the third part of our series on the First
Liberation, the Nation Investigation Team
looks at how Mau Mau detainees were tortured and
killed at the Hola detention camp, the events
leading to the lifting of the Emergency Period and
the Constitutional Conference in Lancaster House.
official despatch of British troops commander
General Erskine, in April 1955, vividly demonstrated
how blind he was to the poisoned chalice his
strategy had bequeathed to Governor Baring.
the Emergency had definitely reached its last phase.
Many of Mau Mau’s bravest leaders had been killed.
He concluded: "There are still some determined
leaders in the field, but I’m sure that the
security forces will be able to eliminate the last
terrorists from the forest in time. Meanwhile a
large part of the colony will be able to return to
Erskine’s strategy was already too far developed
for his successor, Lieutenant General Sir Gerald
Lathbury, to reverse or even amend.
were all sequestered in villages and detention camps
and there only the Administration’s dictatorial
writ ran. The writ was that you could only move back
from the camp to human society when you had
confessed to taking a Mau Mau oath, whether you had
or had not and whether what you confessed was true
or a lie and whether they had to beat it out of you
or not, and whether it made you more or less likely
to want freedom and land.
must have been happy to be no part of this nonsense.
Instead he was able to busy himself tinkering with
tactics as his forces tried to locate and eliminate
the scattered groups of fighters still surviving in
tactic was to force the villagers to dig an enormous
ditch right round the Aberdares and Mount Kenya and
fill it with sharpened bamboo sticks to destroy any
remaining links between the forest fighters and
their supporters in the Reserves.
tactic was to expand the ‘pseudo-gangs’ combing
the forests for their elusive former comrades.
bombing and strafing by RAF planes also continued
but their damage, if any, was definitely more
psychological than physical.
1956, Dedan Kimathi, the acknowledged leader in the
Aberdares, was wounded and captured.
November, the army withdrew from major operations
and virtually declared ‘their’ war.
withdrawal of the army (and its direct link to the
Secretary of State for War, in London) and the
shifting of the battleground to the camps and the
villages, the Colonial Secretary in the UK and the
civil servants in the Colonial Office once more
became totally and personally responsible for
policies and their implementation in the colony.
At the end
of July 1954, Winston Churchill appointed Alan
Lennox-Boyd Secretary of State for the Colonies. In
October 1959 after a British General Election, he
was replaced in Harold Macmillan’s Cabinet by Iain
Macleod. For over five years, therefore, Lennox-Boyd
was thus directly and personally responsible for the
conduct of the Emergency in Kenya. In particular he
oversaw the effects of Operation Anvil in Nairobi,
including the stuffing of ever more political
detainees into already overcrowded concentration
approved Gen Erskine’s departure from the colony
in May 1955 with the decreasing importance of the
military aspect of the war. He also watched the
extraordinary growth in numbers and power of the
Provincial Administration with the colony-wide
initiation of the policy of closer administration.
addition, the total village-isation of Kikuyuland
came under his docket. He was also kept
well-informed on the results of the carefully (and
perhaps rather misguidedly) named rehabilitation
programmes in the concentration camps.
the British Public Record Office show that he was
undoubtedly aware of the illegal move in 1956/7
towards a more aggressive and physical approach in
these camps with the adoption of the scandalous 'dilution
technique', hatched by District Officer TJF Gavaghan
and Prisons Superintendent John Cowan at the Mwea
camps in Embu.
Lennox-Boyd really like as a man? Friends and
colleagues all emphasise that "he was very tall".
seem to mean to imply by this is not mere height but
that he was a man of grandiose dreams, remarkable
drive and energy, very generous and, at least on the
surface, kindly and charming. Macmillan described
him as a "highly strong, sensitive and rather
quixotic character". He was, for the record,
actually 6ft 5in.
there were other factors in his past and in his
general character make-up that could give one pause
when considering his suitability for the post of
Colonial Secretary in a world clamouring for
self-government. Like most of the imperial ruling
class he was educated at an English public school (Sherborne)
and Oxford University. He could not therefore fail
to have imbibed the imperial patriotic mythology so
intimately connected in Britain at that time with
that kind of education.
respect at Oxford, somewhat at the expense of his
studies, he developed his right wing political
inclinations in the Oxford Union (an elite debating
society) and the Canning Club. He became President
of the Union and also of the Oxford Carlton Club and
even the University Conservative Association. All
these societies were bastions of High Tory
Conservative views, which in Oxford at this time
(the 1920s) verged on an acceptance of fascism.
Lennox-Boyd once wrote to the British Fascists,
suggesting that "there was a chance of doing
something for fascism in Oxford". Combined with
this, he always retained a natural sympathy for
‘martial races’ and ‘traditional rulers’
whose position was threatened by the ‘clerks’ of
the new nationalist movements.
As he once
said as late as the 1970s: "I felt strongly for
the martial tribes and admired the fighting men of
the Punjab more than the clerks of Bengal".
little doubt to which category in his simplistic way
he assigned the Kikuyu.
As far as
his personal reaction to the unfolding of events in
Kenya is concerned, he has revealed an astonishing sang-froid
attitude to the constant stream of complaints of
torture, brutality and even murder, which culminated
in the 1959 carnage at Hola.
same remarkably candid interview quoted above, he
recalled: "I went the week after I left the
Colonial Office to stay with Alex Home at Dorneywood
for the day and Iain Macleod (Lennox-Boyd’s
successor as Colonial Secretary) was there. I
brought out all the skeletons for Iain’s perusal,
of people other than those concerned with the Hola
thing, whose breaches of discipline I had tolerated
on Evelyn’s (Baring’s) advice.
said, "Now you will know all the cover-up
operations that I have made." There were three
or four others – unauthorised beatings under
extreme provocation, and various crimes that people
had made against others under the cover of the
Emergency. I had the whole lot there and I gave them
all to Iain. He was very shocked. I said, ‘Well if
you can apply the canon (religious law) of the
cloister to a battle in tribal Africa, good luck to
you', or words to that effect."
Mutonyi, the chairman of the Mau Mau Central
Committee, had been closely involved with the
movement from its origins in the 1940s when it grew
out of the Anake a 40. A Nairobi-based businessman
originally from Murang’a, he managed to evade
capture by the British until November 1953. Almost
inevitably in 1958, he ended up at the Hola Camp.
Before he died in 1975 from the beatings and
tortures he received in the camps, he wrote an
autobiography which, after many vicissitudes, is now
awaiting publication. In the extract that follows,
he vividly describes the events of March 3, 1959 as
witnessed by him from the camp dispensary.
1958, at the age of 41, I was transferred to Hola
Detention Camp as a 'hard-core Mau Mau' detainee. I
was among the 'blackest of the black'; I had refused
for five years every attempt to bribe or beat me
into 'rehabilitation' and cooperation with the
British colonial government in Kenya.
to our oppressors, I was doomed to live and die in a
remote part of my country, 'unfit' to re-enter
the awful morning of March 3, 1959, the detainees at
Hola were divided into three groups. The first was
sent to the kitchen. The second, of which I was a
member, was sent to the dispensary for treatment.
The third, comprising 88 young and reasonably
healthy men, was taken for a work assignment. Each
man was given a spade, a basin and a hoe, and then
ordered to dig the soil. We had refused all along to
perform this task, and the young men refused on that
morning as well, just as the authorities knew they
down into groups of five, the men were whipped and
beaten up, whipped and whipped, until at least 11 of
them died. None among the survivors escaped
the dispensary, we heard the most agonising and
ghastly screams coming from these men. We had all
heard screaming before, at Mariira and Mackinnon
Road, at Manyani and Sayusi, at Athi River and
Kajiado, at every concentration camp in Kenya. But
never for as long, and with such awful intensity, as
on that morning at Hola."
ordered us to squat and keep our heads down; those
who tried to look outside to see what was happening
were beaten. The wailing and the lamentations
continued and continued, and we were not surprised
when a guard came in to say that some men were dying
from the vicious beatings they were receiving.
were physically weak, those of us who were spared
the torture. We could not fight, yet we wanted to
rise up and stop the slaughter, all of it
deliberately being carried out on the bodies of
defenceless men, as part of the colonial
government’s 'rehabilitation' policy; the murders
were committed on the orders of 'civilised' men, the
representatives of the British Crown in Kenya.
sight of the battered bodies being brought in caused
a young Red Cross doctor working in the dispensary
to break down and cry. ‘I am not here to treat the
dead', he said, and then carried on, with his brave
nurse, to try to save the living. Without their
efforts, many others would have died that day. May
God bless those two, wherever they are.
may God bless them, too, for having had the courage
to reveal the truth of Hola, after the Governor of
Kenya at the time, Sir Evelyn Baring (later Lord
Howick), and the entire Government of Kenya
conspired to hide their treachery by telling the
world that the 11 men had died from accidentally
drinking poisoned water.
the real story emerged, the story of official
murder, the British Government was embarrassed and
the public shocked. Debates were held in the House
of Commons, official investigations were carried out
and reports issued. Journalists and doctors flew to
Hola Camp to investigate the treatment of 'Mau Mau'
prisoners, and the brutality which had characterised
prison life in Kenya began to subside.
the name 'Hola' was wiped from the map of Kenya, and
replaced by 'Galole'. But this can never erase the
horrors of Hola from the memories of all who fought
for Kenya’s freedom.
happened because men who believed in freedom refused
to compromise their belief. The Kenya government’s
'rehabilitation' policy tried to make us admit, in
word or in deed, what we had fought for was wrong.
Some of us, the 'hard core' detainees, could not
cooperate in any way with the colonial government.
We had not cooperated outside of prison, when we had
joined the movement to free Kenya; there was no
reason why we should cooperate as political
prisoners, simply to gain some small personal
comforts. Yet many of my comrades paid with their
lives for such 'stubbornness', and others among us
suffered years of detention and torture, and
however, another eminent right-wing Conservative, J.
Enoch Powell, who in 1959 in the famous second
debate of the summer on Hola in the House of Commons
in July, ended his speech with the following
decisive attack that went to the heart of the
tragically botched and immoral Baring - Lennox-Boyd
stewardship of Kenya.
concluded: "We cannot say, ‘We will have
African standards in Africa, Asian standards in Asia
and perhaps British standards here at home’... It
is a fearful doctrine, which must recoil on the
heads of those who pronounce it, to stand in
judgement on a fellow being and to say, 'Because he
was such-and-such, therefore the consequences which
would otherwise flow from his death shall not flow'...
We cannot, we dare not, in Africa of all places,
fall below our own highest standards in the
acceptance of responsibility".
political atmosphere in London in the hot
pre-Election summer of 1959 was frenzied. It really
seemed that the combination of the 1956 Suez debacle
– when the Americans put a sharp brake on Sir
Antony Eden’s last mismanaged imperialist
conspiracy – could be linked with the sleaze of
Baring’s desperate conspiratorial water cart
deceit at Hola and result in an October election
triumph for Hugh Gaitskell’s Labour Party.
Macmillan said, had "an intellectual dislike of
and contempt for British settlers". This dismal
prospect duly horrified the vast majority of both
the European Settlers and the Provincial
Administration in Kenya.
leading members of Macmillan’s Cabinet most
concerned about the ethical revelations of the Hola
disaster were Iain Macleod, then the Minister of
Labour and Lord Hailsham, the Conservative party
inquest on the 11 camp deaths held by the senior
resident magistrate in Mombasa uncovered the
appalling truth, there was a serious danger of a
Cabinet split centred around these two. Somehow
Macmillan avoided this, though he could not prevent
the first full-scale debate on Hola in the House of
Commons on June 16, deteriorating into a massive
personal onslaught on Lennox-Boyd both from his own
side and also from Labour, led by the former
Attorney-General Sir Frank Soskice.
who had not wanted to speak and had offered to
resign, was persuaded by Macmillan to answer the
motion of censure and to stay in office. He frankly
admitted muddle, confusion and scandals. Macmillan
commented in his diary: "Naturally it seems
terrible that 11 people should die in this way and
no prosecutions or resignations. The Colonial
Secretary had been supported by the Cabinet after,
at one time, I feared a split. So he owes us
something. I feel there must be a ‘reshuffle’ in
the Kenya Administration".
if Lennox-Boyd had resigned and the British Labour
party had won that election in October 1959? One of
the more interesting ‘ifs’ of Kenya’s history.)
Lennox-Boyd was tall, Macleod was small. He was also
extremely intelligent, ambitious and an excellent
speaker. He was a top class bridge player and
contributed a weekly bridge column to the Sunday
Times for many years. He was physically
disadvantaged, having suffered from spondylitis, a
progressive and incurable arthritic condition of the
back and neck. He had no previous contact with
Britain’s African colonies, but Macmillan knew
what to expect when he appointed him.
was a radical in the party and likely to move more
rapidly than slowly towards independence. Macmillan
himself would be making his famous ‘Wind of
Change’ speech in1960 in South Africa. However, to
the High Tories, with their connections with the
European communities in Africa, Macleod was (as Lord
Salisbury damagingly put it in the House of Lords)
Ð "too clever by half". Macleod wasted no
time. Hola had lifted the scales from his eyes as
well as those of many others. With immediate effect,
2,500 detainees were to be released whether or not
they had confessed to taking the Mau Mau oath.
being closed as fast as possible under a totally new
regime, increasingly staffed by administrative
officers not linked with, or compromised by, the
Gavaghan, was abruptly removed from the plum post of
District Commissioner, Kiambu, and gingerly exited
to the backwaters of the secretariat. He had become
too hot to handle.
of Emergency was eventually lifted on January 12,
1960. Macleod announced that a pilot scheme would be
started that would make possible some African
ownership of property in the (now former) White
Constitutional Conference would assemble in
Lancaster House, London on January 18, 1960.
was progress on both Freedom and Land – the twin
pillars of the Fight for Freedom – as a direct
result of the battlefield of Hola.
Captain Briggs, leader of the right wing Europeans,
acknowledged this when he said of Macleod’s plan
at Lancaster House: "This is a victory for Mau
Mau, a death blow to the European community".
Blundell said, more diplomatically: "The
proposals will completely change the political scene
Provincial Administration and the Settlers were now
in full retreat. The myth that had been invented by
them, in conjunction with local ‘experts’ such
as Dr Louis Leakey, the palaeontologist, and Dr JC
Carothers (the psychiatrist at Mathari Mental
Hospital), and labelled Mau Mau was vaporising
before their very eyes.
Leakey’s attempt to deceive the outside world that
the Mau Mau movement had no political origins or
purposes but was some sort of misdirected cult had
failed. 'Rehabilitation' became a dead concept.
How do you
'rehabilitate' someone asking for their freedom and
their land? As Hola showed, only by illegal force.
visited Kenya before the Lancaster House Conference.
A district officer told him that there would be no
peace in Kikuyuland until Jomo Kenyatta was released
and asked when would that be.
answered: "One thing at a time". But
Oginga Odinga after Lancaster House openly warned
Lord Perth, the Minister of State, "You will
have to deal with Kenyatta".
Provincial Administration, however, was to hold on a
little longer before they could accept they had been
fighting for a lie. Had there really been no
justification for all the shooting and the killing,
all the atrocities and torture, the village-isation
and the rapes, the starvation and the hunger?
straw came when Jomo Kenyatta, instead of proving to
be Lucifer rampant, turned out to be a moderate
non-racist, tolerant leader and much more inclined
to capitalism than communism. But all that is
On March 3
1959, Baring was relaxing with his family on the
portico of Government House. They were recovering
from a a "highly successful" but
nonetheless exhausting two-week long visit to Kenya
by the Queen Mother. The sun was shining and the
rose garden was at its colourful best, definitely
one of Baring’s few Kenya days of peaceful bliss.
he was called urgently into his office to take a
call from the Ministry of Defence. A message had
just come in over the prison radio network that five
detainees had died at Hola. Just that, no
explanation, no more details.
immediately alert. Only a few days before there had
been a damaging debate in the House of Commons in
which Labour MPs had vehemently castigated
Lennox-Boyd, the Colonial Secretary, and the Kenya
Government for the continuing reports of brutality
and torture in Kenya’s detention camps.
immediately decided to send to Hola three senior
officers from the Prisons, Defence and African
Affairs departments. They left early the next
morning. Shortly afterwards Baring was told the
death count had reached 10. He decided to postpone
issuing any statement until the return of the three
officials, scheduled for that evening.
the three senior officers returned to Nairobi at
mid-day. In the subsequent inquiry into the Hola
catastrophe it turned out that the three officials
concerned (known ever after as the Three Blind Mice)
had carried out a remarkably casual inspection of
the camp, spending only three hours there and really
had no explanation of how 10 men had already died.
addition while they were there not one of the three
spoke to any warders or to any detainees. They did
not see any of the dead bodies or the injured people
in the hospital. They had simply listened to the
version of the Hola commandant and his deputy. The
prison doctor told them that a quarter of those in
the hospital were putting on an act. He also
mentioned that one of the dead men had two broken
teeth, bruises on his face and had possibly died of
"aspiration pneumonia" caused by inhaling
there was one other factor which had been related to
them by the prison deputy commandant. He had seen a
detainee collapse near a water cart from which he
had been drinking .
really left only two options. Either the prison
officers and the doctor were deliberately hiding
what must have been a major atrocity or else these
officers really did believe that the water cart
might have had something to do with not only the
deaths but also (how, how, how?) the injuries.
Baring called a round table conference at Government
House for 4pm. Present were the three officials back
from Hola, the chief government doctor, three
ministers (Griffith-Jones, A.G., Cusack, Defence,
Johnston, African Affairs) and Lewis, the
Commissioner of Prisons. The majority of those
present knew all about the Cowan Plan and had indeed
known all about it since early 1957. They also knew
only too well that a revised version, checked by
Cowan himself, had been specially sent for
implementation at Hola.
talked about violence at some length, as was in the
circumstances inevitable. The three officials,
however, were of the opinion that violence had not
been the cause of death. Incredibly, they supported
the idea that drinking large quantities of water in
the extreme heat could have been the cause. One
cannot help feeling that Agatha Christie would have
dismissed that one much earlier. It begged too many
questions. What about the injuries? What about the
prison staff who apparently suffered no problems
from drinking from the same water cart?
as a result of this meeting Baring authorised a
statement about the deaths, which stated the men had
died after drinking from a water cart. It was very
carefully and ambiguously worded so that the reader
could either deduce that the water killed them or
merely that there was a water cart fortuitously
around from which they drank and so what? There was
no mention anywhere that there had been any
has come to look very closely at Sir Evelyn Baring
in the context of this document. Baring wrote on
June 25, 1957 to Lennox-Boyd, requesting that the so
called 'dilution technique' be approved by
Lennox-Boyd. Baring, while acknowledging that "risks
are unavoidable" explains that the technique
"is giving very hopeful results indeed and is
in fact the only way of dealing with the more
dyed-in-the-wool Mau Mau men who will be our problem
in the future".
encloses an 11-page memorandum by Eric
Griffiths-Jones, minister for Legal Affairs which is
entitled : 'Dilution' Detention Camps – Use of
Illegal Force in Enforcing Discipline.'
describes a very recent visit to Kandongu Camp in
the Mwea by himself, Mr C.M. (Monkey)
Johnston,minister for African Affairs and Community
Development, and Mr J.H. Lewis, acting Secretary for
Defence and the Commissioner of Prisons.
conducted round by Mr T.J.F Gavaghan, the District
Officer in charge of Rehabilitation, Mwea Camps who
"conducted the visiting party and explained the
operation as it proceeded, and also himself
participated in the proceedings and maintained in
conjunction with the senior prison officers, direct
personal control over the proceedings".
clear from this document is that the illegal
procedures it describes and which evolved in
discussions between Gavaghan and Cowan (of the
Prisons Department) were put in action several
months before June 1957, which is itself 21 months
before Hola in March 1959.
is being asked to approve something which has been
in operation for months and which all present knew
to be illegal and contrary to conventions signed by
Britain on behalf of itself and all its colonies.
means is that at the 4pm meeting on March 4, 1959,
the following knew all about the Cowan Plan: Eric
Griffith Jones, C.M. Johnston, J.H. Lewis and Sir
It is at
the very least highly probable that the minister for
Defence (Cusack) had also been fully informed about
the 1957 Mwea trip.
really credible that the issue of violence was not
uppermost in the minds of these four men?
himself in 1957 had written to Lennox-Boyd that
"risks are unavoidable." What is most
likely is that at this meeting a shameless
conspiracy was hatched to blame it all on the water
cart, issue a Press release to cover up the truth
and hope for the best. They could all see that the
alternative was too awful to contemplate and they
were all capable of seeing what the political
fall-out in the UK would be.
after the Hola scandal was exposed, Baring called a
meeting at Nyeri of all the administrative officers
in the Province. Gavaghan was present. In his
address the governor stated that he had no knowledge
of any brutality in the camps. Had he known, he
insisted, he would have stamped on it immediately
and firmly. A district officer who was there then
asked Baring to confirm this again which he did.
Gavaghan of the Mwea Camps informed the D.O
concerned that Baring was brazenly lying, which the
1957 document verifies.
It was a
leak from this meeting that led to the formal
statement that "Sir Evelyn Baring had never
been consulted about the Cowan Plan".
Alistair Matheson was appointed a press officer in
the Kenya Government in 1953. He describes an
unusual occasion as follows:
March1959 I received a telephone call from an
official at Government House alerting me that a
draft press release was on its way to my office for
urgent distribution to the media. By this time I was
outranked at the Press Office by a chief press
officer. He was Robert Lindsay, a fellow Scot I had
worked with at Associated Press in London.
found the urgent release to be a bold announcement
that 11 Mau Mau detainees had died after drinking
water. I suspected at once that there was something
very fishy about the story. After pondering over it
for a little I rang Government House asking for more
details to enlarge on this extraordinary
soon became aware there was acute embarrassment over
this affair at a very high level. Then prison
officers I managed to contact tried their best to
convince me that in a very hot climate people who
drank water if exhausted by hard work, could
this point I dug my heels in and said I wouldn’t
be responsible for putting out what I believed to be
a half-truth, if not an outright falsehood. After
this I was excluded from any further dealings with
that press release, but Lindsay went to see the
Governor and on his return he issued that
controversial release to the world’s press."
scandal, however, became too big, too quickly for
any cover-up to succeed. Garnering together the
results of the police autopsies, the coroner’s
inquest on March 18, the findings of the Hola
District Commissioner, the two Command Papers (Nos.
778 and 816) which made available the Documents
relating to the deaths of 11 Mau Mau detainees at
Hola Camp in Kenya, and the Record of
Proceedings and Evidence in the Inquiry into the
Deaths of 11 Mau Mau Detainees at Hola Camp in
Kenya, it is possible to reconstruct the
‘official’ picture of what actually happened on
that terrible day.
‘hard core’ detainees were taken to the
irrigation ditch under the supervision of 90 warders,
armed with rifles and batons, whose orders were to
force the prisoners to work, i.e. to weed. On two
occasions on the way the prisoners had given what
was described as a ‘Mau Mau howl’, whereupon the
warders had beaten them until they were quiet. After
they had drunk water from a water cart, 10 (later
11) had died and 22 more were taken to the hospital
pathologist told the inquest that the men had died
either from lung congestion or from shock and
haemorrhage following multiple bruising and other
commandant was only legally entitled to use physical
force to suppress violent resistance. The Cowan Plan
ordered him to instruct the warders to "manhandle
the detainees to the place of work and force them to
carry out their tasks".
addition the warders were told to respond to any
noise or movement by striking the detainees on the
legs below the knee.
coroner was clear – force was justifiable in
answer to violence or attempts to escape: force to
compel detainees to work was unjustified and
The Cowan Plan, which apparently had governmental (Baring’s)
approval and backing gave intentionally or
unintentionally carte blanche in ‘forcing
detainees to carry out the task’.
criminal offences were committed which were clearly
illegal, the defence of superior orders would be of
no avail . . .
the coroner himself did not see how anyone could be
charged as there was no way of telling who killed
whom, with which blow and with what intent. So 11
men had been publicly beaten to death and there were
to be no prosecutions, it appeared. Was that the end
It did not
quite end there. As a result of disciplinary
proceedings the Hola commandant Sullivan was retired
from the service without loss of gratuity. The
charges against Coutts, his deputy, were dismissed.
Lewis, the Commissioner of Prisons, announced that
he was retiring as soon as a successor was named.
The Minister of Defence, who was anyway due to
retire, in fact left even before the coroner’s
findings were out.
Cowan, who had hatched the first version of his
infamous Plan with T.J.F Gavaghan in the Mwea Camps
two years before, was awarded an MBE in the
Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Johnston, the special commissioner who fatally
recruited Gavaghan for the Mwea Camps and who became
the real power behind the development of the 'dilution
technique’ also faded from the scene. Johnston
disappeared anonymously into the Government
Communications (GCHQ) at Cheltenham, Britain’s
most important listening spy centre. Everyone
involved was extra careful to commit as little as
possible to paper from beginning to end of the plan.
continued dishonestly to maintain the unmaintainable
– that he had known nothing about the 'dilution
technique', that the Cowan Plan had not been
submitted to or approved by the Governor’s
Council. There was no doubt that there was a common
agreement or conspiracy to use illegal force.
Reginald Manningham Buller, the British
Attorney-General, definitely felt the same. With
hindsight and the documents we have today the
following should in his view have been convicted of
criminal offences: Baring, Griffith-Jones, C.M
Johnston, J. Cusack, J.H. Lewis, J. Cowan and T.J.F.
however, have led to a chain reaction in the British
Cabinet and Macmillan would have had to have called
a General Election. This would have been fought on
colonial issues and almost certainly the
Conservatives would have lost. Oral history is not
enough. It needs to be backed up by documents,
whenever and wherever possible. This is a major
difficulty for students of the period of Kenya’s
State of Emergency. This is because one negative
result of the Hola scandal was that the Colonial
Government took sudden fright at the looming spectre
of rapidly approaching independence under African
rule. Secret instructions were sent out to the
Provincial Administration in the affected areas to
destroy all the documents that had any connection
with Mau Mau and the Emergency.
Musembi, the present director of the Kenya National
Archives, has written about this wanton vandalism in
his book, Archives Management. The Colonial
Government had hoped to carry out this operation
without arousing the attention of the media or the
African politicians. They did not succeed. On
September 7, 1961, the first inkling of what was
happening appeared in the press, as follows:
classified documents including reports compiled
during the Emergency have been burnt during the last
month. Some historians have expressed dismay at the
destruction of these documents partly on the grounds
that the only writer to have access to the documents,
Mr. F.D Corfield for his survey Origins and
Growth of Mau Mau, has not made the best
historical use of them. Mr. T. Neil, the
Administrative Secretary in the Chief Secretary’s
Office has said that the Government is aware of the
need to preserve historical documents."
then embellished his case a little. The destruction
of documents "was a standing exercise because
of the problem of storage space". "There
was no intrinsic or historical value in the
documents destroyed. In any case copies of all
documents would survive in London where they would
be subject to the 50-year publication rule."
immediate protests in Kenya and the United Kingdom,
led by Margery Perham of Nuffield College, Oxford,
the doyen of British colonial historians. But they
were to no avail. The destruction simply went
steadily and comprehensively on.
become adept at stalling the academics and laying a
smoke screen over what was happening as far as the
press and the public were concerned. In 1962 he
informed Baring personally that he and (now Sir)
Geoffrey Ellerton had completed the destruction of
all materials which "we did not wish to be
available to political ministers."
reckless obliteration of vital information is
unforgivable. We in Kenya are only fortunate that
Mr. Musila Musembi has managed to preserve so much
for us. In spite of their desperate efforts, the
paper trail is there, faint still in certain
subjects but strong now in many others.