A few weeks back, the British government finally acknowledged their shameful acts of torture and abuse of suspected Kenyan ‘Mau Mau’ and supporters, falling short of offering an apology.
The Mau Mau were a guerilla group that began a violent campaign against white settlers in 1952, but the uprising was eventually put down by the British colonial government. According to The Kenya Human Rights Commission, 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed, and 160,000 people were detained in appalling conditions.
The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague declared before the House Of Commons that, “We understand the pain and the grief felt by those who were involved in the events of emergency in Kenya. The British government recognises that Kenyans were subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration,” he further stated that “The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place and that they marred Kenya’s progress to independence. Torture and ill-treatment are abhorrent violations of human dignity which we unreservedly condemn.”
He stated that as a result of this, The British Government will pay £19.9M in costs and compensation to more than 5000 elderly Kenyans who suffered torture and abuse during the Mau Mau uprising of the 1950’s.
About 50,000 people applied to the Kenyan Human Rights Commission for redress. This number was whittled down to about 15,000 and later to 5,228 people, who could show evidence of abuse and/or torture at the hands of the British who may have suspected them to be Mau Mau fighters or sympathizers.
Many of the original complainants have died while seeking justice.
The stories the victims tell are quite harrowing to listen to. There was the case of a woman who claimed that while travelling with the rest of her family, their vehicle was stopped at a road block and she watched as her four children were killed, her husband castrated and a bottle inserted into her vagina even though she was heavily pregnant.
Another, a man working with a British farmer said he was punnished for alledgedly stealing food for the Mau Mau. He was beaten,and while blindfolded was castrated by someone he suspects to be his master.
Most of the men were castrated, the women raped, others lost limbs while many others regardless of age paid the ultimate price.
These and many other blood curdling tales are what Kenyans, most of them innocents, suffered under the brutal colonial authorities who wanted to maintain order by quashing the Mau Mau ‘Independence Fighters’ in Kenya in the 1950’s.
Unfortunately, after Kenya’s independence on December 12, 1963, the Mau Mau were not accorded the respect they deserved rather the elite politicians who fought with rhetorics mainly, gained all the recognition ignoring the contributions made by these group of people (and those suspected to be aiding them).
Infact they refused to take the responsibility of rehabilitating those who had suffered abuse and torture by the British, even when the British argued that all liabilities for the torture by colonial authorities was transfered to the Kenyan Republic upon independence.
This £19.9M payment is being made in “full and final settlement” of a high court action brought by five of the victims who suffered under the British colonial administration, following an agreement with lawyers acting for the victims.
It will amount to about £3,000 per victim and applies only to living survivors of the abuses.
It is gladdening to finally see this case end this way, even though I feel there’s no amount that could be enough to compensate for the graveness of the injustice meted out to these people.
It is my hope that other indigenous African communities will bring their cases up too for possible future compensation against states like Germany for their shameful acts in Namibia, and/or France for theirs in Algeria.
Beyond this, Africa’s history must now be rewritten to award ‘Hero’ status to fighters such as the Mau Mau in Kenya, and other warriors who withstood, challenged and were defeated by the colonial powers, and not just the elite, westernized neo-colonial stooges the colonialists handed over power to, to continue the subjugation of the people of Africa on their behalf.
This justice was surely delayed but not entirely denied. The British should now move a step further by tendering an unreserved apology for this part of their history especially while some of the victims still draw breath.