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Published:September 4th, 2007 04:00 EST
My Little History Project on the Colonization of Kenya

My Little History Project on the Colonization of Kenya

By Juliet Maruru

I was terrified of history in high school. All the seniors I Knew kept complaining about how much strain it put on them; having to remember all those dates and people long dead. If there is anything I was afraid of back then, it was bringing home a negative report card. So guess what? Yeah, I dropped History. Well, here I am, looking for History books in libraries and talking to senior citizens trying to glean from their memories.

The colonization of Kenya by the Royal British Government is a very, very large part of the history of my country.

No, I don’t have any theories yet about how much better Kenyan economy would be if there had been no colonization. Well, maybe at some point I will get there. I have read a few comments about that theory but I need to come to my own conclusions, which might turn out to be the same as those of a few other Historians, I don’t know.

No, I don’t have any theories yet about how much better Kenyan economy would be if there had been no colonization. Well, maybe at some point I will get there. I have read a few comments about that theory but I need to come to my own conclusions, which might turn out to be the same as those of a few other Historians, I don’t know.

So where do I start? First, I went to the Internet. Search [Kenya + British + Colonization]. I came up with an array of articles about African History and related topics from slaver to apartheid. I also found a few recommendations on books that could help my search.

Next stop, Library. I have never attended a University. All my education post high school has been distance learning/ online programs. Oh yeah, I know I’ve missed out on the whole university campus experience, but I am getting an education nevertheless. That might have been a little too difficult a few years ago. With my problems with lupus and myalgia, I might have missed out on education completely. Therefore, while at times I wish I was born in an earlier era, I am glad I was born in this one for the above reason.

I go to the Kenya National Library on Upper Hill in Nairobi. I’ve been here before but the place still gives me jitters. Especially when I have to wait in line with all those students from the local Universities. I think I admire them. All that energy and sophomoric studiousness.

Anyway, I finally get in. I could ask for help from the librarian with the friendly face, but I wander in. I mean really wander. I’m not sure that I even have the Library coding system right in my head. I believe it was part of my college course somewhere. Anyway, I find the History section at last and try to look sophisticated while I search for books that deal with the topic I’m studying.

It’s a whole bit of reading and I’m here three days a week for two weeks. I’m reading furiously, taking notes and thinking about all the things I’ve hear about the colonial era. One thing I can remember my mom talking about that time is the state of emergency declared in 1952. At that time, the British Soldiers and the Kenyan Homeguard would raid homes looking for the Mau Mau to arrest and the other people to work for them building trenches and so forth. Generally, the locals would hide from both the Mau Mau and the Homeguard. This is because affiliation with either side could attract reprisals from the other side.

Anyway, when either side appeared the grown ups would hide and the young children would stand outside and declare that the grown ups were not home. This was potentially dangerous but they did it anyway.

In 1953, my aunt Loise was only two years old. However, when the Homeguard showed up, she toddled out and stood just outside my grandparents’ wooden hut and looked up at them, with adorable eyes, my Uncles will swear to that. She apparently didn’t wait to be asked where her parents were. She said, “Mami na baba matiri kuo.” Translated that was, “Mum and Dad are not home.”

My grandmum and granddad had just found a corner to hide in and were expecting the older children to talk to the Homeguard. Later, when they were finally able to get out of the hiding spot with the Homeguard long gone, my granddad a stoic Kikuyu man lifted his tiny daughter with tears in his eyes. No one spoke about it until after my granddad died in 1987.

I have a lot more reading to do and a whole lot of people to talk to. But this is turning out to be a whole lot more interesting than I expected.