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Southeastern Regional Seminar in African Studies (SERSAS)

Fall 2004 SERSAS Conference
22 - 23 October 2004

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Department of African-American and African Studies
9201 University City Boulevard
Charlotte, North Carolina 28223 USA

Meshack Owino
Department of History
Bloomsburg University
400 East Second St.
Bloomsburg, PA 17815-1301

Military Service and the Health of African Troops in Colonial Kenya


This paper examines the impact of military service on the health of African soldiers who served in the military in colonial Kenya. The askaris, as African soldiers in the British colonial military in East and Central Africa were known, were a bedrock of colonialism. They occupied a major place in the colonial system of control and domination. Their service in the colonial system, protecting and maintaining it often at the expense of their own people affected them in many ways, including physically and mentally. This paper examines how military service affected the health of askaris who served in the military in Kenya during the colonial period. It looks at the diseases that the askaris suffered from, and how the colonial government treated them.

Materials for the paper are derived from archival research and oral interviews with askari veterans. The paper pays considerable attention to the health of askaris during the Second World War largely because of ready availability of materials, but an attempt has also been made to reconstruct askaris' health in the early years of colonial military. Lately, scholars have started researching on the experience of African soldiers in colonial armies. By examining how military service affected the health of Kenya African soldiers, this paper contributes not only to our understanding of the experience of colonial African soldiers, but also the nature of medical services that were available to colonial African subjects.

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First Online Edition: 21 October 2004
Last Revised: 21 October 2004