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Kenyan Mau Mau Fighters Intend to Sue British Government

A group of former guerilla fighters who fought for Kenya's independence is suing the British government, claiming colonial forces committed torture and other alleged crimes during Kenya's colonial days.

The Mau Mau fighters are being represented by British lawyers Martyn Day and Caroline Cryer.

They have put together at least 10 test cases they allege are representative of the torture, beatings and other atrocities committed against the independence fighters by British colonial authorities in the 1950s.

The team intends to ask for an apology and reparations for former fighters from the British government next week. The British government will have three months to respond or face a lawsuit in Britain's high court in January.

Speaking to reporters in Nairobi, Martyn Day charges that what British authorities allegedly did to the Mau Mau fighters is similar to war crimes committed by German and Japanese officials during World War II.

"We can look and sneer, as British people toward the Japanese and the Germans for what happened during that period, but until we have understood that we were capable of very similar, terrible, terrible things here in Kenya, then we will not as a nation be able to move on," said Day.

The Mau Mau launched their rebellion against the British colonial government in 1952. More than 11,000 fighters were killed during that rebellion.

British colonial authorities quickly banned the Mau Mau and imposed a state of emergency on the colony, detaining and allegedly torturing suspected Mau Mau members. They called them terrorists and accused them of targeting white farmers.

Lawyer Day charges the suffering his clients went through was part of a larger pattern.

"This was not just isolated incidents, it was not just isolated 'bad officers.' It was a systemic policy by the British government to try and break down the freedom fighters, to try and slow down the progress of independence in Kenya," he said.

British officials in Kenya were unavailable for comment. But British officials have said in the past they would contest any claims, arguing that Britain handed over all responsibilities to the independent Kenyan government.

The case is being brought forward by the Kenya Human Rights Commission, which has asked the British lawyers to act on its behalf. The commission alleges about 90,000 Kenyans were killed, executed, tortured or maimed during the time the British government fought the Mau Mau. The commission says about 160,000 Kenyans were detained, often in grim conditions.

Kenya achieved full independence from Britain in 1964. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki rescinded the ban against the Mau Mau in 2003.