Kenya: Decolonization, Democracy and the Struggle for Uhuru
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The former British colony of Kenya achieved independence in December 1963, but separation from the policies and legacy of the British Empire is an ongoing process. In 2011, a British High Court case brought by detainees of the Mau Mau Emergency examined British policy and abuse during the state of emergency from 1952 to 1960. The case ultimately ended in settlement, with the UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, stating that “[the abuses] marred Kenya’s progress towards independence.” While the Mau Mau Emergency is not the only example of the long-term impact of British policy, it is one of the most notable due to the violence perpetrated by both the colonial government, but also by tribal groups, during the emergency. How do these events shape the process of independence and post-colonial government structures? The global system as it exists today relies on the connections and institutions built and created during the period of empires; Kenya is no exception. Ethnic tensions, emphasized by British land policy and internal British policies, carried over into the Mau Mau Emergency in 1952, where members of the Kenya African Union (later KANU), frustrated with the inability to attain a greater political voice, launched a military conflict against the British. While ultimately a failure for the Kikuyu-dominated group, the Emergency set in motion processes, political and economic, that would have a lasting impact on the Kenyan government and its people. Under the leadership of Jomo Kenyatta, in 1963, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) took control of the new independent state. While uhuru, or independence, had been achieved, Kenya still faced political struggle. Through KANU dominance, Kenya became a de facto one-party state under Kenyatta and an official one-party state under Daniel arap Moi until 1992. KANU remained in power until 2002, leading to what was widely seen by the international community as the first set of truly free elections. This project focuses on the political implications of colonialism, examining Kenyan politics and economic data points through a historiographical perspective, particularly the period 1948 to 2002, including the 5 years prior to independence, the Pax Kenyatta, the first nyayo (footsteps) decade under Daniel arap Moi and Kenya into the early 2000s. Through archival documents from the National Archives in London, I examined British attitudes and policy decisions to gain insight into the colonial mindset. In addition, I use constitutional documents and economic data from the World Bank to provide further insight into the impacts of colonial land policy. My study is an attempt to understand the long-term implications of colonialism and decolonization on political processes and how those processes determine the path of government.