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Title: The Swahili-speaking communities of the Kenya Coast, 1895-1965
Author: Salim, Ahmed Idha
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 1968
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Before 1895, the Arab-Swahili peoples were largely autonomous communities owing allegiance to the Sultan of Zanzibar. The advent of a British protectorate in that year, ushered in a period of unprecedented, rapid changes in their political, economic and cultural position. True, the protectorate government accommodated the traditional Arab administration, but its members were fully-fledged, if colourful, civil servants. The coastal people were treated hardly differently from the African majority, over whom the protectorate government systematically extended its authority. The abolition of slavery and challenge to traditional tenure of land shattered the coastal peoples' economic position. Laws on game, forests and trade eclipsed other forms of economic exploitation. The influx of Indians and their control of commerce and skilled jobs, including the clerical profession in the government and private sector, restricted new opportunities for the demoralised coastal people. Meanwhile in the interior, European settlement had led some people to think in terms of a white man's country. The problem of adapting to the changed economic and political situation was complicated by the conflict of cultures, which prevented the Arab and Swahili from unequivocally accepting western education at a time when the equally underprivileged African was accepting it more and more from the missionary. By the end of the First World War, however, there had already appeared a coterie of enlightened Arabs (significantly at the same time as some Africans) who began to challenge the status quo in the country. But the European and his Indian challenger dominated the stage throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The African's dramatic challenge to the minorities after the Second world War threw them on their guard. It was, perhaps, too late to consider compromise with African aspirations after the Mau Mau movement exploded in 1952. Only slowly did its full significance dawn on non-African minds. Arab-Swahili reaction to African nationalism was one of sympathy qualified by the conviction that their own position as natives of the coast was unassailable. Inevitably, challenge to this assertion from coast African politicians drove them to declare for a coast autonomy based on the 1895 Treaty, acknowledging the Sultan's sovereignty. Inter-tribal jealousy amongst the Africans, culminating into rival parties, 'unitary' KANU and 'regionalist' KADU, fortified the Arabs and Swahili in their fear of domination. Although 'Mwambao', or coast autonomy, failed, most of the irrational fears of the coastal people were absorbed within Regionalism, which allowed them unprecedented participation in their own government and, thus prepared them eventually to accept full integration. Their position in modern Kenya is far more secure than that of the Indian or European. As most of them know no other home, this is hardly surprising.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral