Tuesday, March 01, 2005

What price for a low interest rate loan?

This is the question that the London Review of Books asks as it reviews two new books on the Kenya Emergency, a period at the end of the British empire where behavior was, well, less than exemplary.

Of course, the review article begins by citing Niall Ferguson, who has argued that the British empire was actually a good thing because, among other things, countries under British rule had access to a much more abundant flow of capital than would have otherwise been the case. Ferguson, it turns out, does not mention Kenya anywhere in his book on the British empire other than in the introduction, where he is talking about himself. And yet what happened in Kenya was very dramatic, and frankly I would pass up a low interest rate loan if it implied suffering through the following:
The British declared the Kenya Emergency in 1952, when seven years of restless dissatisfaction with British rule culminated in the full-scale rebellion known as Mau Mau. It was very largely the struggle of the Kikuyu, the country’s majority ethnic group – about 1.5 million in a native population of five million – who had lost much of their land to white settlers and had moved into reservations or continued farming as tenants. The Emergency saw out two prime ministers – Churchill and Eden – and ended in January 1960. In that time, Mau Mau supporters killed at least 2000 African civilians and inflicted some 200 casualties on the army and police. In all, 32 white settlers died in the rebellion. For their part, the British hanged more than 1000 Kikuyu, detained at least 150,000 and, according to official figures, killed around 12,000 in combat, though the real figure, in David Anderson’s view, is ‘likely to have been more than 20,000’. In addition, Caroline Elkins claims, up to 100,000 died in the detention camps.


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