LONDON, Jun 6 – Britain was on Thursday expected to announce compensation for thousands of Kenyans who claim they were abused and tortured in prison camps during the 1950s Mau Mau uprising, according to a government source.
The Foreign Office (FCO) last month confirmed that it was negotiating settlements for claimants who accuse British imperial forces of severe mistreatment including torture and sexual abuse.
Around 5,000 claimants are each in line to receive over £2,500 ($3,850, 2,940 euros), according to British press reports.
The FCO said in last month’s statement that “there should be a debate about the past”.
“It is an enduring feature of our democracy that we are willing to learn from our history,” it added.
“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.”
In a test case, claimants Paulo Muoka Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara last year told Britain’s High Court how they were subjected to torture and sexual mutilation.
Lawyers said that 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 accepted that detainees had been tortured, but initially claimed that all liabilities were transferred to the new rulers of Kenya when the east African country was granted independence.
It also warned of “potentially significant and far-reaching legal implications”.
But judge Richard McCombe ruled last October that a fair trial was possible, citing the “voluminous documentation”.
At least 10,000 people died during the 1952-1960 uprising, with some sources giving far higher estimates.
The guerrilla fighters – often with dread-locked hair and wearing animal skins as clothes – terrorised colonial communities.
Tens of thousands were detained.
It was only when the Kenya Human Rights Commission contacted the victims in 2006 that they realised they could take legal action.
Their case was boosted when the government admitted it had a secret archive of more than 8,000 files from 37 former colonies.
Despite playing a key part in Kenya’s path to independence, the rebellion also created bitter divisions within communities, with some joining the fighters and others serving the colonial power.