British Empire Article

Courtesy of OSPA

by Rosendo P. Abreo
I, as a retired officer from the Colonial Government of Kenya after over 30 years of service, look with pride at the part played by Goans in the Kenya Civil Service. The available records show that Goan immigration to British East Africa commenced during construction of the Uganda Railway, between 1897 and 1898, peaking in 1899 and 1900 when the Railway's Headquarters were moved from Mombasa to Nairobi. When the Imperial British East Africa Company was granted a Royal Charter in 1880, many Goans were taken into its service. When the Company surrendered its Charter in 1895 and control for administering the territories was transferred to the Colonial Office, most Goan employees were absorbed into various government departments. It was some time in 1905 that the Government headquarters shifted to Nairobi and thereafter the number of Goan employees started increasing gradually as a result of increased activities by the Administration, but the terms and conditions of service remained unsatisfactory, forcing them, in 1913, to organise themselves and petition the Government for improvements.

The Service was fortunate in its leaders, - Mr. S. R. Rodrigues of the Treasury and Mr. Leandro de Mello of the Provincial Administration, - the prime movers in submitting the petition and guiding its subsequent developments. They were also responsible for forming the Non-European Subordinate Civil Service Association at a meeting held on 31st March 1917 at the residence of Mr. Franklin de Souza of the Posts and Telegraphs Departments, its object being to safeguard and promote the interests of Asian Civil Servants as a body and to foster mutual good relations between Government and staff.

Goan Contribution to the Civil Service
Churchill in Kenya, 1907
The Association changed its name to the Kenya Asian Civil Service Association in 1921 and Mr. Leandro de Mello, on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of the Association in March 1946, recalled the improvements he had been able to achieve in the terms of the Asian Civil Service of the Colony. Mr. A. J. Santiago, Mr. M. S. Fernandes, Mr. L. de Cruz, Mr. R. A. Oliver were but a few among other selfless workers giving distinguished service. Goans assisted at the very birth of British Administration of the country, helping its evolution, despite the hardships of then "Darkest Africa", contributing immensely to the growth and progress of service in Kenya with unswerving loyalty. Through hard work, honesty and integrity, they developed strong links between the community and the British Rulers in East Africa, who welcomed their services, appointed them to responsible positions, though at that time Goa was under Portuguese rule. In March 1946 at the Silver Jubilee celebrations of the Kenya Asian Civil Service Association Mr. Leandro de Mello also recalled the Rt. Hon. Mr. Winston Churchill, when Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, visiting Kenya Colony in 1907 and declaring that under the vast British Empire there was room for every nationality and creed. Governor Sir James Hayes Sadler, the late Mr. Kemps (the then Treasurer) and Mr. MacGregor Ross, Director of Public Works, had only praise for Goan officials. The report of the Government-appointed Wade-Mayor Committee in 1934 commended the ability, high integrity and devotion to duty of Goan employees, often of necessity jacks of all trades, sufficiently adaptable to accept any kind of duty, which they did until the 1950's when non-Goans began to fill cashiers' posts. As good custodians, Goans invariably man Government safes - unless this is done by a Scotsman.

I have pleasure in mentioning specially the following officers for their creditable achievement in attaining the highest positions in the service during 1950's created for the first time, and for the fame and honour they bought to the entire Goan community in Kenya.

Mr. M. J. de Souza (Audit Department); Mr. A. P. de Souza (Legal Department); Mr. S. D'Cruz (Treasury); Mr. M. C. F. da P. Gonsalves (P.W.D.);Mr. R. P. Abreo (Prisons Service); Mr. J. S. de P. Dourado (Kenya Police); and Mr. M. F. Fernandes (Registrar-General's Department).

In 1955, resulting from a public enquiry, the Government introduced revised terms of service for the civil service, abolishing racial classification for purposes of salaries and perquisites, salary scales now being assigned to job classifications and entry to the grades determined by academic qualifications and experience, vastly widening the field of possible posts and professions for Goans. When internal self-government and independence were granted in 1963, entry to the permanent Civil Service was restricted to Kenya citizens, and within a decade the entire Civil Service was Kenyanised, with a few exceptions involving special skills, the Goans remaining rising to various senior positions, always maintaining the ideal of service to the common good. We are all proud and grateful for the selflessness with which they discharged their allotted tasks.

British Colony Map
1920 Map of Kenya
Colony Profile
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 52: October 1986


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