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Since they first set foot in Africa, the Western European powers have found one thing or the other to hate the indigenous people. Apart from xenophobic hatred of Sub-Saharan Africans; they Europeans found the people’s way of governance and culture intriguing and abhorring.

Opposition to this saw many of Africa’s pre-colonial rulers exiled, while the unfortunate ones lost their lives in those dark days of colonial invasion. Having done with this generation of Africans then, the white man went on land-grab and territorial annexation spree; setting up rules and regulations for the Africans whose ancestral homes had be forcefully taken from.

The discovery of mineral resources scattered everywhere in the continent, which made certain European merchants exceedingly wealthy, assisted in their divide and rule syndrome, where by Africans were pitched one against the other.

Those that benefited from the white man became their spies, mobbing those who were against the invaders. The dethronement of King Kosoko and installation of King Akintoye (Lagos), King Nana of Iteshekiri and Oba Onvonramwen of Benin were all cases in point.

The 20th century saw a new form of tactics by the Europeans and a new wave of dissent by the Africans.

While the British and Portuguese were absolutely intolerant of opposing voices in their areas of hegemony, the French was however mild in this respect.

It was this brutal handling of the Africans that led to the most popular uprising against the British and Portugal in East, and Southern Africa.

The Africans in these aforementioned areas plus Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau (Portuguese territories) who had been pushed to the wall, took up arms to assert their rights, as doors to round table talk was permanently sealed.

In response to these modified waves of opposition, the Europeans declared total war and unjustified court martial of African leaders suspected to be the mastermind of these uprising.

The most notorious of these were the 1952 Mau-Mau (Kenyan Land and Freed Army) uprising and the Kaperguria Trial of Jomo Kenyatta and co in 1952-1953, and the African National Congress (ANC’s) Umkhoto we Sizwe in South Africa and the notorious Rivonia Trials of Nelson Mandela and others in 1964.

In these two episodes, while the defendants were never allowed a fair hearing; the trial Judges, later confessed in their author-biographies to have received some various forms of gratification from the colonial governors to convict the accused persons, just as false witnesses of African descent testified against their own brother.

In this edition, we recall the horror of the two notorious trials, and how they had contributed to shaping the future of Africa as a whole; in their total submission to the biblical notion that “he who shall endure to the end the same shall be saved”

The Kapenguria Trial, 1952

After the European invasion, large amount of Kenya’s best land were alienated for exclusive white use. Black Africans were allowed to remain as tenant farmers (squatters) on land they had previously owned right from their ancestors, their terms of service steadily worsened.

At Oleuguruoune in 1944; 11,000 squatters were expelled, the beginning of the last act of a land dispute that had raged since 1920s.

The first oath of the freedom fighters, erroneously referred by the whites as Man-Mau, were probably administered there and then.

Jomo Kenyatta returned home from the United Kingdom in 1946. By 1947, oath taking had spread all over Kikuyuland, the mainly affected community and into Nairobi. Mitchell, the previous colonial governor had proscribed the new organization, now called Mau-Mau in 1950.

On October 9, 1952, Senior Chief Waruhui was shot and killed in a broad-day light, allegedly by Mau-Mau gunmen.

Evelyn Baring, the new governor-general had been on a tour of the central province. It was cut short. At the funeral, he and Kenyatta locked eyes over the casket, days afterwards, Baring signed the warrants for the arrest of these six Kenyans:

  1. Bildad Kaggia
  2. Kung’u Karumba
  3. Jomo Kenyatta
  4. Fred Kubai
  5. Paul Ngei

6.Achieng Oneko

On the night of 20/21 October, a mass arrest was carried out of Mau-Mau and Kenya African Union (KAU) leaders. Baring had signed the Emergency orders on the evening of 20th, and it was publicly declared on the 21st. Troops were flown in from Lancashire on 20th, patrolling African areas of segregated Nairobi.

THE TRIALS

Anthony Somerhough, the DPP, opened proceedings on 3rd December 1952. The charges against the defendants were that they had jointly managed a proscribed society and that the outlawed society, the Mau-Mau, had conspired to murder all white residents of Kenya.

The defence was led by Denis Nowell Pritt, assisted by a multiracial team: H.O. Davies (a Nigeria); Chairman Lall (an Indian and friend of Nehru); Fitz De Souza, Achhroo Ram Kapila (all Kenyans) and Jaswant Singh.

In line with the segregationist legislation then, in force, they were prohibited from staying in the same hotel.

Baring, (the governor) offered Ransley Thacker, the trial Judge, an unusually large pensions, and that from the Emergency Fund rather than a more conventional source; the two also maintained secret contact throughout the trials.

Witnesses were subpoenaed, as Baring admitted in a letter to Oliver Littleton, saying that “every possible effort has been made to offer them rewards”. Rawson Macharia, the key witness at the trial, was later to testify that he had been offered a university course in public administration at Exeter University College, Protection for his family, and a government job on his return from Britain. Other witnesses were offered land at the coast.

The crucial piece of evidence (false) was Macharia’s. He testified that in March 1950, he had taken one of the Mau-Mau oaths at Kenyatta’s hands. He further claimed that the oath had required him to strip naked and drink human blood.

Mancharia’s submissions were the only evidence of a direct link between Kenyatta and Mau-Mau produced before the count.

However, Mau-Mau was proscribed in August 1950, so, even had the claims be true, it was unclear that they would have proved Kenyatta’s membership, let alone management of an outlawed organization.

Afterwards

The defendants were all convicted and sentenced to long terms and permanent restrictions. All defendants got 7-years imprisonment each.

The remainder of the nationalist movement in which Tom Mboya and Oginga Odinga featured prominently-kept up the pressure for Uhuru and the release of the detainees. KANU’S election slogan in the 1961 elections was “Uhuru na Kenyatta” (Independence is Kenyatta) KANU won the elections but refused to form the government unless Kenyatta was released.

Despite Renison’s wide dismissal of Kenyatta as a leader “unto darkness and death,” it was clear that Kenyatta was indispensible. He was released in 1961 and others soon afterwards.

The Rivonia Trials, 1964

The Rivonia Trial took place in South Africa between October 9, 1963 and June 1964. It led to the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and others accused of sabotage. They were sentenced to life imprisonment at the Palace of Justice in Pretoria.

The Rivonia was named after Rivonia, the suburb of Johannesburg where leaders had been arrested and documents allegedly discovered at a private farm in Liliesleaf owned by one Arthur Goldrich on July 11, 1963.

The farm has been used as a hideout for the African National Congress (ANC) and others. Among others, Nelson Mandela had moved onto the farm in October 1961 and evaded security while disguising as a gardener and cook called David Motsamayi.

Arrested were:

  • Nelson Mandela
  • Walter Sisulu
  • Govan Mbeki
  • Raymond Mhlaba
  • Andrew Mlangeni
  • Elias Motsoaledi; Trade Union and ANC member
  • Ahmed Kathrada
  • Denis Goldberg
  • Bob Hepple
  • Arthur Goldreich
  • Harold Wolpe

Goldberg, Bernstein, Wolpe, Kantor and Goldreich were Jewish South Africans; Hepple was an Englishman; Kathrada an India Muslim; Mandela Mbeki and Mhlaba were Xhosa people, Molsoledi and Mlangeni were Pedi people and Sisulu was coloured (he had an English father and a Xhosa mother.)

The leaders who were prosecuted in the Rivonia Trial also included Mandela, who was already in Johannesburg’s Fort prison serving a 5 years sentence for inciting workers to strike and leaving the country illegally.

The government took advantage of legal provisions allowing for accused persons to be held for 90 days without trial, and the defendants were held incommunicado. Withstanding beatings and torture, Goldreich and Wolpe escaped from jail on 11 August. Their escape infuriated the prosecutors and police considered Goldreich to be arch-conspirator.

The chief prosecutor was Dr. Percy Yuter, the DPP of Transvaal. The presiding judge was Dr Quartus De Wet, judge-president of Transvaal.

The first trial indictment document listed 11 names as the accused. The trial began in October 1963. Counsel for the accused successfully challenged the legal sufficiency of the documents, with the result that Justice De Wet quashed it. Prior to dismissal of the first indictment, the state withdrew all charges against Bob Hepple. He subsequently fled the country without testifying.

Charges

  1. Recruiting persons for training in preparation and use of explosive and in guerrilla warfare for the purpose of violent revolution and committing acts of sabotage.
  2. Conspiring to commit the aforementioned acts and to aid foreign military units when they invade the Republic.
  3. Acting in these ways to further the objects of communism.
  4. Soliciting and receiving money for these purposes from sympathizers in Algeria, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Tunisia and elsewhere.

Production requirements for munitions for a 6-months period were sufficient, the prosecutor, Percy Yutar said in his opening address, to blow up a city the size of Johannesburg.

The trial was condemned by the United Nations Security Council and nations around the world, leading to international sanctions against the South African government.

Mandela’s Speech

At the beginning of the defense’s proceedings, Nelson Mandela gave a 3-hour speech from the defendant’s dock, in which he explained and defended the ANC’s key political positions. He justified the movement’s decision in view of the increasing restrictions on permitted political activities on the part of non-white Africans, to go beyond its earlier use of constitutional methods and Gandhian non-violent opposition to the state, embracing a campaign of sabotage against property designed to minimize risks of injury and death, while also starting to train a military wing for possible future use.

He also discussed in some details, the relationship between the ANC and the SACP (South African Communist Party), explaining that, while the two shared a commitment to action against the apartheid system, he was wedded to a model of constitutional democracy for South Africa, and also supported a market economy rather than a communist economic model. The speech is considered one of the defining moment of south African democracy.

Mandela’s closing words have been much used all over the world as a founding moment for the 20th century emerging democracies.

Mandela had, while looking the judge eye-to-eye, on that April 20 1964 said: “during my life I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But my Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

Although the prosecution did not formally request the death penalty, observers considered such a statement to be implicit in the prosecutor’s presentation of his case. Opposition to the death penalty included both public campaigns, internationally and the defence’s arguments within the courtroom.

Harold Hanson who argued for mitigation, compared the African struggle for rights to the early Afrikaans (Dutch indigenes) struggle, citing precedents for temperate sentencing, even in cases of treason. Eight defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment.

There were no surprises in the fact that Mandela, Sisulu, Mbeki, Motsoaledi, Mlangeni and Goldberg were found guilty on all four counts.

Denis Goldberg went to Pretoria Central Prison instead of Robben Island where he served 22 years. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years and 8 months in prison as a result of the Rivonia trial. 18 years of which were spent on Robben Island. He was freed on February 11, 1990 by Ex-president Frederick W. de Klerk.

Nelson Mandela later went on to be elected the first black president in South African in 1994. After serving one term, he voluntarily left office, an act, never seen in Africa where most of them have assumed the position of life president. No apologies to Robert Mugabe, and Eduardo dos Santos, Jomo Kenyatta himself died in office.

The Contrast

Nelson Mandela held the pre-independence anti-colonial leader of Kenya, Dadam Kimathi in high esteem. This is in contrast to Jomo Kenyatta who regarded his benefactor as a terrorist following the white man’s footstep.

In July 1990, five months after his release from 27 years of imprisonment by South Africa’s apartheid regime, Mandela visited Nairobi and requested to see Kimathi’s grave and meet his widow, Mukami. Mandela’s request was an embarrassing moment for the Arap Moi administration, which had largely ignored Kimathi, like Jomo Kenyatta’s government before it.

It was an awkward moment of searching for Madam Mukami in the village where she and her family lived forgotten in poverty.

Mandela’s request was not met. During a public address at the Kasarani stadium in Nairobi before he left the country, Mandela stated his admiration for Kimatti, Waruhiu Hote and other Mau Mau leader who inspired his own struggle against injustice.

It was only 15 years after in 2005 during his second visit to Kenya that Mandela finally managed to meet Mukami as well as two of Kimathi’s children.

Also, when Muzce Jomo Kenyatta went on to become president of Kenya, (a dividend of kimathis effort and for which he died for) Kenyatta classified him as a terrorist

He also turned against his co-inmates in the prison. Although Bildad Kaggia and Paul Ngei served as ministers;  Achieng Oneko was imprisoned by Kenyatta between 1969 and 1974, before serving as member of parliament in Kenya’s 7th parliament.

Kung’u Karumba disappeared in 1975 while in Uganda on business. Nelson Mandela on the other hand had none of his fellow prisoners punished, whether from his Xhosa tribe or not. Ronnie kasrils, the former intelligence chief of the ANC’s armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe, was appointed defence minister, under him. Others whose ages could not be allowed to participate in active government service were rewarded in one way or the other.

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