FACING MOUNT KENYA – The Birth of Home Guards- a Running Commentary Part I
By Najar Munyinyi,
When I first read Facing Mount Kenya by Jomo Kenyatta, I was in distress, for it was pretty clear to me that the culture Jomo Kenyatta wrote about was based on treachery, not only against a peoples, or against earth – the land and thus the environment – it was a book that arrogantly dismissed the female. I had found the book in my Father’s library as a curious 11 year old, but even then it did not sit right with me, for I had listened well to the stories told to me, first by my paternal great-grandmother and later, my grandfather. There were also strange oddities that I could not quite put my young fingers on, so I set it aside and began to delve deeper into whom I was, as a Kenyan, as an African, as a Female, and as a member of the Kikuyu Tribe. I have read hundreds of other books, explored his thesis, discussed and studied the issues I write about below with countless men and women from the Kikuyu tribe, and listened and to many non-Kikuyu, Kenyan women, and men.
Years later I am confident and unapologetic enough to use his book to prove that Kenyatta and his writers (or could it be that the authors manipulated Kenyatta deliberately? You decide after this) used “Facing Mount Kenya” as the key anthropological thesis on which the culture of the Kikuyu tribe may gain its’ insights. But not only that, the book was used to wipe out and conceal the real history of Kenyans – specifically the Maasai Kingdom and the people of Ma’at, the book was written to hide our royal line ancestries from the Kingdom of Axum (Aksum), the book was written to deny that the Black African Swahili Empire has one of the greatest and oldest histories worldwide, and that Kenyans are not different tribes, but one people. Facing Mount Kenya was written to establish a new race of people called the Agikuyu whose roots are intricately tied in and knotted with the Europeans – a foreign race that came into Kenya to dominate it for it’s resources. But in order to do this they had to break down and disrupt the dominant tribes who lived in what is popularly referred to as the Kenyan or White Highlands – the Maasai, or the People of Ma’at had to ‘go’. Secondly, the British had to implant and instill pseudo-clones for the continuation of the extraction of the resources that are found within these lands.
But I’m moving too fast – I think… Let me go slow
Whitewashing Kenya’s Real History
First, let us understand how this book came into being from a man who was not a born writer.
Former President Jomo Kenyatta was born between 1891 and 1897 when East Africa was under the control of Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEAC)- a trading company whose top agenda was profiteering. IBEAC was the administrator of British East Africa which was the forerunner of the East African Protectorate and later yet, Kenya. The IBEAC was a commercial association founded to cultivate trade in the areas controlled by British colonial power. Created after the Berlin Treaty of 1885 which brutally annexed and divvied up Africa rather like a Pizza Inn pizza – IBEAC was led by that most awful of men, William MacKinnon, who built upon his company’s trading activities in the region with the encouragement of the British government through the granting of “imperial charter” — although it remains unclear what this actually meant, but, it “granted immunity of prosecution to British Subjects whilst allowing them the right to raise taxes, impose custom duties, administer ‘justice’, make treaties and otherwise act as the authority of the area. (Oliver, Roland (March 1951). Some Factors in the British Occupation of East Africa, 1884–1894. In other words, in the History of Kenya, despite the murders of millions of Kenyans by white colonialists, only one white man was ever persecuted and given the capital punishment for the deliberate killing of an African – “First hanging of White Man in Kenya Dismays Settlers” – screamed the headline, when Peter Harold Poole, an Englishman, was executed on August 18, 1960 after the Supreme Court of Kenya found him guilty of killing Kamawe Musunge, his African house servant. (James Mwangi, The Standard, August 2013).
“The British subjects, have immunity of prosecution.” To date. Before the Berlin Conference, European mercenaries and missionaries who were in truth undercover mercenaries, treated African indigenous people in the same contemptuous manner as they had done to the “New World” Natives or American “Indians” as they were called. The mercenaries formed trading relationships with indigenous chiefs. In the early 1800’s, the search for ivory in Africa which was then often used in the production of luxurious products – like combs, piano keys, billiard balls and dentures – led many white traders further into the interior of Africa. However, with the exception of trading posts along the coasts, the greater interior of the continent was impenetrable during this period. (Muriel E. Chamberlain, The Scramble for Africa (1999).) According to my school history lessons in the 1970’s before the incomprehensible 844 was introduced, the fierce Maasai Warriors were a barrier between the Swahili Coast, and the interior of East Africa, from the north of present day Kenya, to the central plains of Tanzania. There was no getting past them, but the mercenaries often lied, made trade agreements and reneged on their promises. IBEAC itself was a conglomerate that did not care about the humanity of the East African peoples. Our ancestors existed as commodities of profit – either as beasts of burden, laborers, or curiosities collected for study in Scientific Zoos across Europe including England. All servants and slaves born were noted in the diaries of the administration and each had a price on his head – this then, was imperial privilege.
Before Facing Mount Kenya
While in his early thirties, Johnstone Kamau joined the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA), a political organization that strove to make the British administrators understand colonialism’s destructive impact specifically on the Kikuyu people. (Shaw 1995). In particular, the KCA raised attention for the grievances caused by land alienation for in their eyes, as long as the Europeans continued to grab what they called ‘Kikuyu Lands’, the KCA argued that the Kikuyu would be unable to develop into self-governing modern subjects.
However, being racially-ethnic based and founded on patriarchal philosophies, the KCA KoC’s (Kikuyu’s Only Club) did not have much impact within the colony itself as the Kikuyu ‘tribe’ was a minority within the protectorate. Johnstone Kamau’s interest in politics only began from his friendship with James Beauttah, a senior figure and one of the founders of KCA. Beauttah took Kamau to a political meeting in Pumwani, but, afraid to disrupt his lucrative employment Kamau refused to make a commitment to the organization. Meanwhile, political upheavals occurred across Kikuyu land following World War I. Among these demonstrations against the British Empire were the campaigns of the brilliant Harry Thuku and the East African Association which resulted in the British government massacre of 21 Native protesters in March 1922. Johnstone Kamau though, was visibly absent.
In either 1925 or early 1926, Beauttah moved to Uganda. When the KCA wrote to Beauttah and asked him to travel to London as their representative, he declined but recommended Kamau—who had ‘a good command of English’—to go in his stead. Kamau accepted on the condition that the Association matched his pre-existing salo, which they did, and voilà, Kamau thus became the group’s secretary and shipped himself off to London.
In London he initially sought shelter with the Scottish missionaries for their ways were familiar to him, but the same predicaments that had dogged him in the colony soon followed in London. His troubles began when the missionaries completely withdrew their support once they learned about Johnstone Kamau’s sexual relations with European women outside of marriage, his communist sentiments and his habitual drunkenness. (Ibid.). The mission societies within the Protectorate had also begun to take a firm stance against Kikuyu female circumcision, which Johnstone Kamau was violently against as he advocated pungently for female circumcision. (Berman 1996: 318-319).
Homeless in London, Kamau subsequently went bowl-begging and reached a compromise with liberal imperialists, who introduced him to the British Education system “…in order to improve his language skills..”. However, he realized that the liberal imperialists were only primarily concerned with extending British colonial power further into Kikuyu land, and understood that his agenda and their plans were irreconcilable (Ibid.: 320). Finally though, at 45 years of age, his windfall changed for the better when he met Bronislaw Malinowksi in December of 1934.
Ms Munyinyi is Indigenous Rights Consultant.