The Kikuyu Case
This account, from a correspondent in Scotland, of a conversation with a Kikuyu teacher now studying in this country is of value as giving an educated African's view of the crisis in Kenya.
NE bitter night in November he travelled north from his University to take part in the funeral service of a missionary who had helped and guided him. A Kikuyu, a secondary-school teacher, with the highest educa- tional qualifications obtainable in East Africa, he is now in this country, studying history. After the service we offered to.put him up for the night, and, although we had not known him personally before, in that evening he seemed to become a member of our family. As a guest his manners were perfect, and he quickly became a friend as well as a guest. We had much to talk about. We found that we had many common friends in Kenya, both African and European. After supper we began to talk about the Mau Mau trouble. We were able to. talk freely, with no barriers. He knew that we were his friends and that he could Speak openly, and we would understand. We had not met before, but we knew his history, and how he had been brought Up in the Christian atmosphere of the mission. We knew about his father the pastor. We could trust each other. As we talked, we began to realise just how an educated Christian Kikuyu views the horror that is Mau Mau. He knows that the Mau Mau hatred of the African Christian is almost as intense as its hatred of the European. Africans and Europeans are suffering together because of it. It is a very great evil—a devilish thing. Only a Kikuyu can really plumb the depth of its horror and know the power of its fear. Our friend had thought the Government of Kenya right in its first measures to combat the evil, but now the measures Were changing in character. Somehow the Government was beginning to lose the sympathy of the educated Kikuyu, to aliegate its supporters. Why ? . Because there was no longer ally trust in Kenya between white and black. Fear had taken the place of trust. Except in the missions even African Christians were no longer trusted. Were Kikuyus in the Government and the Government service still trusted ? Could once-trusted servants on farms and in houses still be depended on ? It seemed that all Kikuyus were being classed together as a tribe to be feared and by many to be hated. He knew very well the horrors and cruelties that had caused this fear. It was a fear that, as well as steeling the heart of white against black, shut the mouth of the loyal Kikuyu, so that many dared not speak. And so collective punitive measures were being taken. Innocent and guilty alike were being punished. Fear, that powerful weapon of the Mau Mau, had taken possession of Kenya, and banished the trust that had existed between some Kikuyus, and some Europeans. Then we spoke of language, and of how a real knowledge or a language led'tounderstanding, and real understanding led to co-operation. We agreed that too few Government officials and too few settlers knew the Kikuyu tongue well enough to understand, and to have real contact with, the people. Could understanding come with the kind of debased Swahili that is SO commonly used ? No matter how keenly interested in his People's welfare a District Commissioner, or even a white landowner, might be, a gulf of colour, race, position and language was fixed between him and them. Now, when the need of understanding was so great, the Government case could not really be put to the people in a way that they could understand, nor could the mass of the people put their ease to the Government.
We put the vexed question of land before our friend. Was land or was racial discrimination the greater problem ? His answer was immediate and convincing. Racial discrimina- tion was, of course, the fundamental problem. He believed that land in the "White Highlands" ought to be granted to competent Africans on the same terms as to Europeans— on the understanding that, if they did not farm it properly, their leases would be cancelled. At present it was reserved for Europeans.
So we talked, trying to clear our minds on these problems that have brought such tragedy to that wonderful land of Kenya. As we sat by the fire on that cold winter night, differ- ence of race and colour did not seem to exist. What mattered only was friendship and understanding. Our own understanding was helped very much by some years' stay in Kenya, and also by our guest's perfect command of the English language. He could joke and make play. upon words in English. If only more of us in Kenya had an equal command of Kikuyu 1 In the morning we said goodbye, for he had to catch his train back ' to his university town. We were saddened by the headlines about the Mau Mau trouble in the morning paper. "A change for the worse," "Disturbances more serious," "Collective punishment starts." Those headlines, so bleak and cold, make the problem seem insoluble. But, as black and white hands clasp in farewell, we realise that there is a solution for Kenya once the evil of Mau Mau has been over- come—a solution to be worked out in friendship and co-opera- tion, based on real knowledge and trust.