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HistoryCreative

Mau Mau: What Britain Hid from Us

The following poem is inspired by the Mau Mau rebellion, a historical uprising of the Kikuyu people in Kenya against British colonists, long thought to have been semi-peacefully “dealt with” by the British military. This was until a series of documents were released from a Foreign Office archive pointing to a long list of inexcusable war crimes conducted by the British colony in relation to the Mau Mau.

Growing up, I always learned to be proud of my British heritage. England always brought about images of castles, chivalry, and places where the books I read were set in. But when I learned about the Mau Mau, and learned of other atrocities that the British were responsible for, my view of my country was tainted. British Colonialism was inexcusable and the Mau Mau case made this every so clear for me.

In total, the number of Kenyans killed by the British during the Mau Mau uprising is thought to be around 25,000, along many other thousands of Kenyans tortured, raped, or incarcerated. 

In contrast, the number of white Europeans that were killed in the conflict was just 32

Since the news came out, Britain paid a large sum to Kenya for their war crimes, but it cannot erase the fact that it happened. And as a person who has indirectly benefitted from British colonialism, I feel that it is important for me to recognize these events. I hope that this poem reflects some of these thoughts.

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Mau Mau

A ghost revolution 

Living the minds of those who saw

Those who broke the law

Laws created by some evil from another land

England

Who gathered the evidence of their war crimes

Of the times they went too far

Of the times they wished to forget

And hid them in a fortress

Row upon row 

Locked away 

From the eyes of the World.

Mau Mau: What Britain Hid from Us

My mind

In an emotional divide

Nostalgia flooded with guilt

As I begin to see the blood 

Concealed behind the fragile image of Great Britain.

My childhood

Reading books of kings and queens

Getting lost in dreams with themes of heroism

Without realizing 

That in other lands there were plans of war

That tore through nations

Cutting through their culture 

Dividing friends and family

Leaving no stone unturned.

It’s time I learned 

the truth.

Mau Mau: What Britain Hid from Us

Image Source: The Independent

I bear upon me a weight

A weight that makes me lighter

For that is privilege.

But still

I must look forward

For guilt is but the first step.

Author

Mau Mau: What Britain Hid from Us
Ross is a graduate student at Ryerson University studying urban planning.