Quick deportations of people out of Kenya by the government did not start with Miguna Miguna [Photo Courtesy]
The Deportation of Mr. R. L. Cooksley from Kenya in 1919 one of the earliest incident of deportation in Kenya
Historical research can often be tedious and boring, even for those who enjoy the subject. But occasionally, one comes across information of an unexpected and surprising nature. An example of the sort of story one can stumble upon is the sad story about the deportation of a man called Mr. R. L. Cooksley from Kenya in 1919. The reasons for his deportation were salacious such that when the Acting Governor of Kenya wrote to his boss in London, he could not bring himself to attempt to describe it.
The letter and supporting affidavits are found at the British National Archives. Mr. Cooksley was an engineer at the Magadi Soda Company and in summary, he was deported for forcing African men working with him to bring their wives to him. If they hesitated or refused, he was known to use force as shown in the affidavits. The full and sad details are found in records at the British National Archives.
The General Manager of Magadi Soda had become alarmed at the number of African men who were quitting employment. So, he looked in it and must have been alarmed a lot more by what he found. Not only was rape alleged against Cooksley but it involved intimacy between Africans and Europeans, something which the European community found just as disagreeable. The affidavits from two men should suffice to show the evil several eye witnesses accused him of.
One of the affidavits is from a man named Omari who stated that Mr. Cooksley summoned him at 11pm and ordered him to bring a specific woman (who was apparently unrelated to Omari). The woman refused and Omari related this to Cooksley. According to Omari, “Mr. Cooksley was very angry with me for not bringing him the woman, and he told me that he was going to shoot me.” Two shots were indeed fired and one of them caught Omari on his right arm.
Mr. Cooksley happened to be drinking and his drinking companion, called Tremp, tried to stop any further shooting. “Mr. Tremp then caught hold of Mr. Cooksley and remonstrated with him – they then started struggling together firing off their revolvers. I ran out of the house, as I ran away the shots followed me one shot grazing my right heel. I got to my quarters safely and told the other boys that I was going to run away or bwana Cooksley would kill me. I handed over Mr. Cooksley’s keys to the Cook’s boy told what few things I had to the others and about 2 a.m. left Magadi and started walking for Nairobi. I followed the Railway line.”
Being so far away from home, Omari knew the best way home was by following the railway line. As he walked along the following day, a supervisor from Magadi Soda called Wardle, caught up with him on a trolley and urged him to return. In addition, the supervisor also urged him not to report that to the government.
Omari continued, “I refused – Mr. Wardle then told me it was better to return to Mr. Cooksley instead of informing the Government, as Mr. Cooksley would give me a present of money and from the Government, I would only get trouble. I refused to return. Mr. Wardle then told me that they had taken the revolvers from Mr. Cooksley and that he would not shoot me again. I then consented to return to Magadi. Upon my return to Mr. Cooksley with Mr. Wardle he promised me in his presence Rs. 500/- if I would not say anything about the shooing but would remain and work for him. I accepted this. About a week afterwards he gave me Rs.100/-”
Another affidavit is sworn by another man called Johnson. When Johnson found work at Magadi and moved there with his wife. However, “upon my arrival at the Lake the other boys asked me why you brought your wife! You will have trouble with Mr. Cooksley over her.”
Mr. Johnson continued, “One Sunday evening when Mr. Cooksley was drunk he went to the compound and tried to get into my house – another boy came and warned me – I went down to the compound and found Mr. Cooksley trying to force open the door.
As my wife would not let Mr. Cooksley in, he subsequently returned to his house – I went and reported the matter to Mr. Gil – Mr. Cooksley on more than one occasion asked me to let him have my wife and he would pay me. I refused.
Mr. Cooksley practically slept in the compound – he would come down from the house at night drunk, turn a man out of his hut and then go in and sleep with his wife – If the husband remonstrated with Mr. Cooksley he was kibokoed”.
Johnson also collaborates the affidavit from Omari by recounting the same incident from his perspective. In addition to the two African men, there are other affidavits which offer additional cases of Cooksley’s. For example, Chai wa Macharia stated the following regarding Cooksley, “he visited the houses until he found the woman he wanted. He would then tell her husband to go to work and if he refused would tie him up and then stay in the house with the woman very often until morning. After tying him up he would put him in a goods waggon and then next morning the train would take him away. He would then become the womans rafiki.”
The story is a sad reminder of race relations during the colonial era, when the authorities went to great lengths to quietly hush up and wish away such egregious wrongs when the accused was a European.
Source/Credit: Daniel Karanja firstname.lastname@example.org