In Search of Mboya: Understanding Ethnicity and Democracy through Oral Histories of the East African Airlift, 1959-1963
Kellogg Institute Graduate Research Grants
As independence from Britain approached in 1963, Kenya needed an educated cadre of technocrats to work in the post-colonial government. As such, Tom Mboya, a Kenyan nationalist, supported the tertiary education of Kenyan students in the United States under the auspices of the East African Airlift. Hailed by scholarship as a proponent of a non-tribalist democracy, Mboya would be an antithesis to ethnic politics in Kenya. Historiography assumes the unrelenting march of negative ethnicity in Kenyan society and politics. Using the lens of the Airlift, I propose to analyze how this educational bursary and Mboya’s ideology offered an alternative, a moment when Kenyan democracy was imagined in a very different way. I will collect oral histories of the Kenyan participants of the Airlift and collect archival data from the Kenya National Archives to examine demographic information on the Airlift as well as the politics surrounding the program.