n Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies - Migrant labour in Kimilili, Kenya : capitalism and African responses, 1940-1963

Volume 3, Issue 5
  • ISSN : 2141-6990
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The issue of labour is presently a central theme in Kenyan history, but the emergence of wage employment is one of the most neglected although interesting stories about it remain to be told. Earlier works are mostly generalised, not focused on a specific category of labour. This necessitated the need to examine the migrant labour system in Kimilili, a largely unmapped area of recent Kenyan social and economic history. The study investigated the emergence of a wage labour force in response to the economic changes brought by British annexation and establishment of European farms. This paper, apart from tracing African squatter's response to wage labour between 1940 and 1963, also examines the early forms of protest. It also analyses the colonial government's reaction to squatter responses to wage employment, in Trans Nzoia in the neighbourhood of Kimilili. In particular, the reaction of the colonial government to and labour consciousness is highlighted. This is partly assessed in terms of accommodation; a situation when squatter labourers accepted European employment and solved labour issues amicably. The study was based on archival research, oral interviews as well as analysing the existing literature on socio-economic history in general and labour history in particular. The African labourers were adversely exploited as was clearly manifested in the low wages paid, poor working conditions, arduous tasks, and worse still, the creation of labour camps through which labour on European farms was easily forthcoming. This was the genesis of the rise of migrant labour. African labourers made concerted efforts to ameliorate their working conditions through desertion, evasion of harsh employers, strikes and finally open protest through . The study contributes to a wider understanding of labour history in Kenya and coping strategies of labourers to the wage economy. Policy planners can apply this knowledge to solve labour related issues by designing favourable policies. Scholars, on the other hand, can use it to further research, innovate, and expand the frontiers of knowledge on labour.

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