Kenyans seek justice over British Mau Mau 'torture'

7th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Four elderly Kenyans are to go before the High Court in London on Thursday seeking justice over the brutality they claim they suffered at the hands of the British army during the 1950s Mau Mau uprising.

They are hoping their cases, which include castration, torture, sexual abuse, forced labour and beatings, will secure a statement of regret over Britain's role in the Kenya Emergency, and a victims' welfare fund.

The test case could open the door for claims from around a thousand others still alive who survived the detention camps during the bloody rebellion against colonial rule.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) contends that Britain is not legally liable, with the Kenyan government succeeding the colonial administration upon independence in 1963.

After eight years of pursuing their case, the Kenyans are finally facing the High Court.

Wambugu Wa Nyingi, 83 this year, is one of the four claimants who have travelled from Kenya.

He says he was detained without charge for nine years, subjected to forced labour and beaten daily with sticks.

Nyingi says he survived a massacre at the British-run Hola Camp, lying unconscious for three days alongside 11 people who were killed.

Talking to AFP through a Kikuyu-speaking interpreter, he said he thought Britain would meet "international norms" and "correct those injustices".

Though a member of the Kenya African Union (KAU) party, which advocated independence, he said he did not take the Mau Mau oath and join the violent rebellion.

"I suffered physical violence on my head, on my legs, I still have the scars today because of the beatings from the colonial administrators," he said.

"I am here to get justice for the many of my colleagues who have since died, and others who are still alive but living in abject poverty because of the injustices that were committed by the British colonial government.

"It's their responsibility to own up and pay us back now, compensate us, so that when I die, I do not have to keep telling my grandchildren of the injustices that were done.

"I need justice so that I can die a happy man."

Their claims are supported by the Kenyan government.

As a result of the case being brought, Britain is releasing two thousand boxes of secret files from its former colonies, including around 30 on the Mau Mau uprising which were whisked out of Kenya just before independence.

That has led to suggestions that besides Kenya, London could face further claims from several other former British administrations, such as Nigeria, Cyprus and Palestine.

More than 10,000 people were killed during the 1952-1960 Mau Mau uprising, with some figures going much higher.

Tens of thousands were detained, including US President Barack Obama's grandfather.

Dan Leader, lawyer for the four Kenyans at the High Court, said the "brutal repression" involved "torture on a systematic basis in detention camps... "that was sanctioned at the very highest level of government".

"Things sometimes go wrong within the best kind of democracies. Democracies show strength when they admit to it," he told AFP.

He said the cases had not been brought sooner because the research piecing together the paper trail to London had not been done, while the Mau Mau had been a taboo subject in Kenya until recent years.

An FCO spokeswoman told AFP that the Emergency period "remains a deeply divisive issue within Kenya" and "caused a great deal of pain for many on all sides".

However, "The UK intends to fully defend these cases.

"The UK government is not transferring responsibility to the government of Kenya for dealing with the allegations; we are simply stating that under the law, Her Majesty's Government cannot be held liable in this case."

© 2011 AFP

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