, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 24 – Roads Minister Franklin Bett has backed a move by five Kenyans who have launched a compensation bid against the British government over claims that they were tortured and unlawfully imprisoned during colonial rule half a century ago.
The veterans of the Mau Mau revolt, which led to a series of bloody battles between Kenyan nationalists and British forces throughout the 1950s, left Kenya for the first time in their lives this month to make their claim in person in London.
Mr Bett said that the move by the veterans should set a precedent for claims for other similar injustices.
“I support the Mau Mau people, those who were actively involved or engaged in activities for purposes of the independence of this country. They should be compensated,” he stated.
The three men and two women are also hoping to shake off the label of terrorists given to them by their British rulers, and want to be seen as freedom fighters who helped liberate their country from the shackles of colonialism.
While the UK said that the claim was not valid due to the amount of time since the abuses were alleged to have happened, Mr Bett emphasised that no amount of time could dull such injustices.
“The land on which the Tea estates are sitting be they in Kericho or in Nandi were formally occupied by people who were forcefully removed and their animals taken away and their houses burnt,” he stressed.
“We do not care whether the person who did it is no longer there. It is your great grandfather who did all this so you have to pay up.”
The UK government has argued that any liability rested with the Kenyan authorities after independence in 1963.
Historians say the Mau Mau movement helped Kenya achieve independence, but their actions have also been blamed for crimes against white farmers and bloody clashes with British forces throughout the 1950s.
The armed movement began in Central Kenya with the aim of recovering land seized by British colonial authorities.
Veterans of the war said that they suffered barbaric treatment, including torture, as the British suppressed the rebellion.
90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed during the crackdown, and 160,000 others were detained in appalling conditions.
Ndiku Mutua, one of the five, said that he still lived with the physical and mental scars of his ordeal.
Mr Mutua said that in 1954 he was arrested, severely beaten and castrated with pliers at the Lukenya Detention Centre.
Another claimant, Paulo Nzili, also said he was castrated, while Wambugu Wa Nyingi said he was tied upside down and beaten.
Jane Muthoni Mara and Susan Ngondi said they were sexually assaulted.