James Franks went to Kenya in 1947 as a young subaltern. He did not
revisit Kenya until 1989. During that visit his Kikuyu driver suggested
that there was a need for an objective and balanced account of the
post-war years in Kenya up to the time of independence in 1963.
took up this challenge. He has studied much of the published literature,
and also some material available in the PRO and in the Kenya National
Archives. He also found certain unpublished recollections of Kenya held
at the Imperial War Museum. In addition Franks revisited Kenya in 1994
and 1996 to interview and record recollections of former settler farmers
still in Kenya, and others elsewhere, including former officials in
England. Some of his information comes from Asians and from Africans. He
chose as the title for his book words once uttered by Tom Mboya (but he
points out that Kenyatta said "stay").
Franks admits that it is
difficult for any writer to be wholly impartial, that memories are not
always accurate, and that witnesses do not always tell the whole truth.
His book is of particular interest for the period from 1946 (Kenyatta's
return) through the Mau Mau Emergency to its end in 1960, and the
transfer of power in 1963. His aim is to seek to give a fair account of
the actions of all the parties involved; Westminster and Whitehall, the
Governor and his officials, the Kenya politicians, the settlers, the Mau
Mau fighters (who saw themselves as fighters for land and freedom), and
the Kikuyu loyalists (engaged in a civil war).
This is truly a brave
effort by Franks. But the question is does he succeed? Unfortunately
there are typographical errors and also historical inaccuracies. For
example Uganda is mentioned in passing as becoming a Protectorate in
1895 (in fact 1894), and a colony in 1920 (which it didn't). The Devlin
report of 1959 may have outraged Iain Macleod, then Colonial Secretary,
but that report concerned Nyasaland not Kenya. Franks stresses the
importance of readers checking his "footnotes and references" before
making up their own minds, but there are only 3 footnotes and the
"references" are not always helpful. To simply cite a source as "KNA"
without further details is hardly sufficient. On occasions, quotations
appear without any reference at all. These are hostages to fortune,
which hostile critics may make much of.
Franks' concluding chapter is an
Epilogue raising questions, hypotheses, and assessments for each reader
to consider and draw their own conclusions. And each reader needs to do
I offer only one comment under the "if only" column. Franks
suggests that if only the Kenya authorities had recognised Kenyatta as
the leader of the Africans on his return in 1946, there would have been
no Mau Mau troubles. Given the evidence that Franks earlier presents of
plots to assassinate Kenyatta, both before and after 1952, I suspect
Kenyatta would have been seen as a Government stooge by the militants,
and then eliminated.
Given the current climate of opinion in some
academic and other circles perhaps the time is not yet right for a
balanced and impartial view? For instance, statistics from all sides
concerning the Kenya Emergency are wildly contradictory. Until the winds
of change alter opinion, and the realisation grows that each generation
sees things differently, perhaps all that can be done for the present is
to wait. In the meantime, one might perhaps note the advice of the
American poet, Stephen Vincent Benet, ending his epic poem John Brown's
Body about the American Civil War:
Say neither, in their way,
'It is a
deadly magic and accursed,'
Nor 'It is blest', but only 'It is here'.