Colonial powers are fighting to remain blameless in the brutalities of the past. Even with accurate documentation and living victims, the British government continues to deny liability for the torture and murder of Kenyans during the Mau Mau uprising. But an ongoing battle is pushing for acknowledgement and compensation despite constant interference.
In 2012 three Kenyans: Wambugu Wa Nyingi, Paulo Muoka Nzili, and Jane Muthoni Mara, won a motion to sue Britain for the castration, rape, and beatings they received while in detention in the 1950s. Their torture and those of 5,228 victims happened during the state of emergency when the Mau Mau movement began an uprising that would ultimately gain Kenya her independence.
For years legal action by Mau Mau veterans and detention victims had been blocked. At first, Britain claimed that responsibility for the events during that period passed to Kenya upon independence, an argument that the London courts disregarded. Then the British government brought up the legal time limit, stating that it was outside the parameters, but a judge found that there was ample documented evidence for a fair trial.
The High Court went on to rule in favour of the three Kenyan victims resulting in the British government agreeing to compensate the 5,228 victims (these are the living victims) a total of 19.9 million pounds sterling (USD 30.8 million).
At the time of the ruling in 2013, Foreign Secretary William Hague told the Commons, “I would like to make clear now, and for the first time, on behalf of Her Majesty’s government, that we understand the pain and grievance felt by those who were involved in the events of the emergency in Kenya.”
“The British government recognises that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration… The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place and that they marred Kenya’s progress towards independence.” He continued.
When the amount each victim (approx. £3,000) would receive was questioned, Paul Muite, Kenyan lawyer and advisor to the Mau Mau veterans told DW, “you have to bear in mind that most of these independence heroes are over 80 years old and are dying every day. Rejecting the cash settlement would have dragged the trial on for another 10 years, and who knows if the veterans would have been around then,” he said.
Kenyan government blocking compensation
After a bittersweet win, the Mau Mau veterans now claim that the Kenyan government has refused to fully engage in talks and provide modalities for the promised compensation. The group is lamenting that because of the delays, many of victims are dying before receiving their portion of the compensation.
This latest government interference, if not remedied, would be a major slap in the face to Kenya’s Mau Mau heroes
Additionally, the group said in their petition and through their lawyer John Swaka, that the “intended negotiations on the compensation of other Mau Mau have stalled for the past few years despite the best efforts of the Petitioner.”
The veterans are asking the court to intervene and provide a clear process through which the compensation will be distributed directly to the victims and their families.
Considering the government’s failure since independence to compensate or justly provide for the veterans and victims of the Mau Mau uprising for their contribution to Kenya’s emancipation, this latest interference, if not remedied, would be a major slap in the face to Kenya’s heroes.