Socialist Worker

Kenyan elections expose official British hypocrisy

At the same time as Britain condemns new Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta for his indictment by the International Criminal Court, the British government is trying to avoid paying compensation to people it tortured in the country during the 1950s, writes Ken Olende

Issue No. 2344

The recent election in Kenya

The recent election in Kenya (Pic: IRIN Films)


The British media’s only interest in the victory of Uhuru Kenyatta in the Kenyan presidential election is his indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

Fewer people will know that the British government is trying to evade responsibility for crimes against humanity in Kenya. 

In the British courts it is trying to block a trial over atrocities it committed during the Mau Mau war in the 1950s.

Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s richest man, got 50.07 percent of the vote, just avoiding the need for a second round in the election.

He and his running mate William Ruto face charges at the ICC this July for organising ethnic purges during the 2007 election. 

Both deny the charges. 

After the election politicians from both competing parties were then brought into government. 

The idea of serious political change evaporated as the cabinet grew to over 40 ministers who all tucked into expenses.

People of all classes have been  relieved that the ethnic attacks after the last elections five years ago have not been repeated.

The attacks killed at least 1,200 people and displaced thousands more 

These were encouraged by mainstream politicians desperate to cling to power. 

The election turnout this time was 86 percent—showing how seriously ordinary people took the contest.

But neither leader has offered anything to the mass of poor people in Kenya.


Kenya remains one of the most unequal countries in the world.

The polarised election marginalised more radical parties.

Raila Odinga is challenging the result of the election in the courts. 

Despite occasional populist rhetoric Raila Odinga retains none of the radicalism that inspired his father in the 1960s.

The party leaders Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga are universally known in Kenya by their first names to avoid confusion with their more famous fathers—Jomo Kenyatta and Oginga Odinga.

Kenyatta became president at independence in 1963 and Odinga was his vice president. 

The two rapidly fell out, partly because Odinga complained about the pro-capitalist and increasingly corrupt direction Kenyatta led the country in. 

While the British were trying to hang onto their empire they had arrested Jomo Kenyatta as a dangerous radical. 

The British imprisoned him between 1952 and 1961, during the colonialists’ brutal suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion. 

Thousands of Kenyans were tortured and killed. At least 80,000 were held in concentration camps. 

The British government now claims to be outraged that it might have to work with someone who has been indicted by the ICC.

The same government is doing all it can to avoid paying compensation to Kenyan Mau Mau veterans who were tortured in the 1950s. 

It will appeal again at the high court in London on Monday 13 May. 

This is the third appeal since the veterans brought the case in 2009, so the court has yet to hear the full case. 

The government has been forced to admit that it has an extensive archive of documents on its colonial activities. 

It had previously claimed that these documents had been lost.

It gives the impression that it is trying to string the case out in the hope that the aging claimants will die. 


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Article information

Thu 21 Mar 2013, 14:18 GMT
Issue No. 2344
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