The Rise of Nationalism in East Africa

Nationalism is the desire by a given group of people to achieve political, economical and social independence.

In East Africa, the rise of nationalism was characterized by mass political awareness and formation of political movements.

Factors that Contributed to the Rise of Nationalism in East Africa

Britain lost prestige in Kenya following the double defeat both in Europe and the Far East in the Second World War. The ex- soldiers who had fought along side them had began to doubt their superiority. The war thus destroyed the myth that the whites were superior

The war also exposed the ex-soldiers to concepts like liberty, equality and independence, enabled people of diverse backgrounds to mix. This enabled Africans to expand their horizons and widen their thinking.

The high levels of unemployment and poverty after the war made Africans form mass political movements like the Mau - Mau to demand for better labour conditions. It is because of this that ex servicemen like Isaac Gathanju, Dedan Kimathi, Kaggai Mwangaru, Waruhiu Itote (Gen. China) joined the Mau - Mall.

The influence of the Christian missionaries who always stressed equality of all men before the law and God. This encouraged Africans to rise up and fight for their rights. The education they provided to the Africans created the elite that led nationalist movements.

The emergency of an educated class of Africans. These were mostly graduates of mission schools. Such people in most cases provided leadership to nationalist movements. For example, Julius Nyerere and

Jomo Kenyatta.

The granting of independence to India and Pakistan in 1947 aroused nationalistic feelings among the people of East Africa who felt that they should also be independent since the conditions in India were not different from those in East Africa. Note that it had also been a colony of Britain.

The return of Africans who had been studying abroad also helped influence the political direction of their respective countries towards independence. In East Africa, these included Kenyatta and Nyerere. They had widened their thinking during their stay in Europe.

The development of national languages. The adoption of Swahili by Tanganyika and English by Kenya and Uganda created unity among Africans. This solved the language barrier problem that had ,made it difficult for people of diverse origins to unite.

The spread of socialism and communism. Prominent communist countries like CSSR and China were anti - colonialism. They therefore influenced Africa towards socialism and gave military support to countries like Tanganyika that were willing to adopt it.

There was also anti - colonial pressure from USA and Russia, towards France, Portugal and Britain to decolonize. Their influence was eased by the fact that these were key members in the United Nations Organization.

The growth of Pan Africanism gave massive support to African national movements. This brought the notion of "Africa for Africans".

The 5th Fan African Congress (the Manchester Conference) in London (1945) called on African rulers to press for independence immediately. The conference was dominated by African major nationalists who wanted freedom and threatened the use of force if that is what it would take to get independence.

The publications of Roosevelt and Church Hill (the Atlantic Charter of 1941). The charter provided that people world over have the right to choose their forms of government under which to live. This declaration accelerated the temper of nationalism in Kenya

Colonialism with all its associated evils like loss of land, forced labour, forced cash crop growing, over

taxation etc, forced Africans to rise up against European rule.

The formation of cooperative movements. In Uganda for example, they became platforms for those who wanted to air out their grievances against the colonial government. They always paid more attention to political issues than cooperative problems.

The rise of trade unions due to the rise in the cost of living after the war also helped to accelerate the pace of nationalism in East Africa. These trade unions also supported and financed nationalistic. movements

The independence of Ghana in 1957 influenced decolonization in Africa. Ghana under Nkrumah became the first African country to achieve self - rule. This gave morale to other countries to fight for the same.

The migration of people from villages to towns also exposed them to new ideas. They were able to detach themselves from the cultural ties and able to join people from other regions. Hence formation mass political movements.

Support from the Africans in the diaspora. These were blacks living abroad (USA, Caribbean Islands, England). These gave support to fellow Africans at home to rise against European rule.

There was also the influence of the Egyptian revolution of July 1952. This revolution was spearheaded by Nasser and ended monarchical rule in Egypt Nasser influenced nationalists like Musaazi and gave military support to nationalistic movements like the Mau-Mau.

The grabbing of African land also led to formation of nationalistic movements. The Mau - Mau, movement was formed by mainly the Kikuyu who had lost-a lot of their land to the White settlers. The Bataka movement in Uganda was also protesting the loss of land.

The domination of trade by the Asians (Indians) also offended Africans forcing them to fight for their share in trade. Demonstrations and boycotts directed at Indian businessmen were common in Uganda. Kenyans also felt cheated by not being allowed to trade.

Urbanization also broke tribal ties as many people were able to meet people of diverse norms. Discussions therefore shifted from local and tribal issues to issues of national importance and this was eased by the fact that people in town had a lot of free time.

The existence of segregation against Africans especially in Kenya aroused nationalistic feelings. Africans were not supposed to move without the "Kipande" (Identity cards) and were not to stay in certain areas like Nairobi. Kenya was their country and they therefore could not accept this.

After World War II the economic importance of Africa to the world market increased especially since Europe depended on her. Africans would have therefore gained a lot had not been the lack of independence. This kind of feeling also boosted nationalistic feelings

The formation of the United Nations and was also a factor in the rise of nationalism in East Africa. The organization had an anti - imperial policy and encouraged the Africans to rise against European rule.