The relations between the African and Asian communities of Kenya's Nyanza region, 1901-2002
Onyango, Omenya Gordon
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This study investigates the problem of race relations between Asians and African communities in Kenya's Nyanza region. It examines the roots of Asian presence in the Nyanza region and explores the various levels of interactions between the Asian ethnicities and the Africans. Although the literature review demonstrates that some research on the Asian Question in East Africa has been undertaken by a number of scholars, there is little evidence to show Afro - Asian relations in Nyanza Province has been given scholarly attention. This hiatus makes the proposed study abundantly significant and justified. The study revolves around four fundamental premises. It proposes that forced immigration played a remarkable role in the emergence of interracial relations between Africans and Asians in Kisumu, Ndere, Kendu Bay and Yala areas of Nyanza region. Besides, it assumes that government policies were the main causes of suspicion, tension and conflict between the Asians and the African communities. Furthermore, it supposes the contest between the Africans and the Asians manifested itself in the social, political and economic spaces available in Nyanza. Finally, it proposes, racial integration and harmony have been achieved between African and Asian communities within the area of study.The study employs variants of the post-colonial theory- hybridity and plurality-to analyze data. The gist of the Postcolonial theoretical formulation is to interrogate forms of knowledge and social institutions authored and authorized by the West. Thus, the struggle against colonial values and institutions, within the postcolonial space of Nyanza, has been executed through the emerging hybridities and pluralities. What is more, the post colonial terrain of Nyanza was plural space-embracing Europeans, Africans and Asians- upon which competing racial and ethnic interests have been witnessed and negotiated. Moreover, Nyanza Province was one of the spaces, within the Kenyan postcolony, which experienced forms of knowledge and social institutions authored and authorized by the West. The study argues that the formal settlement of Asians in Nyanza and, specifically, in Kibos area was marked by contestation between the European settlers on the one hand, and the Asians. In this scheme, Asians acted as a buffer zone between the warring Luo and Nandi communities around Kibos area. While doing business, Asians employed Africans as workers in the cotton ginneries. Africans too served as domestic workers on Asian farms and in Asian residential areas. However, the study reveals that the relationship that existed between Africans and Asians was unequal. The Asians were later accused of exploiting Africans not only by inflating commodity prices but also by paying low wages. Over time, the Afro - Asian relations changed from being mutually beneficial, indifferent, to being conflictual. Towards the independence watershed of 1963, AfroAsian relations were characterized by a lot of conflicts which led to the withdrawal of Asians from Ndere, Kendu Bay, Kibos and Yala locations of Nyanza region to other parts of Kenya or outside Kenya. During the period, 1945-1963, Africans formed such organizations as the Luo Thrift and Trading Corporation to compete with both Asians and European economic consortiums. Such developments were signs of resistance as Africans started questioning various forms of knowledge and values authored and authorized by the West. After independence, these relations took a different dimension when Asians were accused of exploiting Africans and undermining the integrity of black people. Methodologically, the study employs an elaborate scheme of oral interviews, archival investigations and library research to collect data. The data collected has been subjected to the postcolonial theoretical perspective. The study concludes that full AfroAsian integration was not achieved in the Nyanza postcolonial space.