Crowded into Nairobi’s Makadara Hall, some 4,000 Negroes cheered lustily as Kenya’s Labor Leader Tom Mboya cried: “We reject a government which is based on an imposed constitution. No one will hand us freedom on a silver platter. We must be prepared to use our power—not guns and pangas—to achieve it!”
To white settlers in Kenya, Mboya’s mention of guns and pangas brought unhappy memories of the Mau Mau terror. Last year, under the Lyttelton constitution, Africans in Kenya were allowed to vote for certain members of the 58-member “multiracial” Legislative Council, which, it was hoped, would bring unity to the European, African, Asian and Arab citizens of the colony. Mboya and seven other Africans were elected to the “Legco” but, protesting that Negroes deserved at least 15 more seats, they refused to have any part in the government.
Grudgingly, the government replied with the Lennox-Boyd plan, which would give Negroes six more elective seats and add twelve more councilors, equally divided between Europeans, Negroes and Asians. But this concession did not appease the Africans. Tom Mboya could not block the election, but he did the next best thing. He had six “rejector” candidates enter their names, and each was pledged, if elected, to oppose the constitution. Last week Africans trooped to the polls and elected all six rejectors.
Kenya’s more liberal whites can see no way out of the stalemate. They feel it is impossible to go back to the days of absolute white supremacy, which brought on the Mau Mau terror, and equally impossible to go ahead to granting Kenya complete (and all-black) independence on the model of Ghana. But if Mboya continues to reject the gradual “multiracial” approach to self-government, the result will be increasing racial tension that may end in a renewal of fighting—only this time with all the tribes and not just with the 1,500,000 Kikuyu, who supplied the hard core of Mau Mau rebels.