AT the dawn of the twentieth century, a railway, widely regarded as a project either of crazy quasi-idealism or rash imperialism, was telescoping its way from Mombasa on the Indian Ocean to Lake Victoria, leaving a pile of problems in its wake. The decision to undertake this great and arduous enterprise had been made for a number of reasons. It was prompted partly in order to discharge Britain's responsibilities under the Act of Brussels to put an end to the slave trading by establishing law and order in the interior; partly to make possible the retention of Uganda--where missionaries of the Church Missionary Society had been precariously settled since 1876--as a British "sphere of influence" and later as a Protectorate; and partly to secure Britain's position at the source of the Nile waters on which the Sudan and Egypt were so greatly dependent.

In reaching the decision to build the railway no heed was paid to the possible development of the Highlands of Kenya. In 1894 the British Government declared a protectorate over part of Uganda and in 1895 over the rest of East Africa. At the same time it leased a coastal strip, ten sea miles in width along the littoral of Kenya, from the Sultan of Zanzibar. That strip remains today the Protectorate of Kenya. The rest became the Colony of Kenya, by formal annexation, in June 1920.

The deficits on the Protectorate and the railway had to be borne by the British taxpayers, by way of grants-in-aid from the Treasury. The only way whereby both Protectorate and railway could be set on a sound economic basis was by the development of the raw and almost empty lands on either side of the railway. If that task had been left to the Africans there would have been little chance of the railway paying its way within 20 years. The subsistence economy of the African tribes was so precarious that they did not even produce surplus foodstuffs as an insurance against the recurrent famines. Many of the native tribes were pastoral and of nomadic disposition; and those tribes which did till the soil with wooden digging sticks had little or nothing to offer to the world's markets. Moreover, the African population was mainly concentrated around the shores of Lake Victoria, in the Kavirondo country, and in the Kikuyu country from the skirts of Mount Kenya and the Aberdare range to Masailand. In Ukamba and in the Nandi country there was also a relatively high density of population. But the greater part of southern Kenya was the grazing and the hunting grounds of the Masai, a nomadic tribe whose whim and will were law over much of the country.

Such was the contemporary background to the decision that white settlement beside the railway was the only practicable means of building an economy. It seemed the only way to provide freight for the railway to carry to and from the sea, to provide revenue for the Government which would in turn enable a start with the social services which the Africans direly needed and which would aid them to move away from barbarism towards civilization and a better way of life. For the Africans of 60 years ago, life was short and brutish. The population was estimated to be less than 2,500,000. Killing famines and plagues of men and beast were common. The infant mortality rate was appalling and harsh Nature maintained a balance between the population and the ability of the land to support it at a low standard of living. For many dark centuries, the Africans of the land now called Kenya had lived in a stagnant backwater, remote and almost entirely unaffected by the stream of human progress.

The establishment of white settlement restricted the nomadism of the Masai; it deprived the Kikuyu of a fringe of land between Kiambu and Limuru; and it deprived the Nandi and the Lumbwa of a part of their lands. No other tribe lost land to the settlers, and in 1933 the Report of the Kenya Land Commission led to a just settlement of all claims, as of right, to land which was alienated during the early days of the century. For the rest, white settlement filled a vacuum and built the Colony of Kenya. It also created the awkward and perturbing political, social and economic problems which face the people of Kenya today.


Whatever may be the argument about the force and the durability of the various pledges given by successive British Governments to the settlers of Kenya, it is incontrovertible that they were encouraged to settle in Kenya and to develop the country as a direct instrument of British policy. In a formal address in 1954, Sir Evelyn Baring, then Governor of Kenya and now Lord Howick, spoke of the bright future of the agricultural immigrant and quoted the Secretary of State for Colonies as saying that "Her Majesty's Government are not likely to lend themselves to encouraging people to come if they intend to betray them. They will be entitled to feel confidence in the possession of the homes they have built or will build for themselves and for their children."

In the years before the First World War settlement made fair progress. The difficulties were formidable, for everything related to agriculture in the country had to be learned by the slow and expensive process of trial and error. Many an early settler lost all his own capital and all that he could borrow in the learning of lessons which proved of inestimable value to those who followed. Little or nothing was known about the climate, the rainfall, the qualities of the soil, about the endemic and epidemic stock diseases, about the multitude of pests and diseases which attacked the crops and reduced the prospect of a fair harvest to the certainty of another depressing interview with the Bank.

The First World War came to Kenya just when the economic barometer was moving towards "set fair," just when farms and coffee and sisal plantations, fashioned from a slice of raw Africa, were beginning to pay; it imposed a check to all progress and for four years men fought and died and many farms reverted to scrub and bush. In 1914 the European population consisted of about 3,000 in all--officials of the Government and settlers, men, women and children. Of that number, 1,700 served in the armed forces. There remained in Kenya only a bare minimum to maintain some form of government and to preserve all they could of the farms, many of which were run by gallant women.

Between the two world wars the farmers were hard hit by the postwar slump of the twenties, and by the Great Depression of the thirties. An agricultural colony like Kenya was very susceptible to an economic blizzard which followed a drought and which joined forces with a severe scourge of locusts to wreck human endeavor. Between 1928 and 1933 the price of Kenya's export crops fell to a third or a half of their previous value. The Depression was a grievous setback followed by years of slow recovery until the outbreak of the Second World War, when thousands of settlers again joined the forces. Not until the later years of the Second World War was a reasonable margin of profit again restored to farmers.

Since World War II the economy of Kenya has made rapid strides, which can be well illustrated by the growth of the Government's annual expenditure. In 1940, it was £ 2,675,222; in 1950, £ 10,624,840; and the estimate for 1960-61 is £ 32,014,765. Apart from the ordinary recurrent expenditure, the outbreak of the tragic Mau Mau revolt in 1952 imposed an immense financial burden. Since 1953 the total cost of the emergency has been £ 57,185,424, of which the British Government met about half.


There has long been argument about the so-called "White Highlands" of Kenya wherein rural land--all towns and townships are excluded--is reserved for European ownership and occupation. Last November in the Legislative Council, the Hon. L. H. Brown, then Acting Director of Agriculture, dealt with this controversial matter. In the course of his speech, Mr. Brown said:

It has often been stated that much of the best land in Kenya was taken by Europeans. This view is regularly voiced by strangers to the country and frequently appears in supposedly authoritative publications. The fact that it is erroneous is not usually well received by people with preconceived notions or axes to grind. Nevertheless it is. The study of available data reveals the following facts.

Of the land in Kenya which has a rainfall of over 30 inches per annum, 8,500 square miles lies in European areas and 32,306 square miles elsewhere in the Colony, chiefly in African land units though some is Crown land. In other words, there are at best one acre in five in this category available to Europeans.

A large proportion of the European land is also cold, poorly drained or has shallow soil, and the area available for mixed farming is reckoned to be about 4,700 square miles. Some of these same factors affect African lands in this category but the proportion is smaller. There is, for instance, only a small proportion of African land badly drained and little of it is cold or above 8,000 feet. Africans, in fact, concentrated in the past on those areas of the country enjoying an adequate rainfall to grow crops and where it was comparatively warm. Similar pictures emerge with ranching land. If you examine the areas of ranching land with a rainfall between 20 and 30 inches, there are 4,025 square miles available to Europeans and 37,621 square miles elsewhere, i.e. about one acre in ten is in European hands.

Mr. Brown then went on to describe what the various racial groups had done with their land. He pointed out that with less than one-fifth of the best land, the Europeans and Asians provide about 46 percent of the Colony's total agricultural production, with a value of £ 33,000,000. Of this amount, produce worth nearly £ 20,000,000 becomes available for export. By contrast, he added, production on African land is worth about £ 40,000,000, but since most of it is for subsistence, only some £ 5,500,000-worth is available for sale--not all of it for export.

"The picture therefore is," he concluded, "that if all the land in Kenya were in African hands its productivity would be much lower than at present. In addition the wage bill of over £ 10,000,000 for Africans would not find its way into the pockets of Africans living in the present European Highlands. I need not point out that this wage alone is nearly twice the total value of surplus crops produced in African areas."

Since agriculture today accounts for all but £ 3,000,000 of Kenya's total exports of £ 33,000,000, any measure which reduces the productivity of the land is not in the interests of the country as a whole. To achieve a reasonable rate of growth will require political stability and an economic climate which is encouraging to farmers and investors.

Although it is estimated that since 1950 over £ 300,000,000 has been invested in Kenya--£ 121,000,000 on public account--it is still a poor country. There are no minerals of account. There is no prime mover; no oil and no coal have yet been discovered; there is no heavy industry. It is not an easy country to farm, and in much of it rainfall and water supplies are badly distributed. Because our exports compete in world markets with those of other primary producing countries, Kenya greatly depends on world conditions for its prosperity. The African population of approximately 6,200,000--divided into 48 tribes--is increasing at an annual rate of between 1.5 and 2 percent. In all these circumstances it is not easy to maintain existing standards of living, much less to increase them and expand the social services so necessary to the well-being and progress of the African people.


In February the constitutional conference, held at Lancaster House in London, produced proposals for a radical revision of Kenya's constitution, and laid down the principle that independence was the ultimate objective. In the present tempo of change in Africa all the indications are that Kenya will be ruled by an independent African government within a comparatively few years.

After the general elections next year there will be a Legislative Council of 65 elected members. Fifty-three will be elected on a common roll and they in turn will elect 12 "national" members, composed of four Africans, four Europeans, two Asian non-Muslims, one Asian Muslim and one Arab. The position of minority communities on the common roll will be safeguarded by 20 of the 53 seats, ten allocated to Europeans, eight to Asians and two to Arabs. There will be communal primary elections for the reserved seats, in order to ensure that the candidates elected command support from their own community. The details of how the primary elections will be run have not yet been determined, but it is obvious that the European, Asian and Arab members will, in fact, be elected by an overwhelmingly African electorate. The franchise for the common roll seats will be based on (a) ability to read and write own language, or over 40 years of age; or (b) holding office in a wide range of scheduled posts at time of registration; or (c) an income of £ 75 per annum.

Under the new constitution the Council of Ministers will consist of 12 Ministers, with an Arab representative having the right of attendance. There will be an unofficial majority with four official and eight unofficial Ministers. The eight unofficial posts will be filled by four Africans, three Europeans and one Asian. The Governor will retain the right to appoint Ministers and to distribute portfolios.

The outcome of the London Conference surprised and caused some dismay to the European community. Although they are the mainstay of the economy they number only some 65,000, including government officials and the employees of large companies who are not permanently settled in Kenya. By and large the great majority of the Europeans recognized the need for, and the inevitability of, change and accepted the general pattern of the new constitution with some reservations. But they disliked, for instance, the fact that in the future they would be unable to send representatives of their own choice to Legislative Council. Nevertheless, they hoped that the new constitution would lead to an improvement of racial relations and hold forth the prospect of a stable government, which is so essential to the expansion of an economy greatly dependent on continuing overseas investment.

Since the African elected members returned from the London Conference the anxieties of the European community have been greatly increased by their public statements, more especially in regard to the White Highlands; by demands for the release from restriction of Jomo Kenyatta, the leader of the Mau Mau revolt, and claims that he will be the first African Prime Minister of Kenya; and by assertions that the new constitution will soon be upset and replaced by an independent African Government. There is general recognition that the reservation of the White Highlands solely for European ownership and occupation must go and it will be set aside by legislation which will shortly be presented to Legislative Council. But several African elected members have declared that European-owned farms must be greatly reduced in size, and that European-owned land in the Highlands should be expropriated for the settlement of African peasants.

Today the four thousand or so European landowners and farmers fear that they are about to be betrayed and they feel scant confidence in the continued possession of the homes and the farms they have made for themselves and their children. Some of them, the descendants of the early pioneers, are now the third generation on the land. Confidence is shattered and there are increasing signs of the economy shrivelling in a cold wind of deflation. Civil servants grow increasingly anxious about their prospects once independence is achieved. Few settlers look hopefully to the future.

Admittedly there is belated if growing recognition in Great Britain of the need to preserve the economy of Kenya which is so dependent on European agriculture. But the political trends, and the avowed intentions of leading African politicians, are all against measures providing the European farmer with security of tenure for more than a few years; and if Mr. Mboya and his supporters have their way, there will be only a very few years.

Recently Mr. James Gichuru, the chairman of the committee appointed to draft the constitution of the recently formed Kenya African National Union, made it very clear that the Union's policy was directed towards a one-party state. He said that democracy, as it is practiced in Britain, was unworkable in Kenya. He also supported the agitation for the release of Jomo Kenyatta. About the same time Mr. Mboya announced that he would call for a campaign of civil disobedience if Kenyatta were not released within three months, and his party, the Nairobi Peoples' Convention Party, issued a Press statement which declared that Jomo Kenyatta will be the first head of a free Kenya Government "whether the other communities or the present government like it or not."

There are some who believe that, sooner or later, it will be impossible to resist the mounting pressure for the release of Kenyatta. If that be so, the prospect offered to the European community will be to live as aliens in a one-party state headed by Kenyatta. It is one thing to live in a Kenya ruled by an African or a predominantly African Government. It is another thing to live in Kenyattaland.

Nor is anxiety confined to the European community. The Arabs are anxious about the future of the coastal strip, the Protectorate, for the extreme African nationalists demand the abrogation of the Zanzibar Treaty and the annexation of the strip. The Indians, who largely control retail trade, fear a replica of the boycott in Uganda and they tend to pander to African nationalism in the hope that it is the right band-wagon. Amongst the smaller tribes there is fear of domination by the Kikuyu, Kenya's largest tribe, numbering 1,500,000, or about 25 percent of the African population. The Luo have always disliked the Kikuyu and the Masai have always despised them. These tribal divisions, glossed over within the largely de-tribalized urban populations, are the basis of the political rivalries amongst the African elected members. Recently Mr. Mboya, by far the most able of them and a fine speaker, has lost ground and become unpopular with many of his colleagues. At times he gives the impression of seeking to outvie his rivals in extremism; as a Luo he may feel impelled to support the "cult of Kenyatta" as a means of gaining support from the Kikuyu.

The real problem in Kenya today is how to correlate the rate of political advance with the need for a stable government and the preservation and expansion of an economy on which the real interests of all Kenya's 48 disparate tribes depend. Lord Chandos, still better known as Oliver Lyttelton, a former Secretary of State for the Colonies, once wrote:

"Let us not forget that, behind our own self-interest, beyond our deep desire to see our own property preserved and the lives of our fellow countrymen protected, there lies the certainty that, without partnership between African and European, first one territory and then another will soon revert to the primeval darkness from which they are trying to emerge. A multi-racial society is not yet round the corner--indeed, it is easy in moments of depression to disbelieve in its success; but witchcraft and superstition, ignorance, famine and disease are just round the corner unless European help is forthcoming."

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