British-backed Kenya Mau Mau memorial opens in rare colonial apology

September 12, 2015 10:20 am
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At least 10,000 people died in one of the British Empire's bloodiest insurgencies -- some historians say over double that -- and the security operation to tackle the 1952-1960 struggle was marked by horrific abuses/CFM
At least 10,000 people died in one of the British Empire’s bloodiest insurgencies — some historians say over double that — and the security operation to tackle the 1952-1960 struggle was marked by horrific abuses/CFM
NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 12 – A British-funded memorial to the thousands killed, tortured and jailed in the Mau Mau rebellion was unveiled in Kenya on Saturday, in a rare example of former rulers commemorating a colonial uprising.

At least 10,000 people died in one of the British Empire’s bloodiest insurgencies — some historians say over double that — and the security operation to tackle the 1952-1960 struggle was marked by horrific abuses.

The guerrillas, mainly from the Kikuyu people, terrorised colonial communities with attacks from bases in remote forests, challenging white settlers for valuable land. But while attention at the time focused on 32 murdered settlers, the number of Kenyans killed was far higher.

Britain’s High Commissioner to Kenya, Christian Turner, said he was “humbled” to be at the ceremony.

“I hope that this memorial will allow us to acknowledge and discuss together the issues arising from a difficult period in the history of both Britain and Kenya, and that it offers us the opportunity to draw a line and move forward,” Turner said.

“This is the right thing to do for those of you who suffered, for Britain and Kenya, and our joint relationship,” he said. “To deal with the present and move forward into the future, we have to recognise and learn from the past.”

British and Kenyan flags fluttered over Nairobi’s Uhuru, or ‘Freedom’, park, with a crowd of several thousand Mau Mau veterans surrounding the memorial, many still with their trademark but greying dreadlocks.

Many of the Mau Mau veterans, well over 70 years old, were wearing T-shirts adorned with the slogan “heroes”.
Turner was given a huge cheer, and many of the former fighters pressed forward to shake his hand.

Thousands suffered horrific torture including sexual mutilation, and tens of thousands more were detained in shockingly harsh detention camps.

Turner himself described how his step-grandfather had been Kenyan police chief during the colonial period, resigning in 1954 over “colonial administration’s failure to address brutality committed by the security forces.”

– Britain’s ‘first apology’ for abuses –

The memorial features a statue of a dreadlocked Mau Mau fighter armed with a homemade rifle being handed food by a woman supporter. Although a joint project between Britain, the Mau Mau Veterans Association and the Kenya Human Rights Commission, the £90,000 (138,00 dollar, 124,00 euro) bill was paid by London.

“This memorial is a symbol of reconciliation between the British government, the Mau Mau, and all those who suffered,” reads the stone plaque on the memorial.

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