The 1964 Army Mutinies and the Making of Modern East Africa

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003 - History - 231 pages

This book provides a new concept framework for understanding the factors that lead soldiers to challenge civil authority in developing nations. By exploring the causes and effects of the 1964 East African army mutinies, it provides novel insights into the nature of institutional violence, aggression, and military unrest in former colonial societies. The study integrates history and the social sciences by using detailed empirical data on the soldiers' protests in Tanganyika, Uganda, and Kenya.

The roots of the 1964 army mutinies in Tanganyika, Uganda, and Kenya were firmly rooted in the colonial past when economic and strategic necessity forced the former British territorial governments to rely on Africans for defense and internal security. As the only group in colonial society with access to weapons and military training, the African soldiery was a potential threat to the security of British rule. Colonial authorities maintained control over African soldiers by balancing the significant rewards of military service with social isolation, harsh discipline, and close political surveillance. After independence, civilian pay levels out-paced army wages, thereby tarnishing the prestige of military service. As compensation, veteran African soldiers expected commissions and improved terms of service when the new governments Africanized the civil service. They grew increasingly upset when African politicians proved unwilling and unable to meet their demands. Yet the creation of new democratic societies removed most of the restrictive regulations that had disciplined colonial African soldiers.

Lacking the financial resources and military expertise to create new armies, the independent African governments had to retain the basic structure and character of the inherited armies. Soldiers in Tanganyika, Uganda, and Kenya mutinied in rapid succession during the last week of January 1964 because their governments could no longer maintain the delicate balance of coercion and concessions that had kept the colonial soldiery in check. The East African mutinies demonstrate that the propensity of an African army to challenge civil authority was directly tied to its degree of integration into postcolonial society.


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About the author (2003)

TIMOTHY H. PARSONS holds a joint appointment as an Associate Professor in the history department and the African and Afro-American Studies program at Washington University in St. Louis.

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