There is no question that the ownership of land plays a major role in the decolonization of Kenya. But in Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s Weep Not, Child, the struggle to maintain land is not the biggest motivator in the fight for independence. Racism, maltreatment of blacks, and the British arriving, and putting themselves in an authoritarian position were undoubtedly primary factors in the quest for freedom. While the fight for land appears to be the cornerstone of the revolution, racism and British settlers’ sense of superiority were the main reasons that blacks rebelled.
African soldiers served and died in both World Wars but were never acknowledged. Also they are treated poorly and have limited opportunities in spite of their military service and, in some cases, the sacrifice of their lives. In Weep Not, Child, Mwangi, Njoroge’s brother, dies in World War II, and Nyokobi, the mother of the two boys, says “Why should he have died in a white man's war? She did not want to sacrifice what was hers for other people.”1 Mwangi has given his life for a war that is not meant to better the African race, but rather to further the British cause. Those for whom he fights do not appreciate or respect him. Mwangi’s brother, Boro, returns home after the war “only to find that for him there was to be no employment. There was no land on which he could settle.”2 There is black resentment that they have been used by the British to fight their war and then disregarded when they return home.
Blacks believed education could level the playing field, reduce poor treatment and cut into race and class differences. They assumed that the white man would be forced to respect them and that they would be well-educated enough to minimize the effects of racism and protect their property. “If people had had education the white man would not have taken all the land. I wonder why our folk, the dead old folk, had no learning when the white man came.”3 This quote suggests that some believed blacks had been outsmarted when their land was taken away. However, many Africans could not afford an education. Dreams of Njoroge getting an education fulfill a belief that he would bridge the divide between blacks and whites and help blacks recover their lost land.
The ownership of land in Weep Not, Child is everything. Land ownership equals riches. Any man who had land was considered rich. White men owned most of the land, but it had not always been that way. “If a man had plenty of money, many motor cars but no land, he could never be considered rich.”4 Blacks believe the land in Kenya is their birthright. “Black people have their land in a country of black people. White men have their land in their own country. It is simple.”5 The land occupied by Mr. Howlands originally belonged to blacks. Some Africans like Boro question why the British are allowed to seize the land. The injustice of the stolen land is recognized and the seeds of resistance are planted. As young blacks learn about how the land was taken away, they begin to mobilize. “How could these people have let the white man occupy the land without acting? It is through the stupidity of our fathers that the land had been taken.”6 Blacks believe they have claim to the land that whites now possess. And the young are indignant that their forefathers allowed the seizing of their land.
The British use black divisions to further their cause. They take advantage of the unruliness and disorganization of the black Africans and put themselves in control. Whites, on the other hand, have an organized effort to keep blacks fighting amongst themselves. “The very ability to set these people fighting among themselves instead of fighting with white men gave him an amused satisfaction.”7 This passage, describing Howland’s reaction to black infighting, is an example of how whites manipulate blacks to their advantage by using a divide and conquer approach. Howlands helps