Kenyan Institutions and Actors

  • Poppy Cullen
Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)


This chapter explores what British diplomats thought of the Kenyan politicians with whom they worked. British policy-makers encouraged communications with certain individuals in a continual search for people who would be ‘friendly’ to perceived British interests, trying to cultivate and influence them. Views of and relationships with individuals mattered because Kenyan politics was very much driven by personalities, as individuals pursued their own interests in a system of neo-patrimonialism. This involved a small group being brought into decisions and an active distrust of formal institutions rather than a wider participatory style of governing. British relationships with Kenya were both shaped by and helped to shape this emerging neo-patrimonialism. British officials encouraged and strengthened this personalisation, relying on individual contacts in their pursuit of British interests—in ways which also served the interests of Kenya’s emerging elite. British assumptions about ‘natural’ African characteristics shaped their ideas, sometimes including an assumed superiority. This chapter shows the importance of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president, who was central to British ideas about Kenya. It discusses Bruce McKenzie and Charles Njonjo, two interlocutors whose cultural accessibility shaped British views of them, and who had the most extensive contact with British officials. It then explores British opinions about Oginga Odinga, Tom Mboya, Mwai Kibaki, Daniel arap Moi and Njoroge Mungai, including the categorisations which shaped, and skewed, British views of them.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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