ‬250,000‭ ‬cows in his District,‭ ‬and that at least‭ ‬100,000‭ ‬would have to be removed to bring the numbers down to the carrying capacity of the land.‭ ‬He decided on the following plan to accomplish this within two years.‭ ‬Each sub-location would have an estimated quota,‭ ‬and six elected elders would decide how that quota would be divided among individuals.‭ ‬This would form the basis of‭ "‬a kind of Doomsday book,‭" ‬All stock would then be brought to a central point,‭ ‬and those over the quota would be disposed of,‭ ‬while those within it would be given a special local brand.

Fragment the Sixth:

In early‭ ‬1938‭ ‬the plan was put into operation.‭ ‬Many former administrators had tried to carry out a destocking program among the Kamba,‭ ‬but none had been very successful,‭ ‬Bailward,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬meant business,‭ ‬Machakos was to be a pilot scheme for other disaster areas in the country,‭ ‬and there were considerable funds invested in it.‭ ‬But opposition kept pace with the program.‭ ‬Soon after the campaign began,‭ ‬some of the Kamba leaders made contact with the KCA in Nairobi,‭ ‬and on March‭ ‬1‭ ‬they sent a telegram to the Governor.‭ ‬By April they were sufficiently organized to draft and send a petition to the Secretary of State,‭ ‬a copy of which Jomo Kenyatta‭ ‬also received in London.‭ ‬He wrote the first of five letters on that subject that he was to send to the Manchester Guardian in the next four months.‭ ‬The petition was dated May‭ ‬2,‭ ‬1938,‭ ‬and signed by Isaac Mwalonzi Elijah Kavulu,‭ ‬and Samuel Muindi,‭ ‬It read:‭” ‬Recently a European firm and Company has erected a canning of beef and other meat products,‭ ‬on land adjoining the Athi River Station.‭ ‬It seems that,‭ ‬as a result,‭ ‬efforts are being made by the administration to ensure a steady supply of cattle for slaughter at the factory.‭ ‬The said factory adjoins European owned farms where cattle are stocked.‭ ‬Whether because there are no,‭ ‬or not enough European owned cattle to keep the factory going,‭ ‬pressure is being brought to bear on our tribe to dispose of our stock.‭” ‬The signatories represented a new phenomenon in Kamba politics-the rise of an educated nontraditional leadership.‭ ‬All three had primary education and all three had lived and worked in Nairobi.‭ ‬Mwalonzi had been a teacher,‭ ‬Kavulu a clerk in government service,‭ ‬and Samuel Muindi‭ (‬also known as Muindi Mbingu‭) ‬a policeman.‭ ‬It was Muindi who was to prove the most forceful and resililient leader in the tense months that lay ahead.‭ ‬He used the columns of Muigwithania and the East African Standard to state the Kamba case.‭

Fragment the‭ ‬Seventh:

By mid-August Bailward had disposed of‭ ‬20,000‭ ‬head prices that he accepted were‭ "‬below the value placed by the natives on their stock and less than they have been getting.‭” ‬In fact,‭ ‬some animals went for as little as five shillings,‭ ‬while calves were fetching one shilling or two.‭ ‬Bailward admitted that it was not possible in an auction dealing with‭ ‬3,000‭ ‬head of cattle to sell each one individually.‭ ‬The animals‭ ‬were roughly graded in three or four pools,‭ ‬and the average price in each pool was paid to the owners.‭ ‬In many ways,‭ ‬what land is to the Kikuyu,‭ ‬cattle are the Kamba.‭ "‬They are a means of livelihood and the tradititional symbol of wealth and honour and are of the utmost importance in almost every transaction in tribal affairs.‭" ‬In May and June in part of sub-headman Nzau's sub-location‭ (‬Ngelani‭) ‬of Iveti,‭ ‬the opposition to the Government grew and the people decided not to cooperate.‭ ‬Ngelani is the area nearest to the fertile Mua Hills whence Kamba families had been evicted to make room for European settlers in the early‭ ‬years of the century.‭ ‬Bailward called in police reinforcements from Thika and Nairobi.‭ ‬On July‭ ‬7,‭ ‬2,500‭ ‬head of cattle were seized‭ (‬from an area of‭ ‬11,000‭ ‬acres estimated to have a carrying capacity of‭ ‬500‭ ‬head‭) ‬by a force of some‭ ‬116‭ ‬Kenya‭ ‬and Tribal Police armed with rifles.‭ "‬This action was taken because the natives concerned had adopted an attitude of passive resistance.‭"

The three leaders decided to create an organization called the Ukamba Members Association(‬UMA‭)‬.‭ ‬From the start the UMA had close links with the KCA and was also greatly helped and supported by Isher Dass,‭ ‬then a Member of the Legislative Council.‭ ‬Vigorously and vociferously they protested‭ ‬.‭ ‬to their headmen,‭ ‬chiefs,‭ ‬and the District Commissioner,‭ ‬none of whom took much notice.‭ ‬Money was collected and meetings were held in Nairobi among the Kamba in the KAR and the Police,‭ ‬Other collections were made in Mombasa,‭ ‬from among the Kikuyu,‭ ‬the Kamba,‭ ‬and other tribes.Protest continued,‭ ‬and the Kamba involved took a general oath of unity,‭ ‬swearing‭ "‬to refuse any form of co-operation with the administration.‭"‬There was a‭ "‬formal cursing‭" ‬of certain individuals prepared to cooperate with the government.

Fragment the‭ ‬Eighth:

Then on July‭ ‬28,‭ ‬about‭ ‬2,000‭ ‬Kamba men,‭ ‬women,‭ ‬and children marched to Nairobi to see the Governor.‭ ‬Within the first week,‭ ‬two babies were born in the‭ "‬Protest Camp,‭"
as their bivouac near the Racecourse was christened,‭ "‬Every night they shivered in their tents,‭ ‬every day vainly sought an audience with the Governor.‭" ‬Isher Dass and the KCA leaders strengthened their resolve and helped them with supplies.‭ ‬Isher Dass himself acted as liaison between the‭ "‬Protest Camp‭" ‬and the Chief Native Commissioner.‭ ‬The Governor persisted in his refusal to see them,‭ ‬while they refused to move out of Nairobi until he did..On August‭ ‬3‭ ‬a letter appeared from Samuel Muindi in the East African Standard:‭ "‬For centuries,‭ ‬we have regarded cattle as the most valuable form of wealth,‭ ‬and now it is a little difficult for us to agree with the sudden and unexpected policy of the Government that destocking sales are in our own interests.‭ ‬More so,‭ ‬when we remember that the best part of our land has landed in the laps of foreigners who have their farms adjoining the reserves.‭ ‬During August protest meetings and demonstrations against Government officials occurred at several places in the Machakos Reserve.‭ ‬Eventually a compromise was reached.‭ ‬On August‭ ‬17‭ ‬the Chief Native Commissioner announced in a Legislative Council Debate in which Dass strongly pleaded the Kamba case that the Governor would hold a baraza at Machakos on August‭ ‬25,‭ ‬when on his way to Kitui and the coast.‭ ‬The aChief Native Commissioner added that no other country had dared to strike at the root of the evil‭ (‬overstocking‭)‬,‭ ‬and that the Government was determined to carry it through.‭ ‬The news of the Governor's baraza was conveyed to the‭ "‬Protest Camp,‭" ‬which closed down on Friday,‭ ‬August‭ ‬19,‭ ‬concluding the campaign of passive resistance.‭ ‬At the baraza‭ ‬10,000‭ ‬Kamba listened to a sermon in which the Governor delivered a paternal rebuke,‭ ‬Describing the Kamba as the children of their officers,‭ ‬he attacked their leaders as agitators who‭ "‬came in without their head-men‭; ‬they never put up any complaint or petition through their officers,‭"

Fragment the‭ ‬Ninth:

The leaders of the UMA then presented a memorandum in which they said that they were not opposed the principle of destocking but protested that the pace was too fast for the ordinary man to comprehend.‭ ‬People with only one cow had been deprived even of it.‭ ‬With respect to the Local Native Councils,‭ ‬they were‭ "‬a farce as far as effective representation by the people is concerned.‭" ‬The Governor,‭ ‬in announcing the end of the forced sale of cattle auction and the reintroduction of voluntary sales,‭ ‬had already conceded the victory to the‭ "‬Protest Camp,‭" ‬although on September‭ ‬29,‭ ‬Samuel Muindi was arrested under the Deportation Ordinance and on October‭ ‬4‭ ‬he was sent to Lamu.‭ ‬By late November the Governor had reconsidered policy of forcible destocking,‭ ‬and he wrote that‭ "‬the whole work is being carried out for the benefit of the Akamba and their children.‭ ‬We shall not have achieved this object if we ave to enforce orders with bayonets and machine guns,‭ ‬nor will it be possible to carry out a programme of soil restoration without the full cooperation of those concerned.‭" ‬On December‭ ‬1,‭ ‬the Governor decided to call off the compulsory cuIIing campaign and return unconditionally to their owners the‭ ‬2,500‭ ‬cattle from Ngelani stilI held by the Government.‭ ‬The adoption of an alternative proposal for‭ "‬encouraging enclosure of individual holdings,‭" ‬shut the door on this particular episode of Government policy.

Fragment the‭ ‬Tenth:

The epilogue came softly,‭ ‬in the Report of a Committee set up by the Government in‭ ‬1939‭ ‬to,‭ ‬study methods of destocking.‭ ‬Two of its settler members resigned as soon as the Committee rejected compulsion.‭ ‬The Committee,‭ ‬its problems eased by large-scale war-time buying of slaughter livestock for the Army,‭ ‬suggested that improved marketing would be the most practicable solution.

In the areas of low rainfall and poor soil in much of Ukambani,‭ ‬cattle played an essential economic role.‭ ‬But the intense emotion with which the Kamba have always viewed destocking proposals can only be understood in terms of the additional importance of cattle as a social asset and as an integral part of Kamba culture.‭ ‬The‭ ‬1938‭ ‬controversy with brought forth a group of politicians among the Kamba,much as the female circumcision crisis had among the Kikuyu.‭ ‬Muindi had also clearly seen the artificial nature of the problem,‭ ‬created in part by the land alienation policies of the Government.‭ ‬The Mua HiIIs,‭ ‬a fertile area from which Kamba families had early been moved to make room for Europeans,‭ ‬remained as much a bone of contention as the grazing in the Yatta plateau.‭ ‬Both were natural expansion areas for the tribe,‭ ‬the Mua Hills being especially coveted by the people from the locations whose inhabitants were most involved in the‭ "‬Protest Camp.‭" ‬In its destocking‭ ‬proposals the Government exceeded the limits of interference with the ideas and values that cemented the Kamba social structure.‭ ‬The problem of the Kamba cattle could not be handled in isolation as a purely economic question.‭ ‬In the months before the war the Government anxiously watched the growing liaison between the Kikuyu and the Kamba politicians..‭ ‬The Administration felt that this alliance had been assisted because administratively the two tribes were in the same Province.‭ ‬After the war,‭ ‬as the bonds grew closer,‭ ‬the Government became sufficiently worried to excise the two Kamba districts from the Central Province.This occurred on August I,‭ ‬1953‭; ‬the Kamba now joined.‭ ‬their ancient rivals for grazing lands,‭ ‬the Masai,‭ ‬to form a new Southern Province.‭ ‬In many ways the Kamba episode in‭ ‬1938‭ ‬was a precursor of the development of nationalist politics in Central Province after the war,‭ ‬when in so many districts the movement initially took the form of local incidents of passive resistance to Government policies aimed at agricultural betterment.‭ ‬This resistance,‭ ‬though often against the economic interests of the people,‭ ‬was justified in terms of the national struggle.‭

‭7.0.The Land Issue Will Unleash A Revolution in Kenya Within A Few Years

‭That extended look into aspects of the historical background which fostered the evolution of the Kenya Meat Commission should, we hope lead to a greater appreciation of some of the pitfalls of the reckless neo-liberal policies being pursued by the neoliberal Talibans of Nairobi. Desperate for Western support and approval, the Anyang Nyongos, the David Mwirarias, Amos Kimunyas, Raila Odingas and Kalonzo Musyokas and Mukhisa Kituyis are falling over each other vying to prove that so and so is the most vicious cost cutter; the most ruthless privatizer and the most shameless appeasers of the transnationals, the G-8 states and the coterie of multilateral institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank.

‭I have made my case elsewhere against mindless foreign direct investment which takes a slightly different take to the issue than this
case study on privatization in Kenya

‭It has been quite shocking to see how someone like

Amos Kimunya has been reacting to the concerns expressed by the Maasai about their long standing land claims.

The ARREST of John Ole Letai, the Chair of Osiligi evokes for some of some of the fascist thuggery of the Moi-KANU era.

‭Needless to say, I of course poked my long nose into Amos Kimunya's

background and this paragraph practically jumped at me:

‭Some feel that Mr Kimunya's prominence on the golf and country club circuit – he is a past chairman of the Muthaiga Golf Club – where he rubs shoulders with the DP's movers and shakers might present him an advantage. How to translate that advantage to voters, majority of who hardly know him, is the big issue for him.

‭When I read that I went:

‭No Wada I was Wadaring Kreari this smug and pampered Mheshimiwa can not appreciate that the question of the ahois and the tai tai homungatis of the twenty first century will make the Morans the new Mau Mau fighters of Kenya!

‭Seriously, what will blow up things in Kenya is not the simmering feud within NARC over the MOU- it is the REFUSAL of successful neo-colonial governments- Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki regime to deal with the Land question or even contemplate progressive reform is the firewood that will ignite the coming conflagration in this country.

‭But how could any of these guys- the Kenyatta, the Kibakis, the Mois and MOST if NOT ALL of their ministers touch the burning land issue?

‭After all


‭If there are any Kenyan security intelligence agents, government officials or their offspring, bed-room companions, golf-partners or hangers on reading this, I would like them to open their eyes as wide as saucers and take notice of the following concluding paragraph from yours truly:

‭I notice that you keep sending policemen and women and other security officials to crack down on peaceful and unarmed Kenyans just asking for what rightfully belongs to them.

‭Remember that these askaris and karaus are Kenyans too. They come from specific families. Some of them are the sons and daughters of the squatters of, some ofn them are the nieces and nephews of those activists you send them to arrest. How long do you think they will be lifting their rungus to hit their own cousins?

‭Remember Muindi Mbingu.

‭He was a Kenyan policeman.

‭Remember too, our soldiers are the same Kenyans who want a new constitution; who are tired of the arrogance of the powers that be. What makes you think that you will be bribing them with cheap AFCO Tusker, White Cap and Pilsner forever?

‭One day they will wake up and KICK YOUR ASS.

‭If in doubt, check out the following images and ask yourself:

‭Who were those people and why did they decided to walk on the path of armed struggle towards political liberation:

photo essay on Jerry Rawlings

Onyango Oloo

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