In memory of African soldiers in World War 1 - Beaking Kenya News

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Friday, 7 June 2019

In memory of African soldiers in World War 1

Askari Monument
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On Kenyatta Avenue, in front of the building housing Standard Chartered Bank, stands the Askari Monument.
On it are inscribed these words: “If you fight for your country, even if you die, your sons will remember your name.”
Ironically, the three men’s names and ranks have not been mentioned and they can only be remembered as a representation of the role Africans played in World War 1.
The monument also reads: Myrander SC, 1924, which references both its sculptor James Alexander Stevenson, of British descent, and the year it was designed.
In 1928, the monument was erected in honour of the Kings African Rifles and Carrier Corps.
Between 1914 and 1918, the world was one big battlefield and the Central Powers (they included Germany and Austria-Hungary) were in serious combat with the Allied Powers.
With both the British and the Germans claiming territories in East Africa, the British relied on Africans to fight for them.
Burdened with poll tax, hut tax and meagre wages, Africans saw this as a chance to make some good money even though death was almost assured.
Those who resisted were recruited by force. As a result, over 400,000 potters and 30,000 askaris were conscripted to serve in the war.
As evidenced by the three men in the monument, Africans served as porters, askaris and gun carriers.
Poorly trained and in a war they did not want to participate in, about 50,000 Africans lost their lives in combat or to disease.
Even though surviving Africans received no hero’s welcome, the contact they had made with the outside world was crucial.
With the new realisation that the colonists were vulnerable too, nationalist movements were formed and they played a key role in fighting for the rights of Africans and the independence of the country.

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