Books have been written about Kenya’s European high society in the early settler years. Readers have been beguiled by stories of the ‘wife-swapping’ high jinks indulged in after dinner.
I know of no book written by a European settler describing the tragi/comic lives of the Europeans over the active Mau Mau days that started in 1952, and the years leading up to Kenyan Independence in 1963. Many were ‘soldier settlers’ who had immigrated to Kenya, to take up parcels of land offered to them by the British Government. They accepted the dust, diseases, isolation, the lack of theatres or concerts, the responsibilities for house and garden staff, farm labourers and their families. Some settlers provided free dispensaries and schools on their farms for their employees. There were the livestock diseases (tick and fly borne, mineral deficiency), the wild animals – leopards, lions (would kill the cattle), hyenas, elephants who trampled down the fencing, hippos and rhinos, gazelles that ate the pastures and carried ticks and diseases. There were crocodiles and alligators, puff adders and other snakes, vultures, wart hogs that carried swine fever. There were the insects – flies, mosquitoes, bees, moths, sugar ants, soldier ants, white ants. There were leeches. Settlers had the problems of barely adequate roads, water supply, power supply, telephone, post, railway, police, law courts. Settlers’ cars were functional, rarely washed (what was the point on dust roads?). As with the farming community in UK a car was used to carry both people and animals. Not only were there the hazards of the rocks and potholes on the roads, there were also the dangers of collision with the wild animals crossing them. When getting a new car, the first job before driving it was to check how to change the wheels. Kenya was a British colony ruled by the British Government through its nominee The Governor, and his civil servants who were also British Government employees. The 50,000 Europeans (white people of any nationality) elected their representatives to the Legislative Council (Legco), where they debated, and made their views known to the Governor via his civil servants. The 5 million Africans had tribal areas of land, called ‘reserves’, kept apart for them, and to which they alone could hold title. Bado Kidago has been written at the request of our children, and the encouragement of our friends. It covers the period December 1951 to March 1963 and aims to describe our early days in Kenya. I had lived there for over five years before I met Jane, on 10th May 1957. So, much of this book is dedicated to those young Kenya friends whose open, sincere friendships I valued, and then lost, when they were killed 1953-1955 in the Mau Mau emergency. They had no interest in a military life, or in the killing of other human beings. They were called up by the British Government to fight for stability, in a country that the British Government was already planning to quit. As I see it, they died for nothing. And many of those who were not killed were injured in some way, physically or mentally. The British National Servicemen, who were posted with their regiments to Kenya, suffered similarly. At about the same time that the Iniskilling Fusiliers were receiving the Freedom of Nairobi, we heard that one of them, on leave in Ireland, was being tarred and feathered for his sin of being prepared to fight against black men. It took the British forces an inordinate amount of time to discover how to fight the Mau Mau. This was in part due to the fact that the Mau Mau campaign rated so lowly in the military commitments Britain had at that time. Kenya was sent military leaders who had by all accounts failed to perform well in similar terrain elsewhere.