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Loyalists, Mau Mau, and Elections in Kenya: The First Triumph of the System, 1957-1958

From: Africa Today
Volume 53, Number 2, Winter 2006
pp. 27-50 | 10.1353/at.2006.0069


In 1957 and 1958, elections were held across Kenya for seats within the colony's Legislative Council. In Central Province, these elections took place in the aftermath of the Mau Mau rebellion. Following the insurgents' military defeat, the colonial government turned to ensuring the political victory of its African allies and the disenfranchisement of Mau Mau sympathizers. It achieved its aim by restricting the vote to elites and those who could prove their loyalty to the regime. The process of registration and the restriction of the franchise contributed in part to the transformation of temporary and ambiguous wartime allegiances into fixed, postconflict political identities. By controlling the institutional transformations demanded by decolonization, elites successfully reproduced the state as they negotiated the transfer of power without radical socioeconomic reform.