Primary Source

Mau Mau Fighters in Scout Uniforms

Photo of a mixed-sex guerilla band


In the early 1950s, tens of thousands of poor and landless Kikuyus revolted against the Kenyan colonial government and wealthy members of their own community who were allied with the British regime. Known as the "Mau Mau Emergency," this rebellion was one of the most serious threats to British rule in Africa. The widespread lawlessness of the Emergency inspired many young Africans to dress as scouts. The uniform gave them extra security because school officials and policemen assumed they were trustworthy, which helps to explain why the security forces captured and killed Kikuyu guerillas dressed as scouts.

This photograph shows a mixed-sex guerilla band led by a man wearing a scout-type shirt with scout badges running down his sleeves. Obviously staged, it was most likely taken well after the end of the Emergency in the early 1960s to remind Jomo Kenyatta’s incoming African nationalist government that it had to pay attention to the plight of impoverished young Kikuyu if it wanted to keep the peace. It is also possible, however, that Mau Mau units like these used scout uniform and decorations as symbols of authority within the rebel forces.

This source is a part of the African Scouting (20th c.) teaching module.


Manby, M.C. Papers. Rhodes House Library, Oxford University. Annotated by Tim Parsons.

How to Cite This Source

"Mau Mau Fighters in Scout Uniforms," in World History Commons, [accessed February 22, 2024]