Written by Dedan Waicuri and Yusuf Askari wa Watu
There is nothing left to do in the US but to organize and mobilize the masses. The US is a country made up of conservatives who are openly racist and imperialist, and liberals who are incoherent and inconsistent; only “inclusive” when it comes to upholding white supremacy and imperialism. They both give false hope to us, the colonized masses, lie after lie, broken promise after broken promise. We have come to see that the US has always resembled genocide, war, imperialism, capitalism, white supremacy, and so many other cancers that we as the colonized masses are infected with. To be cured, to be free, we must rid ourselves of the tumors and infected areas of our body. Only through collective, protracted, and organized struggle will we obtain liberation. No individual can free us, no Eurocentric ideology will break our chains, and being a neocolonial pawn will not emancipate us. Only the organization of the masses can and will do that. We in Mapinduzi understand that we must organize our communities so that they can determine for themselves how they will operate. As an organization, we draw our inspiration from a group of African freedom fighters whose spirit is desperately needed in the US today.
During a speech delivered in 1964, Malcolm X made a profound assertion about a rebel group that fought against British colonialism in East Africa known to many as the Mau Mau. “We need a Mau Mau revolution in Mississippi, we need a Mau Mau revolution in Alabama, we need a Mau Mau revolution in Georgia, and we need a Mau Mau revolution in Harlem,” is what Malcolm X professed to a crowd that could be heard cheering in excitement as he continued to describe this African Nationalist movement and its many struggles to achieve liberation in Kenya. What was alluded to on that day, despite the many attempts by the British Government to discredit the Mau Mau as merely a demonic and murderous group of Africans, was the role the Mau Mau revolt played in the anti-colonial movement on the entire African continent and what a pivotal role a Mau Mau revolution could potentially play here in the amerikan empire.
To begin to understand the history of the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya, one of the most interesting and compelling peasant revolts in the history of the world, you must understand its mysticisms. Mysticisms that included semi-religious oaths, rituals, colonial hysteria, and an intransigent struggle for freedom. It is important that we start with the people that comprised the Mau Mau and a short history of what led up to the infamous 1952 revolt.
Before the violent undertaking of British rule, the people of central Kenya (the Kikuyu people) roamed and extended southward, creating many new social groups, costumes,and regulations for their society. These social groups, whose populations continued to grow and expand, eventually developed into what was known as Kikuyu country (large plots of Kikuyu lands scattered across wide areas of central Kenya). These plots are where Kikuyu society thrived alongside other resident tenants. It wasn’t until the 1896 “Land Acquisition Act” that the colonial administration granted permission to obtain land for a railway. This direct theft of land from Africans was one of many of the land ordinances that strategically reduced Kikuyu expansion and encroached on what little land was left.
In Wunyabario O. Maloba’s book Mau Mau and Kenya, he highlights that “the history of settler occupation of Kenya from 1900 is indissolubly linked to the railway-then called the Uganda railway.” He goes on to explain that the railway was built using British government funds and represented the most expensive official expenditure in the newly acquired territory. This expenditure in itself demonstrated the British government’s commitment to securing a firm chokehold, not only in Uganda but also in British East Africa, a territory that, after 1920 became known as “Kenya”.
The dawning of settler occupation in Kenya, where the British were preoccupied with developing what they had coined “a white man’s country” required introducing capitalist relations, western-style education and religion to an area that was considered in need of a cleanse from its “barbaric” and “primitive” ways. And to ensure that these colonial aims were achieved, British governors in Kenya petitioned for British settlers from South Africa to come and assist in the assertion of British rule in Kenya, by modeling the newly formed colony specifically after South Africa. Because of this beastly rise of colonialism, the Kikuyu people were forcefully stopped from expanding south, creating tension and pressure that eventually challenged traditional roles and traditional hierarchy.
This rise of colonialism also brought about the introduction of a new class of Africans with access to money and influence that was no longer loyal to traditional rights and obligations, turning chiefs corrupt and forcing some Kikuyu to sell portions of land because of the idea of financial security. Something else worth pointing out that led up to the revolt of 1952 was the ever-present land scarcity that resulted in the over-utilization of land and the deterioration in land fertility. These rural economic conflicts created by British encroachment were the beginning sparks for a definite struggle. And because of the continual theft of African land, alienation, and the refusal of African self-determination, the people of Kikuyu country and the people who migrated into the city of Nairobi, 45% being that of Kikuyu society, formed what has been referred to as the KLFA (Kenya Land and Freedom Army) by its very own fighters.
The KLFA were considered anti-colonial nationalist, where the majority of its members were peasants from rural areas. Its composition, like the European peasant movement, was made up mostly of peasants but the difference is that unlike the European peasant movement, it was mainly led by peasants with no intellectuals or cadres leading the movement. In another observation by Wunyabari O. Maloba, he states that “although the KLFA was the result of imperialism’s oppression and exploitation, it did not symbolize the uprising or revolution of the proletariat. Majority of the workers held out of the movement as well as the educated class. Leaving the majority of the fighting to semiliterate men who chose to use traditional symbols for strength and support.” These limitations were used to the disadvantage of the KLFA fighters by the colonial government as they spread the most grotesque propaganda campaign that could have been produced about the KLFA. This resulted in a lack of support from even the majority of overseas leftists who were made uncomfortable by the stories of oath taking, blood drinking, and traditional rituals considered backwards in the eyes of conservatives and religious types. The sheer idea that the majority of the rebels never heard of Marx or Lenin left some people in an ambivalent position.
Another maneuver used by the colonial forces outside of the propaganda offensive, was the government’s ruthless counterinsurgency campaigns conducted by the British military. Ever since 1945, the overtly sadistic British military were accustomed to countering any nationalist revolutionary movements coming out of South Africa and East Africa. But what became apparently clear, was that both branches of government agreed that the KLFA had to be suppressed no matter the cost or outcome, leading up to the April 24, 1954 Anvil operation approved by the war council that allowed the corralling and the removal of about thirty thousand Africans from the city of Nairobi to reserves and concentration camps. With the eviction of KLFA rebels from Nairobi, the reserves, and also being bombed out of the forests, another new phenomena was beginning to emerge out of the struggle for national liberation.
Organizations are important as tools for the people because they allow for democratization of ideas. Instead of speaking for the people, organizations serve the people. In Mapinduzi, we understand that we must speak the language of the people while also highlighting the contradictions of the powers that be. We have the understanding that power, true political power, does not come from “top to bottom but from the bottom to top,” just as Kwame Ture said. The power to change society and liberate the people does not come from elected officials, it comes from the mass organization and mobilization of the poor and working-class peoples. When the hood, the working class, the everyday people in our communities are not in position to lead themselves, you can always count on a group of self-interested Africans to come in and derail the struggle. One thing that has been highlighted about the British government in its attempt to destroy the peasant revolt in Kenya was its use of the Africans that were willing to stand on the side of the British empire aka Loyalist or Home Guards.
When the state of emergency was declared in October 1952, the loyalists that were willing to provide security and protection to the colony were the ones belonging to two main classes: government servants such as chiefs and tribal policemen, and staunch Christians who saw the KLFA as an abomination. What started out as a poorly organized effort to ease tension within Kikuyu society and split support between the rebels and sellout class, eventually led to the colonial government officially recognizing the Home Guard as an official branch of security that was under the command of a Colonel P.A. Morcombe who had a background in fighting Malayan Communists. Just in a matter of two years (1953-54) the Home Guard grew from about eight thousand men to an onerous twenty-five thousand men. These Home Guards were key to the British repression of the KLFA revolt because they served as a way for the government to perform counterinsurgency missions. It was also the Home Guard that killed no less than 4,668 at the end of the emergency that accounted for 42% of the victims.
Although this peasant revolt in Kenya wasn’t led by Marxist ideology, nor was there a broad base of revolutionary cadre intellectuals, the Mau Mau revolution was one of the most feared and inspiring anti-colonial struggles coming out of Africa.
We must look at everything African organizations have accomplished. Let us learn from our elders and ancestors. Let us apply their past struggles to our present struggles. Let us learn from the programs of the Black Panther Party, the African Blood Brotherhood, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, the New Jewel Movement, and all the other African led organizations that have fought for our liberation. The MPLA, PAIGC, and FRELIMO all drove out the Portuguese colonizers in Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique. The Black Panther Party provided social services to Africans in the US in a way that amerika had never seen. The New Jewel Movement was able to rebuild the Grenadian economy and take a stand against imperialism. The African Blood Brotherhood was able to educate the African masses on class struggle by speaking on street corners in Harlem. The EPLF was able to achieve independence in 1991 by organizing, educating, and arming the masses in Eritrea against colonialism and imperialist policies. But for Mapinduzi, it will always be that righteous struggle of African peasants in Kenya that will continue to guide our movements in the streets and strengthen our commitment to organization.
Long Live the KLFA , we need a MAU MAU in Amerika!
Yusuf Askari wa Watu is a member of Mapinduzi
Dedan Waciuri is a member of Mapinduzi based in Colonized Greenville NC and also a coordinating committee member of BAP (Black alliance for Peace).