Socialist Worker

Climbdown as British government agrees to negotiate compensation for Mau Mau veterans

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2352

Supporters of the veterans celebrate outside the court after an earlier ruling

Supporters of the veterans celebrate outside the court after an earlier ruling (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The British government is in negotiation with lawyers about levels of compensation for veterans of the Mau Mau war in Kenya. 

The government had fought tooth and nail to avoid accepting responsibility for torture carried out by its forces in the 1950s. 

The British government’s  troops and police used extreme brutality to suppress a nationalist revolt in the east African country.

If the payments go ahead they will be the first compensation Britain has issued for crimes admitted to have occurred under imperial rule. 

The government has always pretended that the end of empire was a relatively peaceful affair. 

But evidence given in this case debunks this fantasy.

Indeed the government was due to have another appeal attempting to get the case thrown out on 13 May. 

Daniel Leader of the veterans’ lawyers Leigh Day announced that this has now been adjourned.

Three veterans are taking a test case to force the government to accept responsibility. If the negotiations are successful up to 10,000 former prisoners may be in line for compensation.

Charles Wainana of the Mau Mau Justice Network in London, which supports the claimants, said, “It is fantastic that the British have been forced to retreat. 

Precedent

“But the current negotiations will only be a victory if the settlement is for all our veterans. It should set a precedent for compensating all Kenyans who suffered and are still living in poverty. 

“We should not forget the seven demands put forward by veterans’ groups in Kenya.” 

Veterans’ groups in Kenya have been watching the case closely and have put together a series of demands to make sure that their interests are not sidelined. These include financial compensation for the victims. 

They also want the British to reveal where rebel leader Dedan Kimathi’s body was secretly buried after he was executed by imperial forces.

Activists are worried that the British government will try to make an out of court settlement that minimises responsibility. 

They want to set a precedent that other war veterans in Kenya and victims of British imperialism across the globe can follow up on.

The government had long denied that it has any records of abuse carried out by its forces. But during this case it was forced to admit that it had a vast archive of colonial documents in a warehouse in Buckinghamshire. 

It contained documents from 37 colonies including 1,500 secret files from Kenya alone.

The new papers made it impossible to deny that officials in Britain knew about the concentration camps in Kenya.

Or that they did not know about the routine torture that took place in them.

The government’s biggest worry must be that victims of British imperialism in other countries will follow suit and put in compensation claims.

 


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