KIEREINI: United Kenya Club’s role in the fight for our
9 months ago, 12 Jan 10:15
By the 1930s, several monoracial members social clubs had been established in Kenya for Europeans and Asians in a society that was segregated with the Europeans at the apex, Asians somewhere in the middle and Africans a long way down at the bottom rank. Even within the same-race clubs there was segregation. For example, Nairobi Club was associated with senior British soldiers and civil servants while Muthaiga Club was the preserve of aristocrat settlers, Goan Gymkhana Club was reserved for professionals like doctors, lawyers and civil servants while the Goan Institute was for tradesmen, and membership of Mombasa Club was restricted to European businessmen. It was not until the end of World War 11 that Africans formed their own social club known as Pumwani Social Club. Ability to speak English was the main consideration and one did not have to go through the rigorous process of vetting as in the established members’ clubs. The club was founded by African civil servants and employees of the Nairobi Municipal Council and welcomed members of all races. Tom Kay, the secretary of the Young Men’s Christian Association(YMCA) and Richard Frost, a representative of the British Council in Kenya, were Europeans who frequented the club. Various economic and social issues affecting the lives of Kenyans were discussed informally at Pumwani Social Club. Some of the resolutions passed in these meetings found their way to the Legislative Council (LEGCO) as some members of the club were also members of LEGCO. After World War 11, the colonial government became increasingly aware of the rise in African nationalism not only through the activities of the existing Kenya African Union (KAU) but also through other emerging ethnic nationalist movements in the country. A new crop of Africans who had studied in universities overseas such as Eliud Mathu, Mbiyu Koinange, James Gichuru and Jomo Kenyatta had recently returned and had joined KAU. Returning African soldiers who had participated in the war and were exposed to the outside world presented a formidable challenge to the established order and the notion of European supremacy. Hotels, clubs, buses, railway coaches, schools, hospitals, churches and employment were all segregated. Sir Philip Mitchell, Governor of Kenya from 1944 to 1952, proposed the need to introduce multiracialism in Kenya in order to counter the wave of nationalism. In 1946, Mitchell in collaboration with a few civil servants attempted, unsuccessfully, to launch a multiracial Institute of African Race Relations. Mitchell was well known for his unflattering view of the African and his concept of a multiracial society was one where several races lived together under the common leadership of one race, in this case the European race. Tom Askwith, a career civil servant who had come to Kenya in 1936, was gravely aware of the fomenting tensions amongst the Africans and Asians caused by the racial segregation policy. Mr Askwith, with a group of other men of goodwill decided that something needed to be done to bring people of the three races together socially and make ...
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