Mau Mau want out-of-court award in UK case

September 2, 2011 2:31 pm

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 2- Victims of torture during Kenya’s colonial days are now calling for an out-of-court settlement over what they call gross human rights violations in their petition against the British government.

Through their lawyer Martyn Day, the veterans said that they wanted to resolve the case amicably before time runs out on them and sooner than the constraints of old age kick in.

Mr Day, who spoke after a meeting between his clients and Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Friday, noted that the British government had fears of giving in to the demands of the war veterans as it might set precedence for other former British colonies.

“Unfortunately I think the big issue in Britain is that the British government worries that if it concedes here for the Mau Mau, it will have claims from Malaysia, India and all the others that were under Britain,” he said.

“If this was a case on its own, I think it would have been settled a long time ago,” he added.

Mau Mau War Veterans Association spokesperson Gitu wa Kahengeri said that the out-of-court settlement would help save time and ensure that the victims got reparation.

He noted that although the case was filed in June 2009 it was yet to be concluded and several of those who filed it had since died.

When the case was first filed, there were five lead claimants: Wambugu Nyingi, Jane Muthoni Mara, Ndiku Mutwiwa, Susan Ciongombe and Paul Nzili.

Ms Ciongombe passed away last year.

“We have lost more than two colleagues since the case begun. Just last week we were in Kirinyaga to bid farewell to General Kassam, another of our fallen colleagues, who was also enjoined in this case. With our old age, how many people, do you think, have died since we started?” he asked.

Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara further challenged the government to provide financial and political support to the old guards arguing that it would increase pressure on the British Foreign Office.

He also noted that the Prime Minister told the veterans that the Cabinet would originate a resolution so that the matter could be introduced to Parliament in form of a law that would recognise them.

The veterans have already met Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula together with Chief Justice Willy Mutunga over the same matter. They are also scheduled to meet the Attorney General and Justice Minister over their bid.

“The lawyers in London have been acting pro bono and the veterans have also been receiving support from two civil societies. When these people fly to London, it’s the Kenya Human Rights Commission together with well wishers who fund the trip and we want the government to support them,” he explained.

The British government has been pushing to have the application thrown out on grounds that the Kenyan government bears sole responsibility for any abuses committed during the colonial time. The British argue that the Kenyan government inherited the crimes committed at the time when the country got independence.

However the Kenyan government maintains that it cannot inherit the crimes committed under another governance structure.

Widespread acts of brutality, ranging from murder, sexual assaults and even castration, were committed against Kenyans who were held in detention camps across the country at the time. Camp guards are accused of engaging in regular beatings that often resulted in death.

In March 1959, 11 detainees are said to have been killed by the guards at a camp in Hola, Tana River. An inquest found that each death was caused by shock and haemorrhage due to multiple bruising. It is however difficult to document the exact number of Kenyans who lost their lives during the emergency.

The claimants represent the wider community of elderly Kenyans who suffered during the colonial period.


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