Mau Mau torture victims to receive compensation - Hague


Mathenge Wa Ireri: "It is not quite enough because of the punishment we had"

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Kenyans tortured by British colonial forces during the Mau Mau uprising will receive payouts totalling £20m, Foreign Secretary William Hague has announced.

He said the UK government recognised Kenyans were tortured and it "sincerely regrets" the abuses that took place.

A lawyer for the victims said they "at last have the recognition and justice they have sought for many years".

Thousands of people were killed during the Mau Mau revolt against British rule in Kenya in the 1950s.

Mr Hague also announced plans to support the construction of a permanent memorial to the victims in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

'Pain and grievance'

'Battered and left for dead'

Kenya torture claimant Wambuga Wa Nyingi

Wambuga Wa Nyingi, 85, detailed his torture at the hands of the British colonial authorities in a witness statement.

He was a tractor driver and member of the pro-independence Kenya African Union - but never took the Mau Mau oath.

He survived the Hola massacre in 1959, when 11 Kenyans were beaten to death by prison guards in a detention camp.

He said: "I was battered on the back of my head and around my neck repeatedly with a club. I believe that the beating went on for up to 20 minutes...

"I lay unconscious with the 11 corpses for two days in a room where the corpses had been placed awaiting burial.

"The people who put me there thought I was also dead."

More victims' stories

Mau Mau revolt: Your experiences

"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," he told the Commons.

"The British government recognises that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration.

"The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place and that they marred Kenya's progress towards independence."

Mr Hague said 5,228 victims would receive payments totalling £19.9m following an agreement with lawyers acting for the victims, who have been fighting for compensation for a number of years.

The compensation amounts to about £3,000 per victim and applies only to the living survivors of the abuses that took place.

Mr Hague said Britain still did not accept it was legally liable for the actions of what was a colonial administration in Kenya.

Christian Turner, the British High Commissioner to Kenya, also made a statement on the settlement to members of the Mau Mau War Veterans' Association in Nairobi.

Gitu wa Kahengeri, secretary-general of the association, said it was the "beginning of reconciliation between the Mau Mau freedom fighters of Kenya and the British government".

But BBC East Africa correspondent Gabriel Gatehouse said the reaction in Kenya was "muted".

'Big milestone'

He said it may have been because the announcement had been expected or because it was marred by the UK government continuing to deny liability for some of the abuses.

William Hague: "[We] sincerely regret that these abuses took place"

That said, it was a "big milestone" for the Mau Mau veterans, said our correspondent.

In a statement, Martyn Day, of law firm Leigh Day, said it took "courage to publically acknowledge for the first time the terrible nature of Britain's past in Kenya".

"The elderly victims of torture now at last have the recognition and justice they have sought for many years. For them the significance of this moment cannot be over-emphasised," he said.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu - who backed the case and last year wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron accusing Britain of trying to evade its legal responsibility to the victims - said the settlement was a "balm" for both the victims and perpetrators.

"It sends a signal to the world that no matter how badly human beings behave towards one another, goodness ultimately prevails," said the South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate.


  • The Mau Mau, a guerrilla group, began as a violent campaign against white settlers in 1952
  • The uprising was eventually put down by the British colonial government
  • The Kenya Human Rights Commission says 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed
  • It says 160,000 people were detained in appalling conditions
  • Kenya gained independence in 1963

But Bryan Cox, who is representing Tandem Law, said there were "thousands" of further claims that remain unresolved and "the matter was far from over".

He said the law firm was working with more than 8,000 Kenyans who were still awaiting an agreement with the UK government.

The UK has argued that all liabilities for the torture by colonial authorities was transferred to the Kenyan Republic upon independence in 1963 and that it could not be held liable now.

But in 2011, the High Court in London ruled that four claimants did have "arguable cases in law".

Their lawyers allege Paulo Muoka Nzili was castrated, Wambuga Wa Nyingi was severely beaten and Jane Muthoni Mara was subjected to appalling sexual abuse in detention camps during the rebellion. A fourth claimant, Ndiku Mutwiwa Mutua, died last year.

Violent campaign

After the ruling, the case went back to the High Court to consider a claim by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) that the actions had been brought outside the legal time limit.

The FCO said it had faced "irredeemable difficulties" in relation to the availability of witnesses and documents.

Victims' lawyer Martyn Day: "A truly historic moment"

But in October last year, the court ruled the victims had established a proper case and allowed their claims to proceed to trial despite the time elapsed.

At the time, victims' lawyer Mr Day said he would be pressing for a trial "as quickly as possible" but would also be pushing for the government to reach an out-of-court settlement.

The Mau Mau, a guerrilla group, began a violent campaign against white settlers in 1952, but the uprising was eventually put down by the British colonial government.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission says 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed, and 160,000 people were detained in appalling conditions, although a number of historians believe the figure is lower.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    What about all the whites murdered by the Mau Mau, when will their families get their compensation, from these terrorists, perhaps this money should be laid aside for them.
    Are David Cameron and William Hague going to apologize to everyone in the world we ever went to war with, will they get compensation too, this is a step too far.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    213. IfImay - claim against the City of Rome - the Italians were regarded by then as separate and inferior back then. Rome was to blame, not Italy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    I agree that something doesn't cease to have happened simply because time has passed. However, from what I have read, the Mau Mau were equally as capable of dishing out atrocites as the Brits were. Will their victims now sue them for their share of the payout?

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    #216 imager

    "Will the Kenyan Government apologise and compensate for the thousands of Britons mutilated, raped and killed by the Mau Mau?"’s-faces-colonial-past-kenya

    "Just 32 white settlers were killed during the rebellion and crackdown,

    90,000 Kenyan’s were executed, tortured or maimed ...., while 160,000 were detained in appalling conditions."

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    There is evidence the Mau Mau uprising actually postponed the British pull out of Kenya. There is also evidence of torture and killing of the Mau Mau people and fighters. To hold the current population of the UK guilty is wrong. The working class in the UK suffered for years at the hands of the wealthy. Treated like slaves, worked to death in slums. But all that's forgotten. No compensation for us

  • Comment number 233.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    I applaud this decision by the British Government. As a nation we should be proud that we are taking a lead in acknowledging our mistakes in the past. It will also challenge other nations to act with greater honour and integrity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Sorry but what the..... This is entirely proper and should have been done AGES ago.

    People whining about pensions and having to work longer? Well I will have to work longer, and it doesn't mean I begrudge people being compensated for crimes committed by the UK. We were wrong... and it is well overdue that we put it right, or as right as we can.

    We shouldn't have even been there at that time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Will we also be apologising for inflicting President Mugabe on Zimbabwe, and President Banda on Malawi, both notorious dictators at end of British rule. And what about the chaos that is Pakistan. Lord Mountbatten presiding over the division of India? He was an utter disaster, giving way to the religious zealots. Look at the Taliban disaster we have on our hands now?

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Genuinely worrying that people are making comparisons with Ancient Rome's imperialism. The attitude appears to be "Well it was in the past so let's forget about it". And this from a nation that is so obsessively hung up on WWII.

    No doubt if you were born in Germany at the right time you'd be goose-stepping with the rest of them.

  • Comment number 228.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    So we are fighting terrorism but we give money to terrorists. Seems funny that, does that mean the government has committed a crime under Anti Terrorist Law, by given Aid and sucker to a declared enemy. Terrorists. Can we have a leader with the courage of the Australian Prime Minister, please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    Germany did pay reparations after WW2

    @12.Bill Walker
    The Nazis & Japanese were invading other countries, the Kenyans were trying to kick us out of their country - see the difference?

    Would you side with the Romans over Boadecia? The Normans against Harold?

    This time WE were the invaders & they the defenders. Of course the payments are just & a paltry £4k per person!

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    This sets a very worrying precedent.. I suspect they'll be a whole host of greedy lawyers looking at every single British incident over the last 200 years and seeing how they can grease their palms in compensation revenue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    It seems everyone gets something from this country exept the British tax payer.How about the injustice to women in their 50's and 60's who have lost out on their pensions and are having to work longer!

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    ENOUGH IS ENOUGH..!!!! When will it end...

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Once again "'British' human rights lawyers" are seen defending foreign nationals.

    In whose interest do these lawyers act? Certainly not the national interest. It's an absolute disgrace!

    They have extracted £20m of British taxpayers money for an event, with atrocities on both sides, that happened 60 years ago!

    The government are equally complicit! Trecherous and spineless, both of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    I wouldn't give them a penny but as Hague is determined to throw money at terrorists,
    1.the money should not be given directly but used to pay 'victims'' health bills as they arise so nothing goes to lawyers.
    2.the total sum should be subtracted from British aid to Kenya.

    Certainly,it's about time that Hague be replaced.He apologises for and appeases terrorists while abusing democratic allies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    Just how far back in time do we have to go before the misdeeds of our predecessors are no longer the subject of a damages claim against current generations? Can we claim damages for the atrocities of the Vikings and Normans? Of course not! However regrettable events in the past have been, surely this culture of litigation and apology for the misdeeds of others has to stop within a sensible time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    It's a pity Japan does not do the same regarding the way they treated Allied prisoners in WW2.


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