Dark colonial past emerges in UK case

April 6, 2011 12:00 am

, LONDON, Apr 6 – A UK Government ‘cover-up’ of one of the darkest episodes in British colonial history emerged on Monday on the eve of a High Court battle by veterans of Kenya’s independence war.

Around 300 boxes of documents ‘lost’ for almost half a century have been unearthed as four elderly Kenyans claim compensation for torture carried out against Mau Mau rebels.

The Kenyans say they suffered ‘unspeakable acts of brutality, including castrations and severe sexual assault’ in British-run detention camps during the rebellion against colonial rule between 1952 and 1960.

The 1,500 files – documenting efforts to put down the Mau Mau guerrilla insurgency – were spirited out of Africa on the eve of Kenya’s independence in 1963 and brought to Britain. The missing documents, with material that ‘might embarrass her Majesty’s Government’ removed, were thought to have been lost or destroyed.

But after a High Court judge ordered the government to produce all relevant evidence, the files – which filled 110ft of shelving – were found in the Foreign Office.

They are expected to play a key role in the court action beginning Wednesday by Kenyan claimants who want a statement of regret from the government and a welfare fund for victims. With at least 1,400 other former Mau Mau detainees still alive, Britain could face a multi-million-pound compensation bill if the Kenyans win their case.

At least 12,000 rebels were killed in the bloody fight for independence but appalling atrocities were committed by both sides.

Among those rounded up as the British colonial administration tried to suppress the Mau Mau was Hussein Onyango Obama, the US President’s grandfather, who was imprisoned for two years and tortured, according to his family. One of the four Kenyans due to give evidence in the High Court next week is Ndiku Mutwiwa Mutua, 79, a herdsman who according to court documents was arrested after supplying food to Mau Mau rebels. He was allegedly castrated.

Another claimant, Wambugu wa Nyingi, says he was suspended by his feet and severely beaten while cold water was poured on to his face to stop him breathing, in treatment echoing water-boarding.

The only woman claimant says she was subjected to sexual torture. Lawyers for the four elderly Kenyans will argue that detainees were subjected to ‘gross abuse and torture’ as part of a systematic policy.

But Government lawyers will argue that the case should be dismissed because the alleged abuse was carried out by the colonial government, which passed all rights and responsibilities to independent Kenya in 1963.

The Foreign Office declined to comment on the documents.

This story was published by The Daily Mail



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