Should Afrikaans have been Taught in Plateau Schools?

Should Afrikaans have been Taught in Plateau Schools? A large number of Afrikaners on the Uasin Gishu plateau in 1910 approached the Governor to establish a school for their children.  The government did establish two small schools in early 1910 but insisted on the exclusive use within them of the English language, which so dismayed the Afrikaners that the schools were not a success.  The matter was resolved in 1912 when it was agreed that Afrikaans could be used in the schools to Standard Two but after that English was compulsory.  Yet the fight was not over and for the next 25 years Loubser, a prominent Afrikaner pastor, agitated for the exclusive use of Afrikaans in schools.  He said, “We must not go along with foreign customs, we must not set the price of honour as sacred language rights, we must not forget the name and the veracity and the great history of our nation.  Twenty years from now when most of our fathers and mothers will be dead, what will become of our children?  It is not enough to leave the land and capital to them.” Loubser opened his own Afrikaans-medium school at Broederstroom in August of 1911 and a second school at Sergoit.  He employed two teachers from South Africa, Pienaar and de Villiers.  The government refused to give these establishments financial support; Governor Belfield said: “I made it clear to them that as members of a community settled upon British territory they are not entitled to make differentiation between themselves and others residing under the same rule and that no assistance would be given unless it...

Ivory Smuggling in Mombasa

Ivory Smuggling When I was a child I would climb down the Ras Serani cliffs at Mombasa at low tide to swim and forage on the revealed coral reef.  There you could find chunks of ivory obviously thrown overboard from dhows when apprehended by customs boats. The Arab merchants of Mombasa had been running caravans inland for ivory and slaves for hundreds of years, but the slave trade had been successfully put an end to, so all that was left was for the caravans to stock up on ivory and bring it to the coast for export. This was highly illegal when the British took over governance of the area, and the police at Mombasa struggled to put an end to the trade. James Robert Watcham took over command of Mombasa’s police in 1902.  He had excellent Arabic and Hindustani, having been brought up and schooled in Bangalore and elsewhere. What he would do was dress up as an Arab and frequent Mombasa’s Arab coffee houses to see if he could hear rumours of ivory caravans coming to the coast. He got wind of one’s imminent arrival and posted police at the two creeks leading inland from Mombasa island, where the dhows would go at night to load the ivory. He heard rumours that one batch of ivory was buried near Makupa bridge (the causeway was not built till later) and followed the two Arabs he had overheard to a house in Mombasa old town where he gleaned further details of the plan. Apparently the dhow was to go to Juma’s house at the mangrove swamp near Makupa bridge...

Who Started Kenya’s Gold Rush in Kakamega in the 1930s?

Who began the Kakamega Gold Rush in the 1930s? A tall, bony American set forth from Eldoret with his wife in an ancient Ford in 1930, with two other Europeans and five Africans, on a prospecting expedition to northern Tanganyika, after the price of maize had fallen and their farms faced ruin. They found nothing, but on the way back they stopped at Kakamega near the Yala river. They thought they might as well pan the river, and to their surprise,they found gold flecks. Quickly borrowing some money, they bought provisions and petrol and started to stake out claims. Thus began the Kakamega gold rush. Who was this American? We find him, Louis Andrew Johnson, in the 1910 US Census living with his parents and working as a labourer on a fruit farm. Born in Iowa on 23 July 1877, he was now over six feet tall with a shambling walk and ill-fitting dentures that gave him a clamped-jaw appearance and a jutting chin. He had been a storekeeper in the Klondyke in Alaska where he learned to use prospecting pans and earned money by carrying buckets of water to the local brothels (apparently he had to leave hurriedly after a gambling episode).  The fruit farm was not to his liking, so he set out for Kenya and settled on the top of the bluff at Turbo. In those years he would play his violin in Eldoret and he and his wife were excellent hosts before the railway came, though in later years he turned dour. One acquaintance said he only ever heard him utter two words in the...

More about Frank Hall

More about Frank Hall Last month I talked about Frank Hall, for whom Fort Hall was named. He arrived at Fort Smith, about eight miles from present-day Nairobi, in 1893, and one of his jobs was to supply the caravans of people who marched from the coast to Uganda. These were a regular occurrence and could be composed of large numbers. In January 1895 there were caravans of 1050 men camped at Fort Smith, among them eight Europeans. It was a constant strain to secure supplies. Much was purchased from local people – the Kikuyu were keen to barter their crops, but Hall also planted gardens of European produce; in 1894 he had tomatoes, lettuces, French beans, peas, marrows and onions. Things should have become easier once the British Government took over the East African enterprise from the Imperial British East Africa Company in 1895. Surveyors began to arrive to plot the route of the proposed Mombasa-Lake Victoria railway. Frank Hall reported in August 1896: “Kikuyu is very different now…There are some Europeans about 100 yards from the Fort, building stores for two Mombasa firms, and one man planting coffee about 3 miles from here.’ But his optimism did not last long. The following month he reported that things were infinitely worse than they were under Company rule, because transport arrangements had completely broken down. He had to send a caravan of 100 men the 300 miles to Mombasa for supplies. His colleague Ainsworth was starving at Machakos, so had to draw his food from Fort Smith. The trouble was that every available man was being used on railway...

Why was Fort Hall given that Name?

Why was Fort Hall given that Name? Many of you will remember Murang’a as Fort Hall, and you may have wondered at the name. When the railway reached the end of the Kapiti plains in 1899, it was half way to its final destination – Lake Victoria. The directors decided to build a depot on the boggy flat ground they began to call Nairobi before tackling the uphill gradient to the lip of the Rift Valley and the precipitate descent down its wall. This meant that Fort Smith, a few miles uphill from Nairobi, and for many years the government station on the route to Uganda, was no longer needed as a staging post. It was decided to abandon it and establish a centre in Nairobi instead. John Ainsworth, the government representative in Machakos, managed to bag the coveted administrative post in Nairobi and this meant that Frank Hall, who had been at Fort Smith since 1892, was relegated to Machakos, much to his disgust. He felt (and he was probably right) that he understood the Kikuyu better than any other white man. He was certainly fluent in their language and in Swahili. Finally Hall managed to get back into the Kikuyu area when the government decided to establish a post at Mbirri and asked Hall to build it. Frank Hall Who was Frank Hall? Educated at Sherborne and Tonbridge, he abandoned his job in the Bank of England and went to teach in South African schools. Leaving teaching, he tried storekeeping and farming in South Africa, but he finally found his feet when he joined the Imperial British...