The Demography of Mau Mau: Fertility and Mortality in Kenya in the 1950s: A Demographer's Viewpoint
Posted: 21 Jul 2009
This article examines the allegation that up to 300,000 Kikuyu and others died as a result of the Mau Mau Emergency in Kenya in the 1950s. This figure was based on comparative numbers from the 1948 and 1962 censuses, but they failed to take into account the changes in the tribal classifications and differences in the coverage of the two censuses. Using data from the 1969 Kenya census, we have reconstructed the levels and patterns of mortality in the 1950s, and we show that mortality of the Kikuyu was consistently lower than those of the Kamba, Luhya and Luo peoples. We have also used unpublished data from the 1948 census to estimate infant mortality among the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru prior to the emergency. Using this figure as an indicator of ‘normal’ mortality, we have compared them with the estimates derived from the 1969 census, and so calculated the number of ‘excess’ deaths. They amount to perhaps 50,000; more than half of them were children under 10. Given the fragile nature of the data and assumptions, our estimates are subject to large margins of error, but they at least give us an order of magnitude.
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