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Kenya trashes UK Mau Mau defence

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 2 – The government now says the move by the British Government to strike out a case filed by Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) on behalf of Mau Mau Veterans on grounds of state succession is unacceptable as Kenya cannot inherit criminal acts committed by the British colonial regime.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula on Thursday said the government fully supported works by KHRC in favour of the independence fighters and that it would partner with the commission in presenting the case whose hearing is set for June.

He explained that the government had already initiated discussions with the British High Commissioner as well as the British Foreign Secretary in pursuit of the matter.

“The Attorney General will be in touch with the solicitors acting for the Mau Mau veterans and will soon identify a suitable Queen’s Counsel to assist in the matter in view of the importance and gravity of the case. I am very concerned by the British government’s attempt to pass on the responsibility to the government of Kenya,” he said.

Mr Wetangula also asked the British government to lessen the costs of mitigation by admitting liability to allow the case to move on to the next stage- of settling damages.

“It’s never too late. This is not the first case where the issue of compensation has come up; we had the Samburu one where British soldiers harmed people and raped our women. They were directed by the court to pay compensation; they did and the payments got to the rightful persons,” he said.  

Mr Wetangula also asked Kenyans to accord necessary support to the war veterans saying they had fought for the independence of the country. He explained that his ministry would prepare a Cabinet memorandum for the cabinet’s sub-committee on Defence and Foreign relations for appraisal.

“This will also help defray some of the litigation costs. Equally we shall consider the possibility of helping the retention of senior Kenyan lawyers to join in the case. We remain committed to the position of recognising the costs borne by all freedom fighters for the cause of our independence,” he said.

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The government’s position was supported by a group of human rights organizations, politicians and international lawyers including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Sir Nigel Rodley- British member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

They sent an open letter to the British government saying: “Britain’s insistence that international human rights standards be respected by governments around the world will sound increasingly hollow if the door is shut in the face of these known victims of British torture.”

Gitu wa Kahengeri spokesperson of the Mau Mau War Veterans Association expressed gratitude for the government’s support. He noted that it was only in the year 2003 when the government lifted the de facto segregation on the association and allowed it to seek redress from Britain.

“Despite the horrors that were committed against us by the British and despite our persistent desire to get justice for over 40 years, Mau Mau remained a banned organisation and we could not get justice. However we have made tremendous progress in pursuit of justice and we hope that we will get justice,” he said.

The Kenyan government was responding to the British Government’s application to expunge claims of Kenyan victims of British colonial torture. The argument by Britain is that the current Kenyan government as the successor of the British colonial regime is liable for the torture committed by the colonial government.

The claims are on behalf of men and women who represent thousands of Kenyans who were detained and tortured during Kenya’s Emergency during the pre-colonial period.

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