Kenya freedom fighters to sue Britain

May 10, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 10 – Kenya’s Mau Mau veterans on Sunday instructed their lawyers to lodge a claim against the British government for compensation over colonial-era violations.

Through the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), the veterans have instructed London-based law firm Leigh Day and Company to proceed with the suit in the UK.

KHRC Acting Executive Director Tom Kagwe said they had been able to document 40 cases of torture, castration, severe sexual abuse and unlawful detention which were allegedly carried out by officers of the British government.

“It is hoped that this will be an opportunity for the British government to come to terms with this stain on British history and to apologise to Kenyans for the historic wrong,” he said.

“Unless this happens, the sense of injustice arising out of Britain’s excessive response to the Mau Mau movement will continue to be deeply felt among all Kenyans for generations to come.”

British lawyer, Dan Leader said they would lodge the claim on June 23.

The commission said the actual number of Kenyans who suffered the barbaric treatment at the hands of British officers run into their thousands.

Lawyer Paul Muite said the move was aimed at forcing the British government to accept responsibility for the violations which recent research has shown were sanctioned by the government through its Colonial Secretary in Kenya between 1950s and 1960s.
“What we are doing is what the Americans call a class action, (while) the British call it a representative suit. It is not every victim whose name will be on the paper which will be filed on June 23; we have picked six to seven whose names will appear on behalf of all the others if we succeed on the issue of liability then of course the respective amounts to be paid to the claimants will be ascertained,” said Mr Muite.

Mr Leader said the claim would be on behalf of those who suffered gross human rights violations at the hands of the British government and are still alive adding that suits incorporating families of the former veterans could be pursued in the future.   

“We have discovered memos which show that these techniques that were so unbelievably brutal and in stark violation of all human rights treaties that were in existence at the time were authorized by the colonial system,” he said.

Mau Mau War Veterans Association spokesman Mzee Gitu wa Kahengeri was confident that they would succeed in the suit that will also restore dignity and respect to members of Kenya’s independence struggle. 

KHRC’s Mr Kagwe pointed out the irony of Britain spearheading various post-war human rights treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and European Convention on Human Rights Fundamental Freedom in 1950 while it was violating basic human rights in Kenya.


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