The British government will pay the equivalent of more than $30 million to Kenyans tortured by British colonial forces in the 1950s, Foreign Secretary William Hague announced Thursday.
More than 5,000 survivors of the aftermath of the Mau Mau insurgency, an uprising against colonial rule, will receive compensation for abuse they endured at the hands of British forces, Hague said. The government will also fund a memorial to the victims in Kenya.
“I would like to make clear now and for the first time, on behalf of Her Majesty’s government, that we understand the pain and grievance felt by those who were involved in the events of the Emergency in Kenya,” Hague said from the floor of Parliament Wednesday.
“The British Government recognizes that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill treatment at the hands of the colonial administration,” he added. “The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place, and that they marred Kenya’s progress towards independence.”
His statement marked the government’s first public acknowledgement of its abuse of Kenyans during the eight-year uprising. Survivors have campaigned for half a century for redress of violations including rape, castration and beatings.
"I was battered on the back of my head and around my neck repeatedly with a club,” said Wambuga Wa Nyingi, in a witness statement quoted by the BBC.
Now 84, the former tractor driver and member of the Kenya African Union detailed his experience at the hands of British authorities.
"I lay unconscious with the 11 corpses for two days in a room where the corpses had been placed awaiting burial,” he said. “The people who put me there thought I was also dead, but I was in fact unconscious."
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Lawyers for the now-aged victims hailed the announcement.
“The elderly victims of torture now at last have the recognition and justice they have sought for many years,” lawyer Martyn Day said, according to the BBC. “For them, this significance of this moment cannot be over emphasized.”
The bloody Mau Mau rebellion took place in Kenya between 1952 and 1960. Armed insurgents rising against British rule killed 32 white settlers and 5,000 Africans, according to the Telegraph. In response, the British interned some 150,000 Kenyans and led a campaign against the rebels that claimed as many as 20,000 lives.