Indians In Kenya

The Kenya African National Union leader, Mr. Tom Mboya , addressing the Press Guild of India in Bombay on Thursday, made some barbed remarks on the role of the Asian and Indian settlers in particular in Kenya. “One would expect” he said, “the Indians in Africa, hailing from the land of Gandhi as they do, to know better.” Clearly, the implication of his remark is that the Indians in Africa are obstructing that Colony’s march towards freedom. This view may be slightly exaggerated but it certainly brings into bold relief the oft-repeated fact that the Indian settlers in Africa are a long, long way from identifying themselves with the countries in which they have a stake and which have given them a home. The insularity and exclusiveness arising out of a mistaken sense of superiority could not be any the less obnoxious to Africans than the attitude of the overseas Chinese is to the majority of Asians. The only difference is that while the Chinese overseas stick jealously to their dual citizenship the Indian settlers in Africa seem merely to wish that they had something approximating to the privilege enjoyed by the Chinese settlers outside China.  The bitterness between the Kenya Africans and the Indian settlers came violently to the surface during the clashes between Asians and Africans in December 1959. It must, however, be recognised that the Indians have, by dint of hard work, established themselves in a superior economic position that must make them the envy of Africans. But it is equally true that the Indian settlers (traders for the most part) have not been above exploiting the Africans who are vastly illiterate, hence backward. Things appear to have changed for the better in the recent past and there is a section of Indians (and other Asians as well) which is willing to go all the way with the African nationalist movement in Kenya. But unfortunately this section still has some mental reservations about the future when an African majority government will inevitably take over. In fact, it is no secret that some of the Indians, for all their sympathy for aspirations of African nationalists, still think in terms of obtaining from the British Colonial Office certain “entrenched clauses” in the future Constitution of Kenya that will leave them somewhat “more equal” than the Africans. This is most unfair. Happily enough, the Government of India has made its position very clear in this regard. It is rightly of the opinion that the Indian settlers cannot in all the conscience ask for any “guarantees” and “special privileges” as pre-conditions to Kenya’s independence. While the Indian settlers in Kenya Colony, and elsewhere in Africa, would do well to change their “attitude and mentality of foreigners,” it is to be hoped that Mr. Tom Mboya and his African colleagues would speak in more subdues accents about the possibilities of an “explosion” of inter-racial hate which he hinted might follow the independence of East Africa. It would do the KANU no harm to take a leaf out of Mr. Julius Nyerere’s book and convince itself of the advantages of consciously evolving a multi-racial society

as has been done in Tanganyika.

9 January, 1961.

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