The official British stand on Mau Mau, years later

by Stephen Macharia

On 6 February 2007, the Mau Mau war and its aftermath made way into the British Parliament. Andrew Dismore, a Labour Party politician and then Member of Parliament (MP) for Hendon, took the floor of the House and asked a series of questions regarding the official British Government stand on Kenya’s war of independence, years after the Mau Mau war.

Dismore addressed questions to Sir Ian McCartney who was then serving as Minister of State for Trade. McCartney was at pains to explain why the British Government had not undertaken a public inquiry into the conduct of the British colonial administration in Kenya during the 1950s.

The MP decried the circumstances that led to the declaration of a State of Emergency in 1952 and wanted the Government to declare the all representations it had received on the mistreatment of Kenyans by the British colonial administration in this period.

Dismore went further; he wanted the office of Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to make a statement, even an apology, to the people of Kenya for the atrocities the British committed in the Colony.  

However, when Sir McCartney responded, the contempt in which the British hold the Mau Mau came to the fore. Despite admitting that colonialism “caused a great deal of pain” to greater number of people in Kenya, he ruled out plans by the government to conduct a public inquiry into the Mau Mau issue. He also announced his government had not planned to compensate Mau Mau victims citing unavailability of records to prove the British tortured Africans in Kenya.

Mau Mau Chronicles publishes part of the parliamentary proceedings that displays government’s inflexible stand on settling Mau Mau victims.  

Mr. McCartney: We have no plans to instigate a public inquiry into events during the Emergency Period in the 1950s in Kenya. We have received no formal representations on this issue from other governments, Kenyan citizens or any other individuals. We have received correspondence on Mau Mau related issues from members of the public over the years, reflecting a wide range of views.

I understand the strong feelings that the Mau Mau issue still creates in Kenya and elsewhere. The Emergency Period caused a great deal of pain for many on all sides and marred progress towards independence. It is regrettable this was not achieved without

We are looking to the future. The task now is to tackle today’s challenges: building a strong and prosperous democracy in Kenya and fighting corruption and poverty.

**

Britain: “Kenya has not raised issues of torture with us”

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with the Kenyan Government on (a) compensation and (b) an apology for those affected by torture and degrading treatment by the British colonial administration during the 1950s Kenyan emergency; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. McCartney: The Kenyan Government has not raised these issues with us and we have had no discussions with them on the subject. The events surrounding the Mau Mau insurgency remain a deeply divisive issue within Kenya and one which historians continue to debate.

The important issue now is for both our countries to look to the future and build on our existing strong partnership in the interests of Kenya’s long-term development.

**

Britain: “No apology on Mau Mau, Emergency caused pain to both sides”

British soldiers conducting an operation in Karoibangi, Nairobi in 1954 ostensibly to flush out Mau Mau from the City.

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will issue an apology to the Kenyan victims of (a) torture and (b) victims of degrading treatment by the British colonial authorities during the 1950s Kenyan emergency; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. McCartney: I understand the strong feelings that the Mau Mau issue still creates in Kenya and elsewhere. The events surrounding the Mau Mau insurgency remain a deeply divisive issue within Kenya and one which historians continue to debate. The emergency period caused a great deal of pain for many on all sides and marred progress towards independence. It is regrettable this was not achieved without violence.

We are looking to the future. The task now is to tackle today’s challenges: building a strong and prosperous democracy in Kenya and fighting corruption and poverty.

**

Britain: ‘We have no plans to compensate Mau Mau’

Mau Mau veterans standing outside the High Court in central London, on April 7, 2011, after winning the right to sue the British Government for subjecting them to brutality in1950s. Photo Courtesy.

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will offer compensation to those Kenyan victims of (a) torture and (b) degrading or inhuman treatment by the British colonial authorities during the 1950s Kenyan emergency; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. McCartney: The Government have no plans to offer compensation to those affected by the events of the emergency period in Kenya in the 1950s.

I understand the strong feelings that the Mau Mau issue still creates in Kenya and elsewhere. The emergency period caused a great deal of pain for many on all sides and marred progress towards independence. It is regrettable this was not achieved without violence.

We are looking to the future. The task now is to tackle today’s challenges: building a strong and prosperous democracy and fighting corruption and poverty.

**

Britain: “We have no records on those tortured by our officers’

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what estimate she has made of the number of Kenyans unlawfully (a) tortured, (b) imprisoned, (c) subjected to degrading and inhumane treatment and (d) killed during the 1950s Kenyan emergency; what estimate she has made of the number who died as a result; and if she will make a statement.

(2) if she will make an estimate of the number of former colonial officials allegedly responsible for torture and deaths of Kenyans during the 1950s Kenyan emergency; and if she will make a statement.

(3) if she will make an estimate of the number of Kenyan women subjected to sexual abuse during the 1950s Kenyan emergency by British colonial officials and military personnel; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. McCartney: We have made no estimates in relation to the alleged abuses outlined in my hon. Friend’s questions. All records dating back to that period were either passed to the Kenyan Government at independence or have been subsequently transferred to The National Archive in Kew.

The emergency period in the 1950s was a very difficult period for all involved. We are now working with the Kenyan Government to tackle today’s challenges: building a strong and prosperous democracy and fighting corruption and poverty in Kenya.

**

Britain: ‘We have no records on Kimathi’s grave’

Dedan Kimathi

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what records have been kept of the number of Kenyans who died of disease during their detention without trial during the Kenyan emergency of the 1950s; and if she will make a statement;

(2) what records have been kept of the extent to which the treatment of Kenyan detainees by the colonial administration during the 1950s Kenyan emergency was sanctioned by the British Government; and if she will make a statement;

(3) what records exist of the whereabouts of (a) Dedan Kimathi and (b) remains of Kenyan detainees hanged by the British colonial authorities during the Kenyan emergency in the 1950s; and if she will make a statement;

(4) what records exist of the regulations governing the running by the Colonial authorities of detention camps in Kenya during the 1950s Kenyan emergency; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. McCartney: All records dating back to the emergency period in Kenya in the 1950s either were passed to the Kenyan Government at independence or have been subsequently transferred to the National Archive in Kew.

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2 comments

Mwangi June 2, 2021 - 12:09 pm

Do you have a book

Reply
Stephen Macharia June 7, 2021 - 7:46 pm

Mwangi, this book is available at the Ukombozi Library located in Nairobi.

They have a catalog of Mau Mau books.

Reply

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