The Urgent Problem. of East Africa
THE comparatively short Memorandum Ly Sir Samuel Wilson, Permanent Under-Secretary of the Colonial Office, is the latest of a series of Reports and discussions on the future of East Africa, and we feel strongly that the time has come for something to be done. It is entirely unfair to a young Colony that it should be kept in continual suspense about its future. This is the way , of despair and demoralization. The present Government have acquired a reputation for " getting things done," and here is another scalp which they could add to their trophies. We appeal to them to take the matter in hand.
We are not making a special plea for any group in East Africa—least of all for the settlers of Kenya—as against the others. All we ask is that for the sake of the whole community, natives, settlers, Arabs and Indians, something should be done in order that the affairs of East Africa may go forward in quiet and confidence. If we refer to Kenya in particular, it is only because that Colony presents the problems of East Africa in their most acute form, and because Kenya politics have been the target of such a stream of external criticism as has not been directed upon any other com- munity in the Empire.
In the early days the Kenya settlers were carelessly permitted to act as though within a measurable time they would find themselves a self-gov.erning. State. When general attention was turned upon the welfare of the natives, the settlers were suddenly called upon to halt. It was pointed out that a few thousands of Europeans could not rule absolutely over a native population of two and a half millions, an Indian popula- tion of more than 20,000, and an Arab population of about 10,000—for that is what self-government in the circumstances would have meant. There was wide approval in Great Britain of the Duke of Devonshire's declaration that Kenya was primarily an African territory, that the interests of the natives must be paramount, and that no Secretary of State for. the Colonies could delegate his responsibilities for the welfare of the natives to a local autonomous Government. But although we agree that, so far as it is possible to look ahead, there is no prospect of self-government for the settlers, we cannot refrain from saying that the settlers—perhaps as a penalty for the misunderstandings and errors which marked the early development of Kenya—have been treated with a very unfair kind of enmity, There are critics who hang on their flank, pursuing them, persecuting them, stinging them at every possible opportunity. Is it to be expected that a young and growing society will be encouraged by such treatment to act with the high sense of responsibility .which is indispensable for the moral health of Kenya Either the settlers are depressed by the reiterated allegations of their wickedness, or they are distracted from their.
proper business and duties by the not unnatural desire to round upon their tormentors. During the past two years we have noticed with concern the spread of a certain despondency in Kenya. This is a very bad omen'in any Colony. It need not be pretended that the disappointment of a few thousands of settlers, some of whom have made a good deal of money, need force us to tears. Our point is quite different. The settlers are the educated people, the natural leaders of the Colony— for nothing can prevent them from being that, even though, as we readily admit, self-government cannot even be discussed at present—and when these natural leaders' have a stigma placed upon them they are driven into a sullen mood of self-defence. Men who are thus discouraged cannot make the best of their citizenship. And if they do not, there is no hope left for the other members of the Colony, whether they be natives, Indians or Arabs.
The future of East Africa as a whole was first dis- cussed by Mr. Churchill with General Northey and Sir Robert Corydon eight years ago. Mr. Amery took up the question in 1925. Then came Mr. Ormsby-Gore's visit and inquiry, and after that there was the more elaborate inquiry by Sir Hilton Young's Commission.
The task of the Hilton Young Commission was to suggest means of closer contact in East Africa without Violating the Duke of Devonshire's principle. The Commission proposed that there should be a Governor- 4eneral for Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika, who would be helped by an Advisory Council and who would have considerable executive powers, especially in regard to the natives. At first, however, the supreme official in East Africa was to be, not a Governor-General, but a High Commissioner, who would prepare the way for the Governor-General by clarifying native policy, by co-ordin- ating services common to Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika, and by instituting Constitutional changes in Kenya.
Unfortunately, Sir Hilton Young and his colleagues split upon the proposed methods of ensuring the best treatment for the natives in Kenya. Sir Hilton con- sidered that the personal responsibility of the Governor- General would be the best safeguard. His colleagues, however, desiring a further safeguard, suggested that four unofficial members should be substituted for four official members in the Legislative Council of Kenya specially to represent the natives. The official majority would thus be abolished. Sir Hilton justly pointed out that this would be no real safeguard ; the official members would always be able to maintain a majority by enlisting the help of one of the racial groups. There, we think, he showed profound insight. We sympathize with every attempt to guarantee the welfare of the natives, but it is possible with the best intentions in the world to do them an injury while trying to help them. If either by such an arrangement as Sir Hilton Young's col- leagues proposed, or by a premature extension of the ordinary franchise, the interests of the natives were made a pawn in the political game of chess, the settlers, instead of regarding the welfare of the natives as the first charge upon their consciences, would be tempted to treat the natives as norMal political opponents. Nothing could be worse, either for the natives or for the character and forbearance of the settlers. In our judgment there will never be unexceptionable treatment for the natives unless it is based upon the genuine good will of the settlers.
The Report of the Hilton Young Commission causes' so much doubt and controversy in Kenya that Sir Samuel Wilson was sent out to correlate opinion and to repott. By far the most important statement in his Memorandum is that he secured general agreement upon a proposal that the High Commissioner, helped by the Central Council, should preside over the essential economic services of Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika, but not over the welfare of the natives. The central authority, according to the Hilton Young Report, was to be responsible for both the economic services and native policy.
In Labour and Liberal newspapers here the criticism has instantly been made that the central authority, having necessarily to deal with the building of roads, railways and so on which require labour, would be in continuous contact with the natives as labourers, and that it would be outrageous to take away from it the responsibility for native welfare. We cannot help wondering whether, if it had been proposed that the same body should be at once an employer and the judge of its own conduct towards its employees, there would not have been an outcry quite as loud as that which has now been raised for the precisely opposite reason.
We may have misunderstood the situation—though we have done our best to understand it—so we shall avoid dogmatizing. All that we want to do now is to draw attention to the fact that for the first time for several years there is agreement on a possible basis of policy among the planting, commercial, and official Europeans in Kenya, though the Governor of Tanganyika and the Indians withhold their assent. Surely the Imperial Government should be able to build upon this basis. It is said that the Government mean to appoint a Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament to report. We hope that if that is s6 they will appoint the Committee promptly. The suspense is undoubtedly holding East Africa back. The natives stand to gain as much as anybody by a rise in the standard of living, and the effect of a growing prosperity in East Africa upon unem- ployment here might be very considerable. We do not ask that the Government should act without due thought, but we do ask that they should tolerate no unnecessary delay. Whatever policy they think right should be laid before the settlers in such an ungrudging way as to enlist their good will and promote their sense of responsi- bility. The truth about Kenya, we may be sure, lies well between the ugly extremes represented by those who demand that a man should be free " to wallop his own nigger " and those who speak as though a settler were a kind of un-Englished person tvhb Lf never by any chance do right.