The British government has finally decided to apologize to those who were held and tortured during the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya. Compensation for the victims of the British administrations' attempts at quelling the rebellion, almost 60 years after the torture took place.
The Mau Mau uprising is also known as the Mau Mau Revolt, Mau Mau Rebellion and the Kenya Emergency. Its name may depend on your country of origin. For the British in 1952, when the conflict began, it was an unlawful uprising in one of its dominions, namely Kenya.
Britain's Commonwealth was beginning to shrink but countries such as Kenya and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) were still classed as part of the British Empire, established over centuries.
The uprising involved members of the Kikuyu dominated anti-colonial group, the Mau Mau. The leader of these rebels was Dedan Kimathi but in 1956, the British army captured this man ending the British conflict. It did not however end the people's quest for freedom and equality.
People of the Kikuyu were exploited by white immigrant landowners who owned land seized from local tribes people. Kenya was a divided country with local people splitting into tribes and a distinct social pecking order even amongst laborers.
The Mau Mau became organized and attacked the opposition traditionally, as they had no heavy weapons.
"... Mau Mau attacks were restricted to nighttime and where loyalist positions were weak. When attacks did commence they were fast and brutal, as insurgents were easily able to identify loyalists because they were often local to those communities themselves. The Lari massacre was by comparison rather outstanding and in contrast to regular Mau Mau strikes which more often than not targeted only loyalists without such massive civilian casualties. Later regretted by the Mau Mau command due to its negative impact on the indigenous insurgency support “even the attack upon Lari, in the view of the rebel commanders was strategic and specific.” -Wikipedia
The rebels demanded an end to colonial rule and land-rights but in 1952, the British government intended to keep its rule over Kenya. The bloody uprising resulted in thousands of deaths. Many Mau Mau tribesmen who were captured claimed they were tortured by representatives of the British administration of Kenya.
After the conflict ended, Britain refused to be held accountable. The UK stance was that when Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963, all responsibilities passed to the country's new rulers.
That idea was challenged in the High Court in 2012 by Paulo Muoka Nzili, Wambuga Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara. These three test cases showed that in law there was a case to answer. According to the BBC:
"Their lawyers alleged Mr. Nzili was castrated, Mr. Nyingi was severely beaten and Mrs. Mara was subjected to appalling sexual abuse in detention camps during the rebellion."
The British government still tried to wriggle its way out of accepting liability, now saying the legal challenge was outside of legal time-limits. In October 2012, however, this was overruled and the court ruled the case of the three torture victims could proceed.
After having their hand forced, the British government gave in. Today, it is understood that British Foreign Secretary William Hague will announce compensation in the region of $20 million (£14 million). The government will also apologize to the victims.
The British administration detained 160,000 people. The camps were appalling and the prisoners suffered terrible abuse. An estimated 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured, or maimed, according to a Kenyan Human Rights organization.
Britain, like so many countries, has a bloody past. It used concentration camps to contain locals during the Second Boer War of the early 20th Century. Many claim that Great Britain invented the concentration camp to restrict the movement and action of people, although Spain was probably the first country to do so.
For some of the victims of the British handling of the Mau Mau uprising, an apology and compensation will be too little, too late. For those who are still alive justice may have been a long-time coming but finally it is here.
We cannot change the past but we can learn from it and we should be able to hold our hands up and admit responsibility for our crimes.