Jomo Kenyatta: War, Land, and Politics in Kenya

  • Warris Vianni
Part of the African Histories and Modernities book series (AHAM)


This chapter revisits a particular narrative that attends upon the reputation of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first prime minister and president. It recounts Kenyatta’s relationship with Mau Mau in his refusal to yield to their claim for land as recognition and reward for hastening the end of colonial rule in Kenya. The controversy dates from the transfer of power from Britain and Kenyatta’s assumption of office. Kenyatta had to take a position on an issue of moral and economic significance with far-reaching political implications. A practical assessment of the episode reveals a complex interplay of constraints and influences; it also discloses a vivid example of the ecologies within which African leadership is tested and forged. Far from suggesting leadership as a kind of “black box that holds the secrets to the malfeasances of governance in Africa” (see chapter 1 of this volume) Kenyatta’s decision, which haunts his reputation, illustrates the political skill required in balancing the interests of different classes of clients and patrons, while holding steadfast to a vision of salvation through freedom and self-mastery.


Rift Valley African Study Central Province Colonial Rule Political Skill 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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