Thursday, 7 April 2011

British colonial rule: from Kenya to Cyprus

I read an interesting article today on the BBC webiste regarding the 1950s Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, currently in the news over here because some Kenyans are suing the UK government for compensation claiming they were tortured as the colonial authorities sought to put down the uprising.

The Mau Mau rebellion, of course, took place at about the same time as Cypriots were engaged in their own uprising against British colonial rule in favour of self-determination, which in the Cyprus case meant union with Greece; and it struck me that, although the scale and nature of British repression was much greater in Kenya than it was in Cyprus, the logic and tactics of the colonial authorities were similar.

Apart from the widespread use of hanging and torture in both the Kenyan and Cypriot cases, also notable was the willingness of the British to deploy collaborators from the local population to execute repressive colonial policy. In Kenya, the British created the African Home Guard, a militia that was armed, directed and rewarded by the colonial government; while, in Cyprus, the British recruited Turkish Cypriots to do their dirty work. Regarding Cyprus, the figures speak for themselves: of 1,770 Auxiliary Police and Special Constables recruited during the EOKA period, 1,700 were Turkish Cypriots and only 70 were Greek Cypriots. All 542 recruits in the Mobile Reserve were from the Turkish community; while the regular police consisted of 462 from the UK, 932 Greek Cypriots and 891 from the Turkish minority.


Hermes said...

Typical British tactics i.e. get the minority to do the dirty work and sometimes even get them to rule. The current mess in Bahrain is a direct result of British-style colonial administration.

By the way, I just finished reading Crete by Antony Beevor on a 20 hour plane trip. A decent work; however, it does not concentrate sufficiently on the Cretan resistance, which is loads more interesting than the piles of books published each year on D-Day, Battle of Britain etc. One thing that struck me was the unity displayed by the Cretans as the Germans left compared to mainland Greeks. Although there were skirmishes between EOK (Cretan nationalist Venizelists) and ELAS, the strength of EOK and various bands never allowed ELAS to gain the power it had on the mainland. Perhaps the presence of a liberal Nationalist group (the Venizelists) moderated the excesses of the Right and Left. This is from Antony Beevor:

"Cretan politics were too trenchant. The Communists had never been able to manipulate the question of the monarchy and the Metaxas regime on an island avowedly republican as Crete. Accusations of collaboration against Cretan conservatives and the centre right fell flat because so few were tainted. Deprived of this handhold on the tail of their rivals, the Communists could not twist issues as they had on the mainland".

Much the same happened on other Greek islands.

Hermes said...

By the way ater reading Crete, I am now looking for the movie Ill met by Moonlight starring Dirk Bogarde with music by Theodorakis. Does anyone know where I can watch for free?

Greeks should be reading and watching books and films on these resistance campaigns against the Germans. They should also be reading and watching books and films on the Greek campaigns against the British in Cyprus. Maybe we cannot take up arms right now but maintaining psychological, intellectual, ideological and cultural resistence is absoloutely critical.

John Akritas said...

I've got Ill Met By Moonlight, H. I'll upload it. I spoil it a little for you by saying I've always been a little disappointed by it, partly because it's not that great a film and partly because it portrays the Cretans as rather childlike and primitive, not as disciplined and ethical as the English, though perhaps I'm being too touchy. It's also disappointing inasmuch as the makers of the film are Powell and Pressburger, who made a number of films in the 40s and 50s which are quite brilliant, Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, A Matter of Life and Death, A Canterbury Tale and so on.