Annals of Western Civilization

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Dec 13 15:04:59 MST 2001

Sven Lindquist, "A History of Bombing", The New Press, 2000

In Kenya, 40,000 whites, less than one per cent of the population,
ruled five million blacks. The highest authority was in the hands of
the Colonial Office in London.

The first wave of British immigration at the end of the 19th century
coincided luckily enough with a smallpox epidemic that decimated and
in some regions almost eliminated the Kenyan black population. The
land seemed "uninhabited." Those who offered resistance were killed
and their villages burned. Like so many other colonists of this
period, the British governor, Sir Charles Eliot, believed that the
natives were dying out. "There can be no doubt that the Masai and
many other tribes must go under. It is a prospect which I view with
equanimity and a clear conscience."

After the First World War came a new wave of immigration - thousands
of demobilized British officers arrived from Europe, bringing with
them - luckily enough - an influenza epidemic that killed more than
100,000 Kikuyu. Five million acres of African land could then be
confiscated and made available for British settlement. The blacks
became landless farmworkers on ground that had belonged to their

During the Second World War, 100,000 Africans participated as
volunteers. They returned home hopeful, inspired by the promises of
freedom offered by the Atlantic Charter-and were bitterly
disappointed. At the same time, a new wave of demobilized British
officers and former colonial officials from British India arrived,
firmly determined to uphold white rule in Kenya. The Kenyan response
was the Maumau Rebellion in 1952-1960. Throughout the 1950s, the
British managed to convince world opinion that they were not fighting
landless and disenfranchised rebels, but putting down "bestial
murderers," primitive natives who, crazed with drugs, rituals, and
sex orgies, were cutting the throats of white women and children.

In fact only ninety-five whites were killed in the war, thirty-two of
them civilians. During that period, more whites were killed in
traffic accidents in Nairobi alone.

According to their own estimates, the British security forces killed
11,500 Maumau. For every wounded and captured man, there were seven
dead. The number of civilian deaths was never reported. 80,000
Africans were imprisoned in concentration camps, where many died. A
strip forty-eight miles long filled with barbed wire and mines was
built by forced labor in order to cut the guerrillas off from the
Kikuyu reservation. Other forced laborers built 800 fortified
villages, into which the Kikuyu people were forced to move, as had
been done in Malaya. The Kikuyu were not used to living at such close
quarters. Diseases spread, and the mortality in the "model villages"
was startlingly high.

In 1953 the RAF began to attack Maumau from the air. During a typical
week in July, there were fifty-six air assaults, 232 fragmentation
bombs were dropped, and 19,000 shots were fired by the planes'
machine guns. No results could be verified.

The heavy bombers that were sent in the next year had a larger
psychological impact. One of the survivors relates:

>>The airplane noise came nearer. I turned my head and saw four bombs
floating like big eagles under the airplane and a little behind. I
pressed my chin to the ground, closed my eyes and ears and prayed God
to forgive all my sins: "God, let thy mighty arms be my armor. You
are our General; deliver us from evil and from our enemies' slavery!
(Poooof! Poooof! Poooof!) God, Thy will be done on earth as in heaven
. . ."-Once more my heart came into my mouth and I could pray no
more. . . . The airplane left after unloading twenty-four bombs each
weighing 1,000 pounds. When Jeriko called all the fighters together,
we found that a few had bruises caused by the lumps of soil but none
was serious. Some itungati were still trembling when I started
singing: "Listen and hear this story of Nyandarua Hill; so you may
realize that God is with us, and will never abandon our cause...."
When we finished singing many of us had gained courage and
confidence, but we realized that two fighters who were still
trembling were suffering shock and couldn't use their voices. We
tried to soothe them but all in vain. They later recovered at dinner
time about midnight.<<

The bombs forced the guerrillas to split up into small groups, and
waves of carpet-bombing

given the code name "Hammer." For more than a month, an entire
division hunted down 2,000 guerrillas, and with the bombers' help
managed to kill or capture 160 of them.

Large areas around Mount Kenya were declared off-limits-there the
planes could bomb anything that moved. White plantation owners who
had their own planes went out and hunted the blacks from the air. The
bombings reached their height in September of 1954, when the RAF
dropped 500 tons of bombs.

But by then people at home started voicing their opinions. Some
protested against the bombing as a kind of class punishment for
entire villages-even an entire people. Others thought that it was
getting much too expensive-on average, it cost 28,000 pounds to kill
one rebel. That didn't bring much glory. In May of 1955, the heavy
bombers were withdrawn from Kenya on the RAF's own initiative, after
having dropped 50,000 tons of bombs.

Even stronger protests were excited by accusations of murder and
torture by the police in Kenya. Black women and men testified that
broken beer bottles had been shoved into their vaginas or anuses,
that they were whipped, burned, knifed, dragged by cars, or had their
testicles crushed with tongs. The accused policemen were sometimes
assessed minimal fines, but most of them went unpunished.

That the British committed grave violations of the 1949 Geneva
Convention was clear. But they themselves had made sure that their
crimes could not be punished according to the convention.321

In 1960 victory was declared over the "terrorists." But the violence
that the victory had cost had buried the colonial administration.
Kenya declared its independence in 1963.

Louis Proyect, lnp3 at on 12/13/2001

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