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Customer Review

9 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ill informed and poorly written, 19 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Britain's Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya (Paperback)
I have now read this book twice - the second time to confirm my thoughts on what a poor book this is. My father served in the Kenya Police during the Mau Mau and he acknowledges that there were failings in the way the rebellion was handled but this doesn't get away from the facts that the main brutality during the conflict was tribal. After MacMillan's "Winds of Change" speech, tribes, in particular the Kikuyu, started jostling for power. Many unfortunate Kenyans were killed by the Kikuyu for refusing to join them and the atrocities carried out by the Kikuyu are hardly mentioned and not in enough detail. Kenya is a far better place now having been a part of the British Empire than it would have been left to it's own devices. This book seems to have been written by a Liberal pandering to those who would have us believe that the Mzungu's were barbaric.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Jul 2013, 01:26:02 BST
Last edited by the author on 20 Jul 2013, 01:28:01 BST
People keep criticising Elkins for writing the wrong book! Her book describes the 'pipeline', the network of forced labour camps in which Mau Mau suspects were detained indefinitely, without trial. She describes the structure of the network and what happened within the camps. It is this horror that she wishes to expose. She details the efforts to expose the brutality by Barbara Castle and others and the stone-walling obstructionism of the colonial secretary, Lennox-Boyd and the governor, Evelyn Baring. The reasons for the conflict are discussed relatively briefly as it is necessary to understand why so many (mainly) kikuyu men were imprisoned without due process. However, the real horror is the extent of the torture, starvation, summary executions, and mass graves. Women and children were made to live in emergency villages which were hardly better. The women were raped by both Europeans and fellow Africans, endured forced labour and were often tortured in the most obscene way. She exposes a crime against humanity, committed by Europeans and other Africans loyal to the colonists. Elkins does not dwell on Mau Mau atrocities against Europeans, or inter-tribal violence, important as those are, though they are covered in as far as they put her main subject into context.

She may be a liberal - she is certainly no right-wing bigot - and she is interested in human rights but that hardly makes her biased. Even those on the right should concede that systematic brutality is morally wrong. Her evidence has been meticulously recorded and annotated in this book which at last exposes the behaviour of some very unpleasant people, plus a few psychopaths.

Posted on 9 Jun 2015, 04:25:41 BST
Oh, of course--what your father, the Kenyan policeman, says is far more important than masses of documentary evidence and witness testimony. Case closed, how silly.

Posted on 24 Jan 2016, 20:55:02 GMT
Neil says:
This just illustrates all thats wrong with the colonialist my country right or wrong attitude. Self deception or wilfull ignorance

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Jan 2016, 21:47:53 GMT
Keka says:
Thank you for your rather patronising comment. Were you there? apart from reading Elkins book what first hand experience do you have of what actually went on in Kenya in the 1950's and early 1960's - My father's accounts of his time as a Divisional Commander in Nyeri are far more accurate than Elkins accounts and I am proud of his service

Posted on 19 Jun 2017, 16:09:46 BST
Elkins was vindicated in 2013 when William Hague, the British foreign minister, made a statement to the House of Commons admitting the charges of torture:

'Hague told the House of Commons that the payment was being made in "full and final settlement" of a high court action brought by five of the victims who suffered under the British colonial administration.

"We understand the pain and the grief felt by those who were involved in the events of emergency in Kenya. The British government recognises that Kenyans were subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration," he said.

"The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place and that they marred Kenya's progress to independence. Torture and ill-treatment are abhorrent violations of human dignity which we unreservedly condemn."

Hague said Britain would also support the construction of a memorial in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to the victims of torture and abuse during the colonial era'.

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