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History and Impacts of the Mau Mau Uprising

Info: 1302 words (5 pages) Essay
Published: 8th Feb 2020 in History

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British policemen stand guard over men from the village of Kariobangi, north-east of Nairobi, while their huts are searched for evidence that they participated in the Mau Mau rebellion

The Mau Mau Uprising

The Mau Mau uprising began in 1952 as a reaction to discrimination and injustices in the British-controlled Kenya. The response of the colonial command was a vicious elimination on the rebels, resulting in many deaths. By 1956 the uprising had successfully been crushed, but the size of the resistance to the British control had clearly been demonstrated and Kenya was set on the path to independence, which was finally achieved in 1963.The British colonial presence in Kenya began in the late 19th Century, as part of a process of the Scramble for Africa. The area today we known as Kenya had previously been under the control of the Sultan of Zanzibar, but the push from Britain and its military had forced the Sultan to hand over the territory to the British Empire, as well as neighboring Tanganyika to Germany. British gained control over most of the East African coast. British began to move inland, trying to gain access to the fertile highlands and provide greater security for Uganda, which had been claimed as a British colony. British forces were sent to defeat any resistance from the ethnic groups living in the central highlands mainly the Maasai, the Kikuyu and the Kamba. The native Africans responded with aggression and some with welcome. However, British displays of force, such as shooting Africans at random swiftly led to the withdrawal of any friendliness the Maasai avoided British military, but the Kikuyu seek to gather resistance to the invasion of forces into their land but that resistance was met with brutality from the colonialists, who carried out executions and quests to hunt down Kikuyu and Kamba people. 

The Rebellion

The Mau Mau were a part of the Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest ethnic group. Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi led the armed military against the British colonial rule in Kenya in the 1950s until his execution in 1957.They started an uprising in 1952 in an attempt to reclaim their “land and freedom.” The main reason of the Mau Mau movement was having basic rights: higher wages, increased educational opportunities, return of their lands, and African self-determination. Once the Europeans started to move the Kikuyu people off their lands bitterness grew within the Kikuyu tribe against European settlers and the Mau Mau started to form secret gatherings to administer a commitment with its members and began a campaign targeting European settlers in their isolated farms. Armed groups of Mau Mau formed forest gangs in the Aberdare and Mount Kenya areas from where they would emerge to carry out attacks against the civil authorities and settlers. These attacks increased and a state of emergency was declared by the Europeans. Mau Mau stepped up decided to enlarge their attacks and the largest single massacre of the rebellion took place in Lari, with attacks on the Home Guard families the massacre produce a retaliation by the Home Guard, Settlers and the Colonial forces this ended with over 400 deaths. The Lari massacre was a huge turning point.

A British Prison camp in Kenya, 1954

The Response

The British response to the uprising involved massive round-ups of suspected Mau Mau and their supporters, large numbers of people were hanged and up to 150,000 Kikuyu held in detention camps. the British tried to take down the movement by declaring a State of Emergency before arresting 180 so called Mau Mau leaders and having six of them to a show trial, and contributing to a large military-sweep of Nairobi leading to the custody of tens of thousands of the city’s suspected Mau Mau members and allies. British claimed the rebels were part of a secret and savage society known as the “Mau Mau,” whose members had supposedly committed to slaughter Europeans and drive them out of Africa. The British war against the Kikuyu was ruthless and was justified by charges that the rebels were terrorists. The British created forced-labor detention camps for people suspected of being associated with the Mau Mau, the camps were characterized as Short rations, overwork, brutal, humiliating and would give disgusting treatment and flogging to the elderly and children, also they used methods of extreme torture to find information and to restrict the uprisings. Over one million Kenyans were forcibly removed from their homes and put into the camps. Many of these people were innocent

The Outcome

The Movement lasted from 1952 through 1960, during the eight-year uprising, 32 white settlers and about 200 British police and army soldiers were killed.  Over 1,800 African civilians were killed and some put the number of Mau Mau rebels killed at around 20,000. The capture of the mau mau leader, Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi, on 21 October 1956, revealed the defeat of the Mau Mau, the movement was defeated by the supreme measures taken by the British. Although the Mau Mau rebellion was in the end put down, Kenya’s independence in 1963 was a result of the pressures created by the Mau Mau. In 2006, former Mau Mau fighters set motion legal action against the British government under claims of mistreatment in detention camps. In 2013 the British government formally apologized for the brutal methods they used to suppress the uprising and agreed to pay approximately 20 million dollars to the surviving victims of abuse. In 2016 a new legal suit against the British government was formed on the behalf of those affected by additional offenses (e.g., false imprisonment, forced labor, interruption to their right to education)



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