Lesson Four- MAUMAU Rebellion in Kenya

4.1       THE MAU-MAU REBELLION IN KENYA (1952-1960).

The Mau-Mau was an African revolt against colonial rule in Kenya.

Mau-Mau means “Muzungu Ayende Ulaya Mwafrika Apate Uhuru” meaning let the Europeans go to Europe and Africans acquire independence.

It was organized by the ex-servicemen, members of KAU and later joined by Jomo Kenyatta,Tom Mboya, General China(Waruhiu Itote).

The war effectively began in 1952 and ended in 1960. 


  • The kikuyu were fighting to regain their political independence.
  • The kikuyu wanted to regain their land they had lost to the white settlers especially in the highlands.
  • Africans had been pushed into reserves where they experienced over stocking and over population in the reserves.
  • Africans hated racial segregation in jobs, residential areas and education institutions.
  • They also hated social degradation of Africans by the whites since they were considered to be second class citizens.
  • Africans were poor while the whites and Asians were rich because they monopolized trade.
  • The Kikuyu were tired of forced labour on European farms.
  • They also opposed the given low wages at all given to them for working on European farms.
  • Africans were restricted from growing cash crops on the pretext that this would lower the quality of products.
  • The lack of direct African representation in the LEGCO provoked them since they were being represented by an appointed missionary.
  • Africans also wanted to be allowed to participate in the politics in Kenya.
  • Africans also hated the imposition of heavy taxes and the harsh methods of tax collection.
  • Grievances like lack of jobs for the educated and general unemployment also led to the Mau-Mau resistance.
  • Africans hated the interference in traditional customs and beliefs e.g they hated the ban on women circumcision.
  • The fear of Kenya becoming another South Africa because of racial segregation
  • Africans hated massive arrests, detentions and ruthlessness of the British.
  • The role of the educated elites like Jomo Kenyatta who provided skillful leadership to the revolt in the 1950’s.
  • Africans also hated the restriction on the movement by the use the Kipande system which was burdensome to them.
  • The return of the world War 11 veterans with new ideas and grievances for independence also inspired many Kenyans to join the fighters.
  • The Kikuyu were also inspired by the earlier resistances like Abushir resistance, Hehe resistance and Maji-Maji resistance.
  • The Kikuyu also hated the introduction of Christianity which undermined African Traditional Religion. 

Qn :     What were the causes of the Kikuyu uprising of 1952-1960? 


  • It started as an underground movement aimed at driving away Europeans out of Kenya.
  • The supporters took oaths that bound them to obedience, secrecy and support to the movement.
  • As fighting intensified, the oaths grew more and more horrible and terrifying.
  • Death penalty was inflicted on those who were thought of betraying the movement.
  • It was a tribal movement and never spread beyond Kikuyu land.
  • The movement had its headquarters in Nairobi where orders and supplies were issued to the fighting wings.
  • The mass of people provided food, shelter and information to the armies in the forest.
  • The movement comprised of ex-soldiers who fought in the world war 11, squatters from European farms and willing youth.
  • The movement was masterminded by the youth who fought in about 40 different groups.
  • Young Kikuyu youths trickled to the forest of abardares and the slopes of Mt. Kenya and their number swelled in steady stream under increasing pressure.
  • They used guns and local weapons like spears, arrows, pangas.
  • They took to surprise night attacks, guerilla war fare and retreated into the forests that remained as their bases.
  • In their hide outs, they formed gangs, launched their attacks where they could strike terror or steal arms and ammunitions.
  • The movement was characterized by cattle thefts, crop destruction, murder Kikuyu and a number of settlers on isolated farms.
  • Many chiefs who opposed the movement were killed e.g Nyeri, Waruhei of Kiambu.
  • Many Mau-Mau supporters sang blasphemous hymns to well-known tunes in which the name of Jomo Kinyatta was substituted for Jesus Christ. These hymn tunes were even taught in schools.
  • The kikuyu tried to get support from other tribes but they were not successful. 

Qn :     How was the Mau-Mau rebellion of 1952-1960 organized? 


  • Both the Africans and Europeans lost their lives. About 1300 Africans and 58 Europeans died.
  • It led to declaration of a state of emergency in Kenya by the colonial government in 1952.
  • Many Africans e.g the Kikuyu, Akamba, Embuand Meru were forced into reserves and detention camps.
  • Leaders of the revolt like Jomo Kinyatta, Kimathi and Itote(General China) were arrested and imprisoned.
  • Many supporters were arrested e.g 2600 Kikuyu were arrested in April 1954.
  • The rebellion led to destruction of property and disruption of agriculture.
  • This resulted into the outbreak of famine leading to misery and suffering.
  • The insecurity created by the revolt disrupted trade and other economic activities leading to decline in Kenya’s economy.
  • Prisoners of war suffered from harsh treatment and bad living conditions.
  • After the war Europeans started opposing colonialism and criticized Britain and the white settlers.
  • The white settlers were forced to give up the idea of Kenya becoming a white man’s country.
  • It quickened Kenya’s progress towards the attainment of independence.
  • The British government came to good terms immediately with the Africans and the white settlers.
  • It led to the migration of many white settlers into South Africa.
  • Kenyatta and other Mau-Mau leaders were released to participate in government.
  • African interest gained supremacy over Asians and white settlers’ interests.
  • Political parties that were banned at first were allowed to operate again.
  • It strengthened the growth of nationalism in Kenya were allowed to sit on legislative council and by 1956, African were represented by five (5) members. The number increased to 14 in 1958.

Qn :     What were the effects of the Mu-Mau rebellion on the peoples of Kenya?