This essay examines the extension of British colonial control across the Lake Rudolf region, investigating the motives for British decisions and the relationships that developed between the colonizers and the local tribes. On both sides there was uncertainty. Among the local peoples—predominantly warrior herdsmen—some saw advantage in cooperation with the British from the beginning; others quickly came to accept the situation when they realized the power of British arms; but some continued to resist and were a persistent problem for the colonial authority. The British side—which eventually involved three separate colonial administrations (Uganda, Sudan, and British East Africa, now Kenya)—became involved in an internal debate. One viewpoint was that, other than denying this harsh and arid region to imperial rivals, it should be left alone. The other side favored “hands on” administration with the aim of “developing” the area. The debate persisted and was unresolved at the end of British rule in the early 1960s.

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