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The African Crowd in Nairobi: Popular Movements and Élite Politics

Frank Furedi
The Journal of African History
Vol. 14, No. 2 (1973), pp. 275-290
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/180449
Page Count: 16
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The African Crowd in Nairobi: Popular Movements and Élite Politics
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Abstract

The absence of popular participation in the political process of post-independent Kenya should be seen as the outcome of a political tension, which has its roots in the colonial period. The growth of Nairobi, a colonial urban centre par excellence, provided unequal opportunities for its African population. The majority of the Nairobi Africans came to constitute the African crowd-domestic servants, the majority of workers in private and public employment, and petty traders. This group should be distinguished from the Nairobi African middle class which formed the 'political élite'. The African middle class possessed a fairly high level of education and had remunerative positions with government or were wealthy traders. By the mid-'forties, this group had become well integrated within the colonial system. The different, and often contradictory, interests of these two groups of people was strikingly manifested on the level of political action. The 'popular movements' of the African crowd were direct and often extra-constitutional. Their organizations, e.g. the 40 Group, were characteristically militant, and were often based on mass support. The 'élite politics' of the African middle class were strictly constitutional and moderate. Their goal-to consolidate their position within the colonial system-had obviously only limited appeal. The conflict between these two social groups was resolved by the elimination of the African crowd as a political force.

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