The then Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya having a good time on vacation in our country as a British colony in 1951.
The British monarchy dates back to 1066 and it is a long and tedious history but with regards to Kenya, the British settlers and military forces took our country in 1896.
Kenya was declared a Colony and Protectorate under the control of British East Africa under the British Empire and became a British colony in 1920. Queen Elizabeth was not even born yet. She had 6 years to wait for that. Even my mother who always loves the Queen was not born yet. She was born in 1935.
My mother and I had a tough argument in 2001 when I took my son who was then 5 years old to go visit her from Canada. My mother has pictures all over her wall. So the Queen was there. Of course, Jaramogi was there and then Mother Teresa. I try to tell my mother that we don’t need the Queen. She told me she was her friend and I should shut up. Which I did promptly.
It was a nice visit with my mother and family. First, my mother knocks on my door at 6 a.m and I am wondering what the problem is. She tells me the boy is not going to be eating street foods that I like in Bondo market. So she takes the young man every morning and we can go to the market later.
Then my wife in Toronto is under a lot of pressure with her friends asking her how the hell she let a five-year-old kid go to Kenya where he had never been before. She tells them the boy is with his father and if the guy cannot take care of his son what else can he take he take of?
In any event, when Elizabeth becomes the queen in 1952 it was the year of the most vicious attack from British colonial powers in Kenya at the time.
On October 1952, the British colonial power in Kenya rounded up close to 200 Kenyan political leaders in the notorious Operation Jock Scott. They said they were fighting the Mau Mau.
Who were the Mau Mau? The colonialists used the term to convey a sinister force and savage bogey man. Their ideologues then as now, dismissed Mau Mau as one of those strange things that can only come out of Africa.
To them, Mau Mau was an episode of pure Black tribal terror from the depths of the “primitive” villages of Central Kenya. And by their racist distortion of Kenya’s history, they really did not know what Mau Mau’s struggle was all about.
The truth of the matter is that Dedan Kimathi was not Lenin and other Mau Mau militants were not peasants arising to demand their stolen land back. Kimathi built the Kenya Land and Freedom Army to fight for land and freedom for Kenyans. He never minced words about that even after he was captured and put on trial.
These were Kimathi’s words after he was arrested by the British Forces.
“You must feel very happy at the outward success of your cruel operation. You arrested our leadership and a lot of people. Thousands of Africans leading normal life have been stopped, searched, beaten, humiliated, and arrested. Creating the Emergency, you have brutally beaten us and now you cannot claim democracy and freedom.
Fascism has come to Kenya. We have been robbed of all freedom. You have destroyed our press by arresting our editors and suppressing our newspapers. But you cannot suppress the voice of the people.
The brutality and oppression, the show of force and the rule of the gun will not stop us from achieving our goals.
You cannot end our political wish by arresting our leaders. We have many more women and men with brains and will continue to fight and achieve our freedom.
We have been forced to go underground. If we are known you will murder us. We are not afraid. We ask how many of us will you imprison, how many of us will you kill.”
The roots of the Mau Mau go back to the 1930’s and 1940’s. This is the period during which Kenya’s organized working-class movement emerged and consolidated itself.
Out of the trade unions came several political leaders like Cege Kibacia, Makhan Singh and Mwangi Macaria.
Given the nature of the Kenyan worker at this time (with one foot still in the rural peasant economy and with its networks and extended family) matters affecting workers in urban areas were felt throughout the countryside and this afforded the trade unions and their leaders access to a large segment of the population which would otherwise not be tapped had it not been not been in a country with hardly any peasants.
Internationally, this was the time that Adolf Hitler and the German fascists plotted and actually unleashed an imperialist on the peace-loving people of the earth. In Kenya, the impact was felt immediately.
The Kenyan people opposed the war by evading and running away from conscription camps, by refusing to let their food be requisitioned for the British War Effort, and through major strikes in Nairobi and Mombasa.
Many of the Kenyans who served in that bloody conflict became part of the anti-colonial movement in Kenya after the war. Some like J.D Kali and Bildad Kaggia emerged as militant union activists who later formed the Mau Mau leadership.
This was also the heyday of independent church movement which challenged the Euro-Judea Christian assumptions and prejudices of the settler-backed and state-sponsored British and European organized religious bureaucracies like the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, and of course the Catholic hierarchy.
We are talking here of Elijah Masinde’s Dini ya Msambwa which called for an armed struggle against the British as early as 1948.
The pinnacle of all the anti-colonial struggle was the return of Jomo Kenyatta in 1947 after almost 18 years abroad as Kenya’s ambassador in the Pan African movement.
Between 1947 and 1951 the Mau Mau central committee was formed and consolidated underground. Several of their leaders like Bildad Kaggia, Mwangi Macaria, and Isaac Mutonyi were active and radical trade unionists.
Like all besieged dictatorial regimes the British Colonial State reacted the only way they knew: unleash a fascist onslaught against the Kenyan patriotic forces.
So on the night of October 20, 1952, the British declared a state of emergency in Kenya launching the infamous Operation Jock Scott.
Throughout the night they knocked down doors and invaded 2,000 Kenyan homes arresting at least 186 leaders including Jomo Kenyatta, Achieng’ Oneko, Paul Ngei, Fred Kubai, Kungu Karumba, and Bildad Kaggia. The Kapenguria Six.
Adongo Ogony is a Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada