Justice for Kenya's Mau Mau as UK offers cash and apology

Compensation of £20m for 5,200 insurgents abused and tortured by British troops in colonial Kenya

(Image credit: Three Lions/Getty Images)

THE BRITISH government has apologised and offered compensation of £20 million, to more than 5000 Kenyans abused and tortured during the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s and 60s.

  • Justice for Kenya’s Mau Mau – in pictures

The BBC reports that Foreign Secretary William Hague told the Commons today his government "sincerely regrets" the abuse of victims who suffered beatings, rape and castration at the hands of the then-British administration. About 5,200 Kenyans say they were abused during the so-called Kenyan 'Emergency' between 1952 and 1960, when fighters from the Mau Mau nationalist movement attacked British targets.

Sky News estimates the compensation deal will pay victims about £3000 each. While the sum per claimant is modest by British standards it is about five times Kenya's national income per capita.

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The UK had repeatedly tried to "block" legal attempts by the Mau Mau to claim compensation. It argued that responsibility for the mistreatment of members of the nationalist organisation, which was formed in the 1950s by the Kikuyu people, had transferred to the Kenyan government upon independence in 1963.

Britain’s lawyers also argued that too much time had elapsed for a fair trial, reports The Independent. But the discovery of an archive of 8,000 documents from 37 former colonies persuaded British judges that this was not the case.

One of the documents was a memo from Eric Griffith-Jones, then the Attorney general of Kenya, who agreed to beatings as long as they were done secretly. "If we are going to sin, we must sin quietly," he wrote.

In October last year, a London court ruled that three elderly victims who were tortured during the crackdown by British troops could sue the UK.

Lawyers allege that Paulo Muoka Nzili was castrated, Wambuga Wa Nyingi was severely beaten and Jane Muthoni Mara was subjected to "appalling sexual abuse" in detention camps during the rebellion, the BBC reports.

The court ruling forced Whitehall to change tack and begin the negotiations which have lead to today’s apology and offer of compensation.

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