6 Jun 2013

Kenya’s Mau Mau victims to get £19.9m compensation

Foreign Secretary William Hague announces a £19.9m total payout to 5,228 victims of the colonial administration during the 1950s Mau Mau emergency in Kenya.

Mr Hague told the House of Commons that the 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 the government has now agreed a settlement with lawyers Leigh Day “in full and final settlement” of their clients’ claim over human rights abuses by the British during the colonial era. It will also fund a permanent memorial to victims in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

The British High Commissioner will on Thursday make a public statement to Mau Mau war veterans in Kenya, explaining the settlement and expressing “our regret for the events of the emergency period” Mr Hague told MPs.

No precedent

The move follows a legal battle between elderly victims and the British government, last year the high court ruled three tortured Kenyans could pursue compensation claims against the government.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office had claimed the actions were brought outside the legal time limit and cited “irredeemable difficulties” in relation to the availability of witnesses. It did not dispute they suffered “torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration”.

Lawyers for Wambugu Wa Nyingi, Paulo Muoka Nzili and Jane Muthoni Mara argued it was an exceptional case in which the judge should exercise his discretion in their favour.

Mr Hague insisted that the government had been right to defend the case for as long as it had, adding that the government did not accept liability for the actions of a separate colonial administration fifty years ago. The case should not be seen, he added, as a precedent for any future claims by former subjects of British colonies.

Read more: Kenyans seek damages from UK 

In the 1950s the Mau Mau movement emerged in central Kenya fighting for the return of seized land and calling for an end to colonial rule. Many supporters were detained in camps and thousands were tortured, maimed or executed.