Mau Mau Rebellion

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The Mau Mau Rebellion took place in colonial Kenya. The so-called Mau Mau fighters actually named themselves the Kenya Land Freedom Army (KLFA).


"Squatters were Kenyan Africans living, cultivating, and generally grazing [their livestock] on land that did not belong to them."[1] Conditions for squatters in colonial Kenya deteriorated over the course of the early 20th century.

"By the end of the Second World War the settlers were determined to press the squatter relationship to the point of crisis. In some areas squatters were barred from keeping any livestock at all, and where livestock were allowed they were restricted to an average of only 15 sheep. Although they were usually allowed to cultivate between one and a half to two acres of land, with increased labour demands (ranging from a minimum of 240 to 270 days) and with no wage increases, it would appear that their subordination was virtually complete."[2]


A pre-cursor to Mau Mai, the Olenguruone affair played a "pivotal role as a rallying point for Kikuyu unity" against the colonial regime.[3] For more information, see the article on the Olenguruone affair.

Mau Mau and Independence

"Kenyan postcolonial constructions... sought to undermine the image of Mau Mau. This was thought necessary because the forces that ascended to power after the departure of the colonialists in 1963 needed to consolidate their economic, political, and ideological hegemony in postcolonial Kenya. These class-based forces have been variously identified as petite bourgeousie, national bourgeousie, and indigenous bourgeousie. Without going into terminological acrobatics, it could be argued that politics in postcolonial Kenya paved the way for neocolonialism and the discouragement of nationalism as a unifying force in Kenya. In these neocolonial conditions, the metropolitan bourgeousie managed to establish a strategic alliance with the national bourgeousie as a junior partner. The national bourgeousie has largely consisted of those who did not take part in the Mau Mau revolt. Discrediting and denouncing Mau Mau was essential in the strategic alliance between metropolitan bourgeousie and national bourgeousie."[4]

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. S. M. Shamsul Alam, Rethinking Mau Mau in Colonial Kenya, p. 18.
  2. Tabitha M. Kanogo, Squatters and the Roots of Mau Mau, 1905-63, p. 105.
  3. Tabitha M. Kanogo, Squatters and the Roots of Mau Mau, 1905-63, p. 119.
  4. S.M. Shamsul Alam, Rethinking the Mau Mau in Colonial Kenya, p. 62.

External Resources


  • S.M. Shamsul Alam, Rethinking the Mau Mau in Colonial Kenya.
  • Frederick Cooper, Africa Since 1940: The Past of the Present.
  • Caroline Elkins, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya, Owl Books, 2005.
  • David Maughan-Brown, Land, Freedom and Fiction: History and Ideology in Kenya, Third World Books.
  • E. S. Atieno Odhiambo, John Lonsdale, Mau Mau & Nationhood: Arms, Authority & Narration, Ohio State University Press, 2003.
  • Josiah Mwangi Kariuki, Mau Mau" Detainee: Account by a Kenya African of His Experiences in Detention Camps, 1953-60.
  • An Economic History of Kenya, William Robert Ochieng' and Robert M. Maxon, eds, East African Publishers, 1992.
  • Tabitha Kanogo, Squatters and the Roots of Mau Mau, 1905–1963, Ohio University Press, 1987.
  • Carl G. Rosberg and John Nottingham, The Myth of 'Mau Mau:’ Nationalism and Colonialism in Kenya (Nairobi: TransAfrica Press, 1985).

External Articles

The Journal of African History