The British migration to Kenya and their departure


IN 1885 East Africa was carved up between Britain, Germany and France.
The British assumed control of Kenya and Uganda.
They governed through the Imperial British East Africa Company.
By 1895, the complete colonisation of Kenya and Uganda was taken over by the Foreign Office.
It built the Uganda Railway which increased power and control over the interior and with the establishment of around Lake Victoria, there was a massive influx of British people to Kenya.
Most of the settlers were farmers looking for lands to acquire.
Among those who were quick to make a profit from exploiting Africans and also stealing the land was Lord Delamere.
It is worth noting the history of this ‘Lord’ and how he made money in Kenya from 1899.
In 1887, a young British man called Hugh Cholmondeley became the heir of Delamere and the Vale Royal estate in Cheshire when he was only 17 years old.
One historian wrote that Delamere was, “still an adolescent, with a violent temper, small and red-haired and he ran wild for a time, spending extravagantly.”
At 21, he went to Somaliland and thereafter he kept on going back to Africa.
Around 1897, he travelled to Lake Rudolf, the East Africa Protectorate and when he saw the Laikipia plateau, he decided the land was beautiful.
There were hardly any people living there.
The reason for the lack of population was due to the devastating, “successive famines and epidemics of both smallpox and rinderpest over the previous few years.”
Many African people had already died as a result of the encounter with the diseases brought by the European settlement.
After getting married in England, Delamare took his wife, Lady Florence Cole, daughter of the Earl of Enniskillen to Africa and they travelled by train in 1899, collecting birds for the British Museum.
During that time, many Europeans were settling in Kenya at the invitation of the Governor of East Africa.
After settling in Kenya, Delamere lost his fortune through recklessness and also by selling some of his valuables at auctions.
During the period 1911-1930, Delamere sold off a very valuable library and his main interest was, “in his own ambitions in Africa and to try and promote a white, European only-controlled empire of Kenya.”
Peter Thompson, a historian wrote that Delamere was then, “given a free grant of land in the Rift Valley, on the slopes of the Mau escarpment between Njoro and the Molo River, where he wanted to farm sheep and engage in dairying.
“Delamere’s sense of adventure and restlessness, combined with the coincidence of Kenya needing white settlers to pay for the railway, plus an enforced convalescence in Nairobi, all combined to make this young man throw over his English estates and possessions and invest everything in East Africa.”
Delamere was to become extremely rich from the exploitation of the continent.
Apart from Lord Delamere, there was Karen Blixen whose memoir Out of Africa became a famous film.
Europeans were simply coming to Kenya and taking over vast estates of land. Thompson adds that; “Kenya at the time was sparsely populated, and the few European colonists acquired vast plantation estates covering thousands of acres. The presence of herds of elephants and zebra, and other wild animals on these estates drew wealthy aristocracy from Europe and America, who came attracted by big game hunting.”
Around 1920, the Africans began to resist European colonisation leading to the rise of African nationalism.
Among the most notable nationalist was Jomo Kenyatta, who formed Kenya African Union (KAU).
Kenyatta wanted redistribution of land.
He saw an unjust system and challenged British settlement.
After the Second World War, there was widespread unrest as the Kikuyu fought back leading to the famous Mau Mau Uprising.
The Mau Mau were a radical group who attacked white settler farms and destroyed livestock.
The Mau Mau supporters took oaths, binding them to the cause for freedom.
The deaths of European settlers, led to an intense campaign by the British government to capture the freedom fighters.
In October 1952, the British declared a state of emergency and began moving soldiers into Kenya.
This was the beginning of an aggressive counter-insurgency against the Mau Mau, which lasted until 1960 when the state of emergency was ended.
The real number of people killed during the uprising remains a subject of much controversy because the numbers differ.
According to one report, the number of Mau Mau and other rebels killed was 11 000, including 1 090 convicts hanged by the British administration.
Only 32 white settlers were killed in the eight years of the resistance.
However, according to human rights reports, “90 000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed during the crackdown, and 160 000 were detained in appalling conditions.”
In early 1960s, Britain’s power over Kenya was declining and during the Lancaster House Agreement talks, it was agreed that an agenda for Kenya’s independence should be developed.
When the European settlers realised that Kenya was going to belong to the Kenyans, about 60 000 started to go back to England although the choice of keeping their British passports while staying in Kenya was open for them.
The New York Times wrote that December 12 1963, Kenya gained its independence from Britain and, “Britain’s Union Jack was replaced by the black, red and green flag of the new states, political power in Britain’s last East African colonial holding slipped from the grasp of its 55 759 whites and was taken up by its 8 365 942 Africans.”
The World Bank introduced a willing-buyer-willing-seller scheme which was known as the ‘million acre’ scheme that was largely financed by the British government secretly.
Through this scheme, there was a redistribution of European-owned land to the Kikuyu.
However, a small minority of Europeans took Kenyan citizenship and stayed in Kenya.
But the number of those remaining in Kenya was much less that those who had initially left England to seek their fortunes by exploiting the people and the African soils of Kenya.


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