Horizon Publications Limited

Bringing Kenyan history alive through literature

Text Box: The Double Edged Swords

Through the Second World War to their return to Kenya, The Double Edged Swords follows three young Kenyan men that are enrolled to fight for the King, and end up fighting against their Queen.


During the 1940’s in colonial Kenya, after completing their high school studies it was typical of young men to forego further education and instead volunteer to take part in the Second World War in service to the Crown. They would go to war fully aware that there was - inside colonial Kenya - blatant discrimination based on the colour of one’s skin.


What often dismayed and greatly disillusioned African soldiers most was a harsh reality – that double standards were applied by the British colonialists. Except in actual battle where along with their colleagues from colonial Kenya – mostly sons of white settlers – they faced the common enemy on equal terms, there was blatant discrimination against them.


African soldiers were denied promotion to army ranks, and when not in active combat were placed in separate and inferior accommodation apart from their white counterparts. The colonists deemed Nazis and Fascists evil because they tortured and killed Jews on racial grounds; meanwhile, the British openly discriminated against African soldiers on the same grounds – even as they expected their African subjects to risk their lives for the British Empire as soldiers for the Crown. But the last straw would come when African servicemen eventually returned home. They would typically find themselves both jobless and landless – often with their ancestral homes forcefully possessed to create “White Highlands”.


Contrary to popular belief, it was not the Mau Mau oath that spurred many Kikuyu ex-servicemen to fight against the British, but rather their conviction – from first hand experience – that the colour-bar and the way it had been used for colonial subjugation was evil. Very little is known about the Mau Mau intelligence service, and their role in Kenya's war for independence is an enigma that has for a long time puzzled British military historians. This story is perhaps the first account ever written about it.


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Artists first rendering of The Double-edged Swords cover

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