, LONDON, Nov 30 – Secret documents released on Friday showed how British colonial authorities in Kenya tried to hush up the 1959 Hola detention camp massacre, in which 11 men were beaten to death.
The files shed more light on the March 3, 1959 deaths during the Mau Mau uprising, which were initially blamed on contaminated water, though autopsies found the men were beaten. No prosecutions were ever brought.
The papers revealed that prison camp staff made no attempt to tell the truth about what happened, while the government minister for Britain’s colonies wanted the incident to “drop out of sight”, according to the now-released files.
The testimony of a Kenyan colonial official that the camp commandant knew “perfectly well what was going on” was discounted by the attorney-general due to suspicions over his connections with a Kenyan nationalist politician.
The declassified Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) documents have been released by the National Archives.
One of three elderly Kenyans, who last month won a High Court ruling allowing him to sue the British government for damages over torture in detention, claims he was beaten unconscious during the incident.
London is appealing against the judgment, feeling it is not liable and a fair trial would be impossible more than 50 years after the event.
“These files are an important part of our history,” an FCO spokesman told AFP.
“It is not for us to comment on the detail of the papers released today, particularly given the ongoing court case brought on behalf of Mau Mau veterans.”
At least 10,000 people died during the bloody 1952-1960 Mau Mau uprising against British colonial rule, with some sources giving far higher estimates.
Tens of thousands were detained, including US President Barack Obama’s grandfather.