Author: changabula

What the British did to Africa [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2007-9-8 22:10:12 |Display all floors
Originally posted by bulldog at 2007-9-8 18:28
slavery has been going on for years, far before the British Empire

Middle eastern civilisations had slaves, north african, natives to the Americas, asian civilisations, even Britons were enslave ...


You are right bulldog but I hope u wont bite me cuz I am scare of dogs
No matter the nature of ur problem may be. Never u submit urself to fraustration

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Post time 2008-12-21 23:20:33 |Display all floors
How did they get away with it?
Bernard Porter

    * Histories of the Hanged: Britain’s Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire by David Anderson
    * Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya by Caroline Elkins  Buy this book

In Niall Ferguson’s panegyric to British colonialism, Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World (2003), Kenya gets just one significant mention. It comes in the introduction, and is a description of his time there as a boy. It was three years after independence, but, happily, ‘scarcely anything had changed’ since colonial days. ‘We had our bungalow, our maid, our smattering of Swahili – and our sense of unshakeable security. It was a magical time, which indelibly impressed on my consciousness the sight of the hunting cheetah, the sound of Kikuyu women singing, the smell of the first rains and the taste of ripe mango. I suspect my mother was never happier.’ Glasgow, where the family returned after just two years, was a comedown. ‘To the Scots, the empire stood for bright sunshine.’ You can see that in the book. Yet less than a decade before Ferguson’s idyllic stay there, Kenya had been wracked by war, with much bloodshed and unspeakable atrocities on all sides. It was wrong to say that ‘scarcely anything had changed.’ Not that the young Ferguson would have been aware of that in the 1960s; but by the time he came to write his book, some knowledge of it should have percolated through. The Kenya ‘Emergency’ is a major incident in the history of the end of the empire: it makes a difference to the whole story. But he doesn’t mention it. Perhaps we should not be too hard on Ferguson. I can’t offhand think of another modern general history of British imperialism or decolonisation that leaves 1950s Kenya out of the picture entirely, but none of them (including my own) makes as much of it as we shall clearly need to now, after the publication of these two brilliant, meticulously researched and shocking books.
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Post time 2008-12-21 23:21:04 |Display all floors
The British declared the Kenya Emergency in 1952, when seven years of restless dissatisfaction with British rule culminated in the full-scale rebellion known as Mau Mau. It was very largely the struggle of the Kikuyu, the country’s majority ethnic group – about 1.5 million in a native population of five million – who had lost much of their land to white settlers and had moved into reservations or continued farming as tenants. The Emergency saw out two prime ministers – Churchill and Eden – and ended in January 1960. In that time, Mau Mau supporters killed at least 2000 African civilians and inflicted some 200 casualties on the army and police. In all, 32 white settlers died in the rebellion. For their part, the British hanged more than 1000 Kikuyu, detained at least 150,000 and, according to official figures, killed around 12,000 in combat, though the real figure, in David Anderson’s view, is ‘likely to have been more than 20,000’. In addition, Caroline Elkins claims, up to 100,000 died in the detention camps.
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Post time 2008-12-21 23:21:27 |Display all floors
It is the scale of the British atrocities in Kenya that is the most startling revelation of these books. We always knew about the Mau Mau atrocities, of course: assiduously retailed to the British public by the authorities in Kenya through the Colonial Office, and right-wing newspapers like the Daily Mail. (Elkins calls the Daily Mail a ‘tabloid’, which isn’t strictly true for this period, but seems to fit in other ways.) But for years the equally savage abuses by British officers and their African collaborators in the detention camps, controlled villages and courtrooms of Kenya were mostly hidden from people at home. They knew some of it – indeed, did what they could to put an end to it after the scandalous British beatings of detainees at Hola camp in 1959, which left 11 dead and 60 seriously wounded – but nothing like the whole. Alan Lennox-Boyd, colonial secretary for much of this period, and one of the villains of both these books, can take much of the credit. First he denied abuses, then when that was no longer possible he dismissed them as exceptional (‘bad apples’), and appealed to his critics to remember what they were up against in Kenya: not an ordinary policing problem, but an outbreak of atavistic ‘evil’ – a useful word when you are confronting something you don’t understand. ‘Duplicity at its finest’, Elkins calls this. He also had a nice line in discrediting whistle-blowers. Then, when the British eventually left Kenya, they made bonfires of most of the incriminating material about the detention camps. Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president, connived in this, anxious in the interests of national unity to ‘erase’ the past, and not to encourage the ‘hooligans’ of Mau Mau. (It was a bit like South Africa’s ‘truth and reconciliation’, but without the truth.) Elkins tells us that she was taken in by Colonial Office propaganda at the beginning of her research, as she leafed through the files at the Public Record Office, and realised the extent of their mendacity only when she went out to Kenya to see and hear for herself. This may be part of the reason for the anger that suffuses her narrative, in contrast to Anderson’s more clinical, dispassionate tone. No one likes to be duped; on the other hand, there is much here to be angry about.
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Post time 2008-12-21 23:21:45 |Display all floors
Anderson focuses mainly on the trials of Mau Mau suspects. He has read the trial transcripts and pieced together a picture of systematic injustice. Defendants were poorly represented, convicted on highly dubious evidence, often from dodgy informers, or after having confessions beaten out of them, by judges who were usually highly prejudiced. One judge was (effectively) bribed to reach a guilty verdict: he was paid £20,000 to come out from Britain to put Kenyatta behind barbed wire in 1953. Many defendants were hanged for much lesser offences than murder; often they were innocent. The number hanged, 1090, was a record for any British colony of the time, and more even than were executed by the French in Algeria. The reprieved and acquitted did not go free. Most were sent to camps for interrogation or ‘re-education’ – or just to rot away out of sight of nervous Europeans. Most of the rest of the Kikuyu population (including thousands from Nairobi) were herded into ‘emergency villages’ enclosed in barbed wire. All this turned Kenya into what Anderson calls ‘a police state in the very fullest sense of that term’.
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Post time 2008-12-21 23:22:06 |Display all floors
The camps and emergency villages are where Elkins takes up the story. Some of her evidence comes from rare surviving documentation, but the most vivid is from the recollections of Kikuyu themselves. There are problems with this kind of testimony, of course. ‘Virtually all Kikuyus claim to have belonged to the Mau Mau,’ Kwamchetsi Makokha writes in his review of these books in the New Statesman, ‘regardless of whether they were even alive in the 1950s. Africans love stories; they tell them and retell them over and over again. Tales are communally owned, and it is not considered an abominable act of plagiarism to present another person’s story as your own. All this makes Elkins’s reliance on oral testimonies problematic.’ There may be something in this. But Elkins is aware of these pitfalls, and tells us she has done what she can to avoid them. She is convinced that her sources opened up to her because she is an American. Many of her accounts corroborate one another, and are corroborated in their turn by the surviving written evidence. More telling, perhaps, they are often confirmed by the white settlers she has interviewed, who ‘still seemed to take delight in their handiwork during Mau Mau. They spoke of heinous tortures as if they were describing yesterday’s weather; for them the brutality they perpetrated during the Emergency is as banal today as it was some fifty years ago.’ In case we think that they are merely winding her up in some perverse macho way because she is a woman, Anderson found exactly the same thing. As well as confirming many of the victims’ accounts, this seems to indicate that the brutality was endemic in what Anderson calls the ‘culture of impunity’ of the period; which in itself gives the lie to Lennox-Boyd’s ‘bad apples’ defence.
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Post time 2008-12-21 23:22:26 |Display all floors
It was a culture of routine beatings, starvation, killings (the hanged represent only a small fraction of those who died in British custody during the Emergency) and torture of the most grotesque kinds. Alsatian dogs were used to terrify prisoners and then ‘maul’ them. There are other similarities with Abu Ghraib: various indignities were devised using human faeces; men were forced to sodomise one another. They also had sand, pepper and water stuffed in their anuses. One apparently had his testicles cut off, and was then made to eat them. ‘Things got a little out of hand,’ one (macho European) witness told Elkins, referring to another incident. ‘By the time we cut his balls off he had no ears, and his eyeball, the right one, I think, was hanging out of its socket. Too bad, he died before we got much out of him.’ Women were gang-raped, had their nipples squeezed with pliers, and vermin and hot eggs thrust into their vaginas. Children were butchered and their body parts paraded around on spears. Then there were the pettier deprivations: women forbidden to sing hymns in Komiti camp, for example, because they were putting ‘subversive’ words to them. All this while anti-Mau Mau and pro-British propaganda blared out at detainees from loudspeakers. Anderson quotes the testimony of a European officer in 1962, recalling an attempt to interrogate some ‘Mickeys’ – a slang name for the Mau Mau.
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