UK negotiating compensation for Mau Mau prison camp survivors


Kenyan nationals, from right, Wambugu wa Nyingi, Ndiku Mutua, Paulo Nzili and Jane Muthoni Mara, (L) outside the High Court in central London, on April 7, 2011. The four elderly Kenyans have won the right to sue the British government for brutality they claim they suffered at the hands of the British army during the 1950s Mau Mau uprising. They are hoping their cases, which include castration, torture, sexual abuse, forced labor and beatings, will secure a statement of regret over Britain's role in the Kenya Emergency, and a victims' welfare fund.


Carl Court

The British government is negotiating a possible payout to Kenyans who were beaten and tortured by colonial officials during the Mau Mau uprising against British rule in the 1950s, the Guardian reported.

During the eight-year rebellion, Kenyans attacked British officials and white farmers in the country, and the colonial authorities put down the insurgency by detaining 80,000 to 300,000 suspected Mau Mau supporters in prison camps.

Several elderly Kenyans are suing the British government for abuses they said they suffered in the camps, including being beaten unconscious, sexually assaulted and castrated.

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"The parties are currently exploring the possibility of settling the claims brought by our clients,” Dan Leader, a partner with Leigh Day & Co., the law firm representing the Kenyan camp survivors, said, according to the Guardian. “Clearly, given the ongoing negotiations, we can't comment further."

If a settlement is reached, up to 10,000 former prisoners who were abused by colonial officials could receive payments, costing the British government tens of millions of pounds, according to the Guardian.

The negotiations follow multiple attempts by UK government lawyers to prevent former Kenyan detainees from suing for compensation in the British courts.

First, the UK argued that the liability for any mistreatment under colonial rule passed to the Kenyan government when Kenya became independent in 1963. Then lawyers said the abuses happened too long ago to allow a fair trial.

However, the discovery last year of a secret Foreign Office archive of files from 37 former colonies added weight to the Kenyans’ claims. The files showed that senior British officials authorized abuses of people in the Kenyan prison camps.

In Oct. 2012, a judge ruled that, given the “voluminous” documentation, a fair trial was possible, the Guardian reported. "The governments and military commanders seem to have been meticulous record keepers,” the judge noted.

The Foreign Office would not comment on the negotiations, but said in a statement: “It is an enduring feature of our democracy that we are willing to learn from our history. Our relationship with Kenya and its people has moved on and is characterized by close co-operation and partnership, building on the many positives from our shared history.”