, NAIROBI, Kenya, July 21 – The Mau Mau War Veterans Association has welcomed Thursday’s ruling by a British court that allowed their suit for compensation over alleged colonial atrocities during the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya more than 50 years ago to proceed.
While addressing journalists at the Kenya Human Rights Commission offices in Nairobi, Secretary General Gitu Kahengeri expressed optimism that their suit against torture they suffered under the British colonial government will succeed.
“For a very long time we have remained steadfast in our pursuit for justice, for the torture we suffered under the British government, with today’s ruling we are happy that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” said the elated elderly war veteran.
While appreciating the importance of skipping a significant hurdle in the first of objections by the UK, he also asked the British government to expedite the proceedings as many of the surviving Mau Mau veterans were in their sunset days and wished to see the case concluded.
“As we move forward we hope that we will have an opportunity to discuss the ways of settling our case as soon as possible. We are afraid that if the British government continues to deny us justice based on mere technicalities then most of us will not be able to be there to witness justice if and when it finally comes,” he further stated.
Justice McCombe of the Royal Court of Justice in London, on Thursday struck out an attempt by the British Government that was aimed at stopping the proceedings on grounds that Kenya had established a government that could deal with the claims by the Mau Mau survivors.
Justice McCombe termed the effort by British government to avoid being held accountable as dishonourable.
The judge ruled that the claimants had an “arguable case” but it would be for a full trial to decide.
“There is ample evidence that even in the few papers that I have seen suggesting that there may have been systematic torture of detainees during the emergency,” ruled justice McCombe referring to the state of Emergency declared by the British government during the time of the Mau Mau uprising.
The Executive Director of the Kenya Human rights Commission Muthoni Wanyeki is also hopeful that the ruling has set the mood for striking out the remaining application by the British government that seeks the nullification of the suit on grounds that it has been overtaken by events.
“Reading between the lines I don’t see the judge in the mood for any other technical applications,” she said.
In a quick rejoinder, the UK’s Foreign Office Minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham said the British Government had taken note of the judgment and was considering the next steps.
“It is right that those who feel they have a case are free to take it to the courts. We understand the pain and grievance felt by those, on all sides, who were involved in the divisive and bloody events of the Emergency period in Kenya.
He said despite the court’s judgment, the UK Government will continue to defend fully the proceedings given the length of time elapsed and the complex legal and constitutional questions the case raises.
“Our relationship with Kenya and its people has moved on since the Emergency period. We are now partners and the UK is one of the largest bilateral donors in Kenya.”