LONDON, May 6 – Britain is negotiating to compensate thousands of Kenyans who claim they were severely mistreated by their colonial rulers during the 1950s Mau Mau uprising, the Guardian reported on Monday.
According to a letter sent to lawyers representing some of the claimants, the Foreign Office is adjourning an appeal against last October’s High Court ruling which gave victims the green light to sue the government.
Instead, Britain is offering to start negotiating a settlement, according to the report.
“The parties are currently exploring the possibility of settling the claims brought by our clients,” Dan Leader, a partner with the Leigh Day law firm told the Guardian.
“Clearly, given the ongoing negotiations, we can’t comment further.”
The Foreign Office said it would be “inappropriate” to discuss the talks.
“We believe there should be a debate about the past,” it said in a prepared statement.
“It is an enduring feature of our democracy that we are willing to learn from our history.
“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. It is right that those who feel they have a case are free to take it to the courts.
“Our relationship with Kenya and its people has moved on and is characterised by close co-operation and partnership, building on the many positives from our shared history,” it added.
The High Court last year heard allegations that Paulo Muoka Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara were subjected to torture and sexual mutilation.
The trio’s lawyers said Nzili was castrated, Nyingi severely beaten and Mara subjected to appalling sexual abuse in detention camps during the Mau Mau rebellion.
A fourth claimant, Susan Ngondi, has died since legal proceedings began.
The British government at the time accepted that British forces tortured detainees but said it was “disappointed” with the judgement.
It warned of “potentially significant and far-reaching legal implications”.
London had initially argued that all liabilities were transferred to the new rulers of Kenya when the east African country was granted independence.
At least 10,000 people died during the 1952-1960 Mau Mau uprising, with some sources giving far higher estimates.
Tens of thousands were detained, including US President Barack Obama’s grandfather.
The discovery of a vast archive of colonial-era documents which the Foreign Office had kept hidden for decades revealed the extent of the mistreatment.
It was only when the Kenya Human Rights Commission contacted the victims in 2006 that they realised they could take legal action.