Gli scritti di Eileen Fletcher sulla repressione britannica in Kenya

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Compulsory labour

The New Villages. Some villages have been put up as part of a resettlement scheme for released detainees who have no land. In some an experiment in rice growing is being carried out. This scheme is said to be having some success, but even so there is some doubt expressed as to whether the Africans will wish to remain in it after the Emergency.

The villages I visited were those set up by the Government for security purposes, either to prevent the people feeding the Mau Mau or to punish those who were thought to be doing so. They were put up very quickly and occupied before really ready; the people being moved into them compulsorily. One Red Cross worker told me of a village of 800 people with no sanitary accommodation whatever.

A Community Development Officer supervised 36 new villages with no latrines. In their own little hamlets they can go out into surrounding bush country, but herded together in small villages the health risk is acute. She complained to the British District Officer who replied, “They can make a hole when they need to with their pangas (chopping knife which every villager carries as an essential tool) and cover it up”. They were too primitive to bother to do this and anyhow the children don’t carry pangas!

In some villages many children were said to have bums from fires used for cooking as all women had been taken off for compulsory labour by the District Officer and no one was left to look after the children. One Welfare Officer told me that in some of her villages children were left alone without food from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. as the whole village was on compulsory labour (This has now partly been overcome through the Red Cross setting up Soup Kitchens).

One Red Cross worker took me to a village into which the people had been put for punishment for feeding Mau Mau. Here they could not do it and indeed had very little for themselves.

When she first visited the village she asked to see the children and two hundred had to be carried out of their huts as they were too weak to walk; 40 of them could not even sit up. Thirty per month died for nearly a year as whooping cough and other illnesses swept through the village and they were too weak to resist.

She showed me several of these children whom she thought had TB as a result of this malnutrition and who were too far gone for treatment.

In one village the men were given a money allowance for their wives as they were not allowed to grow maize which might serve as a hiding place for Mau Mau. The allowance had recently been cut down as it was thought they were feeding Mau Mau. The Welfare Officer said it was not now sufficient to feed themselves. She had already told the Divisional Officer they could not live on what they were getting and he replied, “It will do them good”.

In one village the officer in charge admitted having kept money himself that had been forcibly collected from Mau Mau funds. His excuse was that he would use it to buy milk for the villagers!

Children starve

One Welfare Officer told me that in her village the women were so short of food they went to a nearby town and worked for a farmer from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. each day, including Saturdays and Sundays, and this European farmer paid them 7s, per month! She reported him to the Labour Office who promised “to give him a rocket”.

One Red Cross worker reported to the East African Standard on August 12, 1955 that children were wandering into Nairobi looking for food because of the lack of it in their villages. Throughout her area 48.000 hot drinks of powdered milk were issued each month. She said many children existed solely on this as they had no other food. There were poor rains, a very small harvest and no one was allowed to go into Nairobi to work.

On November 17, 1955, the East African Standard reported that since August, 45 children had died from malnutrition in one village.

In Legislative Council the Minister for Health and Local Government was questioned about this. “He denied allegations of widespread starvation and said one of the main factors was the ignorance of the mothers who did not realise the value of proteins”.

Dr. Gregory, of the Save the Children Fund, in Nairobi, told me he had battled for two years with the Kenya Government to get them to ask for powdered milk as they said there was no necessity for it!

A Church Missionary Society worker travelling through the Native Reserve by train said she was impressed by the fact that at the small stations children crowded to the train windows pleading not for cents as formerly but for bread. There had been no rain and the Shambas (on which they grow their food) were exhausted.

Girl gaoled for playing

We often hear the word “Curfew” now familiar in BBC news from Kenya, Malaya and Cyprus, but do we realise what it means. One Community Development Officer told me of one of her villages where the people had been passing food over to the Mau Mau. A 24 hour a day curfew was imposed for a fortnight and they were not allowed out even to the latrines (Remember there are no arrangements at all in the huts and not even any utensils which could be used). Small parties under armed guard were allowed out once a day to fetch water. Seventy people in this one village died of typhus during this time, she said.

The Headmistress of an African Girls’ School had a letter from the woman Screening Officer at Kamiti (the settler’s wife already referred to under Prisons) saying that a girl from her school had been arrested and sent to prison for being in Nairobi without a pass. She said, “it is not doing her any good being in prison with Mau Mau women”, and urged the Headmistress to get the family to pay the fine of £ 20. The father had been out of work for years so payment was impossible.

On enquiring what the girl’s offence was the Head mistress was told she had gone into Nairobi without a pass to ask her Aunt to lend her money to pay her school fees for the coming term!

Another woman official told me of a girl of 13, arrested for playing in the street after curfew and taken to this Mau Mau prison. Although the father had paid £4 10s. fine this was not enough and she was still in prison.

A Prison Officer told me that a woman was sent to his prison for being in Nairobi without a pass. She had only gone in to take a sick child to hospital. He refused to admit her sending her back to Court with a note saying she had money and could pay a fine. She was fined £ 10.

The Red Cross, sent out from England, is doing a grand job of welfare in the new villages and has a very friendly approach.

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