Review of the book: Brown Man, Black Country.

Author: J.M. Nazareth

Pages: 540 Publisher: Tidings Publications, India

If you want a good example of a book which has made no impact because of poor editing, then you should look up J.M. Nazareth’s Brown Man Black Country. The title starts the series of inept editorial mistakes. Surely the title Brown Man, Black Country is hardly creative at all. Were there no women among the brown men? And which country is black? I am not being flippant, but underlining the fact that the editors of this otherwise very informative book didn’t try at all.

The book is one of the few that detail Asian contribu­tion to Kenya’s freedom struggle. The author Jon Maximian Nazareth (better known as J.M. Nazareth) was born in Kenya—in fact Nairobi—in 1908. After studying law in India, Nazareth returned to Kenya in 1934 where he became a Puisine Judge.

A man imbued with great political ambition, Nazareth became the president of the East African Indian Na­tional Congress in 1950. He also headed the Law So­ciety of Kenya in 1954, was elected member of the Legislative Council (better known as Legco) for West­ern Electoral Area in 1956 and became the president of the Gandhi Memorial Academy at the University of Nairobi. ….. :

In these capacities, Mr. Nazareth was able to witness or even take part in some of major political issues that today we are still struggling to resolve. And he gives

Jomo Kenyatta (left) and Tom Mboya; They refused to honor an agreement to nominate JM Nazareth an MP in exchange for Indian support against White colonialists lots of information with excerpts of the Hanzard, his own letters and even newspaper cuttings as proof for the audacity of his narrative.

He interacted very closely with the political stalwarts of the independence era such as Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Tom Mboya and Julius Cikonyo Kiano with whom he was, as he says, on first-name terms.

Indian Congress and African Aspirations

At independence in 1963, his Indian Congress had identified itself with the aspiration of the Africans. In one resolution, the Congress said, “That a drive be launched immediately to encourage large scale enrolment into the ranks of Kanu and active support of Kanu and active participation in its work by the Indian com­munity so as to make Kanu a strong and f u 11 y repre­sentative organization.” Indians were also to help fund Kanu.

When Tom Mboya learned of this he wrote a letter to Nazareth to express his gratitude which started with, “Dear J.M” and ended with “Yours sincerely, Tom.”

And Nazareth wrote back to Tom Mboya with a letter that started with. “Dear Tom.” and went ahead to re­quest for Kanu receipt books to “hasten the recruitment of Indians.”

Then things started to happen. While waiting for the letter, prominent members of the Congress were de­ported, starting a campaign to reverse the deportation and scattering Indian support tor the Kenyatta Govern­ment.

White Highlands and Indian Land Question

Mr. Nazareth. starts chronicling the Indian role in Kenya politics almost from the start. As early as 1902. Whites in Kenya had formed what they called the Colonialists As­sociation “to save the Highlands for White settlement.” The Highlands, latter known as White Highlands, accord­ing to the Whites lay between Kiu (beyond Machakos Town on the way to Mombasa) and Fort Ternan in Kericho. Land in these areas was reserved for Whites only. Indians were barred from owning any land in any part of the country. “The Land Board in 1907 resolved against allowing Indians to take any government land.”

These two decisions—to reserve the White Highlands tor Whites and exclude Indians from land ownerships started the land campaigns that we are still involved in. The Indi­ans stood with the Africans against the Whites. This land problems is now baptized “land clashes/’ and involves lo­cal communities facing off each other with some taking the role of the Whites and others the role of the Africans.

 

What Churchill Said of 1906 Kenya

The famous British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill visited Kenya as the British Undersecretary of State in I906 and reported that. “Every Whiteman in Nairobi is a politician, and most of them are leading parties.” That’s exactly the situation as it is today. Some people say that we have more than 100 registered and unregistered parties – some are “pocket parties” which although they have been reg­istered have only the man or woman who registered them as the members. That’s the best part of it- that you keep your party in the pocket to scare politicians and negotiate Government jobs. The worst is when these parties be­come tribal like happened in the last General elections. This problem too, we bequeathed from the White colonialists.

Tom Moby ‘Lies’ Dim Indian Support

In addition to these, Mr Nazareth has personal stories which may explain the Asian attitudes towards indigenous Kenyans. For example, he tells the story of how he was persuaded to stay away from active politics so that he could be nominated as an MP or to any other equivalent position by the then powerful cabinet minister. Tom Mboya. However when the time came for the nomination, nothing was forthcoming.

He was naturally deeply hurt and begun considering leaving Kenya tor good. “Such hopes as I had of finding African leaders prepared to work towards such ends (of including Indians in the government) and whom I could assist perished in the second half of 1975, in particular the government reaction to the report of the parliamen­tary select committee on the murder of J.M. Kariuki and the detention of Deputy Speaker J.M. Seroney and a member of parliament Martin Shikuku, events consid­ered by some quarters to be in connection with proceed­ing in parliament.” Finally, he resolved to stay. “And so, born in Kenya, 1 hope to continue to live in Kenya and to die in Kenya.”

Eventually, of course, Nazareth, left Kenya for India.