oa Fundamina : A Journal of Legal History - Judicial choice during the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya 1952-1960

Volume 18, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1021-545X
  • E-ISSN: 2411-7870



This article relates to Kenya in the 1950s and focuses on judicial decisions made during the Mau Mau rebellion. It offers a new vantage point from which to view a colonial legal system by examining judicial decisions made during that rebellion, which was spearheaded by members of the Kikuyu ethnic group. Following the declaration of a state of emergency in October 1952, regulations promulgated by the governor introduced a range of new offences, many of which carried mandatory capital sentences. An analysis of case law reveals that on a number of occasions, appellate judges chose to extend the scope of the law by moving away from literal interpretations of the regulations. With time, it became apparent that the magistrates' courts and the Supreme Court of Kenya had become part of the counter-insurgency machinery, while the Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa largely tried to maintain its own independence and sphere of influence as moral guardian of the "rule of law" and as a check on overweening executive power.

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