Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"The Destruction of Christianity" (On the situation in Kenya in 1955)

"By the time I cut his balls off he had no ears, and his eyeball, the right one, I think, was hanging out of its socket. Too bad, he died before we got much out of him."
[Imperial Reckoning, Caroline Elkins, p. 87]

"I stuck my revolver right in his grinning mouth and I said something, I don’t remember what, and I pulled the trigger. His brains went all over the side of the police station. The other two Mickeys [Mau Mau] were standing there looking blank. I said to them that if they didn’t tell me where to find the rest of the gang I’d kill them too. They didn’t say a word so I shot them both. One wasn’t dead so I shot him in the ear. When the sub-inspector drove up, I told him that the Mickeys tried to escape. He didn’t believe me but all he said was 'bury them and see the wall is cleared up.'''
[Histories of the Hanged, David Anderson, p. 300]

The predominance of Christianity today in Sub-Saharan Africa is a direct legacy European Colonialism. The promotion of Christianity was still very much a central concern of the Colonialists even as Colonialism itself was entering its twilight in Africa and throughout the world, as shown by the following excerpts from the House of Lords debate on February 10, 1955. The entire transcript can be found at the official website for Hansard, the Official Report of debates in Parliament.

Mention is made in this transcript of the practice of "screening". The quotes at the top of this post are first hand accounts from those who conducted these interrogations. Go to this link for a list of reviews of both of the books those quotes are taken from, and other relevant material.

[A nice online resource to learn more about the Mau Mau rebellion is at the section on the Mau Mau Movement at the E-Learning and Teacher Education (ELATE) program, which is administered by Dr. Christopher Mugimu of the Makerere University School of Education in Uganda.]

HL Deb 10 February 1955 vol 190 cc1128-204

3.8 p.m.

LORD MILVERTON rose to call attention to the situation in Kenya with particular reference to the recent surrender terms offered to Mau Mau terrorists; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in rising to move the Motion standing in my name, I am anxious to make it clear from the start that a growing anxiety about the capacity of the Kenya Government would probably never have found public expression, at least so far as I am concerned, had it not been for what I regard as a disastrous gamble with principles—I mean, of course, the recent surrender terms offered to the Mau Mau terrorists. Naturally, one is reluctant to embarrass any Government which is making an attempt to deal with an emergency, but when a Government seems to be gambling with the principles and the public respect upon which its own position must finally rest, then a protest seems to me to become a public duty.

In looking at the situation in Kenya, I propose to confine my comments, in so far as it is possible, to the emergency which was declared in October, 1952, and which is still with us in February, 1955. We pay a lot of attention nowadays to world opinion and it seems to me not unreasonable to pay at least some attention to public opinion in the country where the trouble has occurred. If the Government has not succeeded, or has forfeited public confidence in the country where it functions, then surely it stands condemned. A much clearer picture is possible to-day than in 1952, of the way in which the Mau Mau rebellion was planned and the reason why its aims and objectives have obtained such a hold on the Kikuyu tribe. Leakey and other authorities have made that quite clear. If I may repeat them, the main aims were: to drive out all foreigners; the destruction of Christianity; the seizure of all land for African use; the restoration of ancient customs and independent self-government. There was thrown into those aims a strange one, which was the cessation of soil conservation. In fact, as has been explained, that was a clever appeal to the women of the tribe, because most of the work in relation to the soil conservation is done by the women. It is, of course, easy to see why the destruction of Christianity occupied such a high place in their aims, because any study of this emergency cannot help attracting one's attention to the fact that the core of the resistance amongst the Africans to Mau Mau has been among the African Christians . . . .

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, the Motion before us draws particular attention to the surrender terms offered to Mau Mau. On that special topic I do not wish to add anything to what the noble and learned Earl has just said. I entirely subscribe to every word with which he rebutted the observations of the mover of this Motion. The Motion also refers to the general situation in Kenya. It is about that that I should wish to say one or two words, drawing attention to matters of very great importance which have been urged by Christian leaders in Kenya constantly for the last two years.

The noble Lord who moved this Motion said it was essential to take into account the views of the people in Kenya; and, indeed, that must be done. He said that one of the chief motives of Mau Mau was to destroy Christianity. That is also true. It follows that we must give careful heed to the opinion of leaders of Christian communities in Kenya. I may say, in passing, with regard to the amnesty offered to Mau Mau, that so far from regarding it as a surrender of any kind of principle at all, Christian leaders put out a statement that they welcomed it. They welcomed it on a condition to which I shall come, that it is properly followed up—but that is another matter. If I go on in some sense to criticise the Government, I do it not in the least to reproach them but to encourage them to do better what I know is their fundamental principle and purpose. Only on January 28 last, the leaders of the Christian Churches saw the Acting Governor and had a conversation for two and a half hours with him. I mention that to show that there is real contact and co-operation between the Governor and the Christian forces, and an understanding and a true desire on both sides to carry this thing through to a possible conclusion.

The first point I wish to underline is that, again and again, the leaders in Kenya complain that the loyalists among the Kikuyu get no recognition and no encouragement, but are, on the contrary, exposed to continuous injustices—and the noble and learned Earl has indicated what is meant by "an injustice," and how horrid it is. Many of these loyalist Kikuyu who are loyal to law and order, and many of them also because they are loyal to their Christian faith, have suffered martyrdom. One would at once think as a result there would be every kind of encouragement to look after the loyalist Kikuyu; but, in general, they are still made to suffer hardship and injustice. Some members of the Administration forget that there can be such people as loyalist Kikuyu. Some of them assume—I say this on evidence from those who have observed the situation in Kenya—that every member of the Kikuyu is guilty, and they do not look for or accept evidence put forward to show that they are innocent . . . .

I would add only that the Christian Churches are anxious and ready to do anything they can to help bring about the spiritual renewal which is necessary. They have plans for a wide variety of rehabilitation work in prisons, in detention camps, in newly-established villages, in Nairobi and in other towns, among youth, among women—who are not the least important people in this context—and among potential African leaders. That work will cost the Christian Churches a great deal, and doubtless there will, in time, be an appeal to the Christian people of this country to enable that work to be done. But perhaps even more necessary will be the supply from this country to the Government and to the Churches of men and women who can bring with them the healing and constructive spirit without which there can be no future at all for Kenya. Finally, may I say that, regarding it as a sign of our goal and a Sacrament of the Faith with which we pursue it, I look forward, God willing, to consecrating in Uganda in two months' time two Africans, one of whom is a member of the Kikuyu tribe, to be assistant bishops to the Bishop of Mombasa in Kenya.

4.25 p.m.


. . . . Whether or not the noble Lord calls it a rebellion, it is perfectly clear (and I do not think Her Majesty's Government have ever said anything different) that there has been what amounts virtually to a civil war in Kenya. No police force in the world could protect the public against such a danger. To their great credit, a small part of the Kikuyu tribe, in which Christians have been prominent, has openly stood out against the terrorists; and round this nucleus there has gradually been built up a Home Guard pledged to defend their own homes and to wipe out the Mau Mau. Many 1150 of the loyalists have paid the price of their loyalty—1,300 Africans have been murdered by Mau Mau; but as the movement has gathered strength, they have been able to present real resistance to the terrorists and have stood up to protect their own homes. This has led to a situation approximating to civil war, not only within the Kikuyu but extending beyond the tribe to the British settlers and other communities. The mere containment of this situation is employing not just the whole of the Kenya Police but no fewer than nine battalions of troops—including battalions of the King's African Rifles and the Kenya Regiment—and some 22,000 men of the Kikuyu Home Guard. That is the scale of the emergency. It is in the light of these quite exceptional circumstances that I should like to deal with criticisms of the Kenya Government that have been made in respect of its administration of justice during the emergency . . . .

There are two problems to-day in Kenya which do not exist in this or, so far as I know, in any other civilised country. The first is a problem occasioned by the fact that any member of the Kikuyu tribe who is not known to be your friend may turn out to be your enemy, either through fear or through contamination by the Mau Mau. In a majority of cases it will be impossible to prove in a court of law that a man is associated with Mau Mau, either because of lack of suitable evidence or because witnesses are too frightened to give evidence. The Government, whose main duty, after all, is to protect the loyal elements in the community, and who if they fail in this, their first responsibility—and this is a point I would emphasise—can never hope to rally waverers to their cause, could not well leave these elements at the mercy of men who might well commit a revolting murder without qualm. Hence the necessity, which I think your Lordships have generally accepted, of screening suspects and of detaining those who are shown to be supporters of the movement. As your Lordships are aware, the object of the screening is broadly to separate the sheep from the goats.

Screening involves three categories of people. First, there are the "irreconcilables"—dangerous Mau Mau adherents such as executioners, court officials, oath administrators, and active gang members. Such people are either tried in court for Mau Mau offences, if sufficient evidence is available, or detained under Governor's detention orders. Next, there are the "contaminated" Man Mau supporters, not regarded as sufficiently dangerous to be classed as irreconcilables. They are detained first in detention camps, and are progressively being moved to works camps in the Central Province, where they undergo additional local screening, usually by their own elders, to see whether they can eventually be released, and are given every opportunity to rehabilitate themselves. In this connection I should like to express my gratitude to the most reverend Primate for the tribute he paid to the work that is being done in these camps for irreconcilables, and, in exchange, I should like for my own part to pay tribute to the work which is being done by the Church to help in that task, which is, as he said, the vital one before us in Kenya. Finally there are the "harmless," who are returned either to their employment or to the Reserve, where relief work is provided for those in need . . . .

6.12 p.m.


. . . . Finally, may I suggest that the problem of the future is going to be what status we can give the educated African in Kenya. Can we give him the proper housing, so that he can live in conditions commensurate with the education he has received, and so that he can raise himself and give some leadership to his own people? It is remarkable what wonderful results have been achieved by the Christian Kikuyu in Kenya. All the people who have sneered at missionaries should bite off their tongues. There is a lot to be gained from seeing how the Belgians have used a very enlightened administration in the Belgian colonies, associating religion with education so that they do not get merely what the Duke of Wellington called "clever devils," but people with a moral foundation for their education. If we are going to encourage the missionaries to take a bigger part in Kenya, so that instead of the debased religion of Mau Mau they can get the benefit of a Christian religion, it behoves Europeans equally to give an example of that Christian religion by abandoning practices such as colour bars which are wholly incompatible with that religion . . . .

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past seven o'clock.

Doda Elektroda says Bible written by drunks. Which, apparently, is some kind of crime in Poland.

Dorota Rabczewska, a 26 year-old Polish pop-star, has been charged by Warsaw prosecutors with insulting religious feeling for comments she made about the Bible in a television interview a year ago:
"it is hard to believe in something written by people who drank too much wine and smoked herbal cigarettes."
For this, the singer, who is also known as Doda Elektroda, if convicted could be sentenced to a maximum of two years in prison under Polish law.

There has been at least one high profile conviction under the same law, that of Polish artist Dorota Nieznalska, who was found guilty in 2003 of "offending religious feelings" under article 196 of the Polish Criminal Code.

Responding to her arrest, Ryszard Nowak, chairman of the Committee for the Defence Against Sects, an organisation dedicated to protecting Christian values, said:
"It is clear that Doda thinks that the Bible was written by drunkards and junkies. I believe that she committed a crime and offended the religious feelings of both Christians and Jews."
Doda is engaged to Adam Darski, aka "Nergal", frontman of the Polish Extreme Metal Band Behemoth. Darski is also facing prosecution under the same law for publicly tearing up a Bible during a Behemoth performance and publicly stating "the Catholic Church is the most murderous cult in the history of the human race."

For a little more on Nergal's case and also on the 2003 the case of Dorota Nieznalska, see this previous post.