The Kenya Socialist (TKS), in common with other organisations and individuals in Kenya and around the world, has faced disruption because of coronavirus and mismanagement by governments under rules of capitalism. However, we are now continuing the publication with two special issues on Repression and Resistance in Kenya. is issue, No. 3, is devoted mainly to an extended article by Shiraz Durrani and Kimani Waweru, under the title, Kenya: Repression and Resistance: from Colony to Neo-colony, 1948–1990. It was rst published in the 2nd edition (2021) of e Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism. Issue no. 4 of e Kenya Socialist will carry illustrations on the same theme.
is article is followed by a brief report on the Mathare Forum on Liberating Minds: Reections on Repression and Resistance (in Kenya), held at the Mathare Social Justice Centre on October 26, 2019. e nal section looks at the Sheng’ Podcast, Until Every One is Free, being podcast in seven episodes.
These articles have a common thread running through them. ey all seek to record Kenya’s history based on facts, not on colonial and imperialist propaganda. e need is for the history to be told afresh from the perspective of working people of Kenya, not from that of colonisers, imperialists or the ruling elite. All the three items in this issue of TKS do this admirably.
The article by Durrani and Kimani, as noted above, was rst published in e Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism. It was then felt that not many Kenyans, not only individuals but institutions also, would be able to access the Encyclopedia, which sells for about UK £800 — roughly 121,000 Kenya shillings.
The Editors of TKS then decided to reproduce the article in the magazine which is available free of charge at its website . is is still not totally satisfactory, for although mobile usage is available to more people in Kenya than in many other countries in Africa, this is mostly for texting and banking purposes. It does not allow people to access such articles and journals. A number of ways are being explored by Vita Books to overcome this shortcoming, details will be included in future issues of TKS.
But the article has another interesting story to tell. e article provided material for a paper by Shiraz Durrani which was accepted for presentation at the 3rd Biennial Conference of the African Studies Association of Africa held at the United States International University-Africa, Nairobi, Kenya from October 24-26, 2019. at paper was entitled e Other Kenya: Resistance to Colonialism, Capitalism and Imperialism in Kenya, 1945-1985.
However, the author withdrew the paper in protest at the fact that people from Kenya, not aliated to an institution and without sponsorship, could not attend the Conference. His point was that since his paper was about Kenya, the main audience should also be people of Kenya, especially as this important Conference was being held in Nairobi. He wanted, at least his session, to be a public event, open to all and to be held in a central Nairobi location. When this was not possible, he withdrew from the Conference and decided instead to present the paper to a Kenyan working class audience. is was at the Mathare Social Justice Centre where it was open to all and where the participants were from Mathare – a working class area. is then became the Mathare Forum whose deliberations were videoed and made available to a wider audience. e episode highlighted the contradiction between academics talking to themselves and a public meeting where workers are the main participants. us, who is the real audience for information about Africa is an issue that needs to be highlighted. An interesting point at the Forum was that, as the conference was about to start, lights went o, a regular occurrence in Mathare. Undaunted, the background work of the youth ensured that replacement sources of power were provided. Emergency lights in the room were made available and videoing of the session continued. e PowerPoint presentation had to be replaced by showing the slides on the laptop.
Handout notes kept ready for such an emergency filled in, to some extent, the lack of screen presentation.
But it is not only the facts of history that are dealt with in the three articles. It is equally important that these facts become part of common knowledge among people of all ages and all parts of Kenya. April Zhu and Stoneface(2021) are involved in yet another pioneering project under the title, until Everyone is Freewhich brings history to people. They discuss these issues in the third item in this issue, but it is instructive to listen to their commentary on history, Kenya and colonialism:
April: You know what this reminds me of. During the Holocaust, Nazi Germany put millions of Jews in concentration camps, where they were made to do hard labour, and executed. But everyone knows this story. Not just Jews themselves, everyone around the world, even us two sitting here in Nairobi.
Stoneface: Yes. That page of the book was not torn out because those in power wanted to –and could–tell that story. Those who won WWII, they defeated the Germans, so they could freely tell the story of the terrible things that the Germans had done.
April: So then what about Kenya? Why was the Mau Mau page of the book torn out? Why doesn’t every single Kenyan know about the fact that the British tortured and excecuted and detained thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Africans?
Stoneface: And, more importantly, the fact that the page was torn out, what does that tell us about those in power in Kenya?
April: Because it’s not even just about the fact that hundreds of thousands of people were detained, screened, tortured, forced to hard labour..it’s about the fact that this history was erased. The fact that, stoneface, even though you’re done with school, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that you learned about the camps.
Stoneface: Yeah, this was not something that we were taught in school.
April: We can call this sanitizing history. Life is messy and complicated. But what gets called “history”— what is archived, what is documented, what is taught in schools—history is always written by whomever is in power. And often they sanitize history. Like pouring Jik on it and just rubbing it until it even burns o the color.
Stoneface: Yesexactly. So much of the history that we’re taught in schools is actually based on a curriculum from the perspective of those in power. We learned a “sanitized” version of Mau Mau, but denitely we didn’t learn about the mass detention camps. But! The thing about sanitized history is that…it has holes.
April: ….what do you mean?
Stoneface: If you go to Kimathi Road in town, you see that statue of Dedan Kimathi. He was one of the Mau Mau Generals, he commanded the ghters in Mt. Kenya.
April: Ah, yes, I’ve seen that statue. He’s carrying an automatic rie, he has these long dreads. The way he’s put on a high podium, cast in bronze—he looks like a hero.
Stoneface: He is a hero. But, here’s the thing. We too often forget that the government could not have setup these detention camps without the Home Guard
April: That’s fair. For example, in Algeria, the French were not able to recruit a “Home Guard”-type group of loyal Algerians. What sets apart Kenya’s independence struggle from other countries’ is that in Kenya there was a Home Guard. This prevented Mau Mau from spreading; it meant that Mau Mau had to ght a guerrilla war from the forest
The podcast was based on another project of Vita Books which saw the publication of a number of books on the history of Kenya. Again, these books are not accessible to majority of Kenyans because of format, language or cost. Nor are they in school, college or university syllabus . How then can this history be taken to the people? e team behind the podcast found the perfect solution, using material from this and other sources, they wrote a script that summarised the key point of history, turned it into the podcast in Sheng’ and made it available to those who had not been made aware of their history. us the history written in books and presented in journals gets used as source material for communicating with a working class audience in a language and in a form that they use.
Historians have failed to answer the fundamental question that people of Kenya need answered. e question rarely, if ever, gets even asked. e team behind the podcast have broken the silence about the elephant in the room and ask: How did the country of Kenya become free…without the people of Kenya becoming free?
The question needs to be answered not only to understand the past, but to guide today’s actions by those struggling to repair the damage done in the past by enemies of working people. History needs to show not only the past but also indicate future action. What Marx said about philosophers applies to historians too: e philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. e point, however, is to change it. And change implies struggle, something that the participants of the Mathare Forum and the young audience of the podcast understand very well. ey are in tune with the title of the podcast: Until Everyone is Free.
Marx, Karl: e philosophers have only interpreted the world… Quote from Eleven eses on Feuerbach. Available at: https://www.goodreads.com/work/ quotes/16908093-ad-feuerbach-ludwig-feuerbachund -der-ausgang-der-klassischen-deutschen [accessed: 11–02-2021].
The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti Imperialism. 2d ed. Editors: Ness, Immanuel, Cope, Zak. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. O n l i n e ISBN978-3-319-91206-6. https://link.springer.com/ referencework/10.1007/978-3-319-91206-6
Zhu, April and Stoneface (2021): Until Every One is Free. Episode 2, Mau Mau Ally. Transcript. Available at: https://untileverypod.com/Episode-2- Mau-Mau-Ally. [Accessed: 09-02-2021]. Stoneface Bombaa’is the adopted name of Brian Otieno.