1 NOVEMBER 1963, Page 22

No Flies on Tom

Tote MBOYA is one of the shrewdest African politicians in the field; his persistent success in the political tumult of Kenya, despite vigorous enemies at home and abroad, is proof of his ability. Who else could still keep company with African radicals while enjoying a special rela- tionship with the Western trade union movement, receiving money for a multitude of projects from the West but not the East, and consorting with so many Western political leaders—there is an auto- graphed photograph. of Jack duly reproduced in the book—but no Eastern ones?

Certainly there are few who may be thought equal to writing a more vivid account of political struggle, a more exciting record of personal search and discovery. Yet Freedom and After offers less than its authorship promises. It has little of Mboya's charm or gusty wit, and small power of phrase. Most disappointingly, it has an altogether public personality. It sounds hollow whenever Mboya writes of himself. He does not communicate experience; constantly, by a failure in control or by design, his character escapes. But what the book does have, and in abundance, is excellent sense. As an introduction to the struggle of Kenya for democratic self-govern- ment, and as a commentary on the dominant ideas of African nationalism, Freedom and After cannot easily be bettered.

Here is the long chronicle of British stupidities —the settler-promoted crude racial discrimina- tion, the indifference to spreading African land- lessness and urban squalor, the provocation and blind repression of revolt, the encouragement of tribalism and, then its easy employment as an excuse to delay political advance, the constant failure to act with any foresight or generosity, right down to and beyond the dismal broadcast of Sir Patrick Renison in May, 1960, when he condemned Jomo Kenyatta as 'an African leader to darkness and death.'

It is proper that Mboya should remind us, in the current climate of Western contempt for quarrelling tribalists, how the British govern- ment of Kenya, for years after the banning of KAU, prohibited the establishment of national African organisations. Political activity was per- mitted at the district level alone, and there it frequently—and not unnaturally—assumed a tribalist complexion. It is proper that Mboya's record of colonial rule should appear while so much of the British press sobs with the distress of the white communities in Africa. Why were the same eyes dry when every attempt by Kenya Africans to acquire political rights was crushed?

There are few politicians, white or black, who understand British politics better than Mboya. It was his closely cultivated relationship with Western and especially American trade unionism that kept the British Government from shatter- ing the Kenya trade union movement during the Emergency. It was Mboya who saw the pres- sures acting on the British Government, who saw so clearly that the British Government had no African policy at all. 'It became evident that the fate of East and Central Africa depended more on the atmosphere inside the Conservative Party than on any logical analysis of the Afri- can case as such. And if action in one colony —say Kenya--were to cause a bad reaction in another place----say Rhodesia, where Welensky might protest at its unsettling effect —then there was pressifre fiom back-benchers to do nothing. The number of contradictions . . . shows that the only consistent factor in the Conservatives' colonial policy was a yielding to the greatest pressure. They would not take the initiative in advancing the colonies; we had to be tough, vary our tactics, pile on the pressure, appeal to international bodies; and only that way did we slowly begin to move forward.'

Mboya understands African politics no less. His is not a creative mind, like Sekou Toures, Nkrumah's or Nyerere's, but it is an eminently adaptable one. He takes the ideas of others, like Nkrumah's Pan-Africanism and Nyerere's African Socialism, and gives them a practical force and application. His essays—for that is what they are—on National Mobilisation, Afri- can Socialism, Pan-Africanism and Positive Non-Alignment are the best things in the book. He does not thoughtlessly parade them, as some African politicians do, like ill-fitting uniforms; he wears them, but with an individual difference, There are no flies on Tom. He is the supremely practical politician. And for its supremely prac- tical politics, Freedom and After is more than worth its price.