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Mau Mau Veterans in Kenya Expect Impending Settlement

  • Roopa Gogineni

Seated left to right, Kenyans Jane Muthoni Mara, Wambogo Nyingi and Paulo Muoka Nzili celebrate the announcement of a legal decision in support of Mau Mau veteran reparation payments in Nairobi in this October 5, 2012, file photo.

Seated left to right, Kenyans Jane Muthoni Mara, Wambogo Nyingi and Paulo Muoka Nzili celebrate the announcement of a legal decision in support of Mau Mau veteran reparation payments in Nairobi in this October 5, 2012, file photo.

Thousands of elderly Kenyans are awaiting reparations for colonial-era abuses as their lawyers enter the final stages of negotiations with the British Foreign Office.

Amidst the Kenyan struggle for independence decades ago, the Mau Mau resistance movement launched a guerrilla war against the British colonial administration. Hundreds of thousands accused of participating in the uprising were detained, tortured or executed by the colonial government.

Last October, the British High Court ruled that the Foreign Office must stand trial for the crimes committed during the 1950s in colonial Kenya.

The British government announced it would appeal the decision, but ongoing negotiations between Mau Mau and Foreign Office lawyers could soon end in an out-of-court settlement.

Gitu wa Kahengeri is the spokesman for the Mau Mau War Veterans Association.

"They have offered to negotiate out of court. We have agreed. Then it all depends what offer they are going to give."

Five torture victims first filed their case against the Foreign Office in 2009 seeking financial compensation and a formal apology. One claimant has since died and another has fallen ill.

George Morara has been managing the case at the Kenyan Human Rights Commission.

"Our desire has always been to bring this to a speedy conclusion because of the age and infirmity of the old men and women involved. So the sooner it is done, the better."

After Kenya’s independence in 1963, the Mau Mau were officially labeled a terrorist group by the new government and sidelined. In 2003, Kenya's president at the time, Mwai Kibaki, finally lifted the ban on the Mau Mau.

Shortly afterwards, historians researching the Mau Mau uprising uncovered secret colonial archives documenting the extent to which the colonial government used torture to suppress the Mau Mau movement. The stories of elderly Kenyans found new footing.

Though the cases of only three claimants still stand, Morara believes thousands of others will qualify for compensation.

"We hope that any negotiations or discussions will take into account men and women who fall within the broad outline that was set out by the three test cases in London."

Wambogo Nyingi is one of the original claimants. He survived the Hola massacre, where 11 men were beaten to death by guards at a Mau Mau detention camp in 1959.

"I hope everything will be okay because the British government is friendly and have no problems with the people of Kenya."

The Mau Mau settlement would set legal precedent. Across the former British Empire, Indians, Malaysians, Cypriots and Guyanese have already filed similar cases seeking reparations for colonial-era abuses.
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