Mau Mau survivors talk of torture in detention camps

By Paul Wafula

Kenya: Survivors of a British military operation to stem the Mau Mau rebellion accuse Kenya’s colonial masters of detaining and torturing them in camps between the 1950s and 1960s.

In these camps, death was caused by shock and haemorrhage due to multiple bruising caused by violence at the hands of camp officials.

According to the claim submitted at the High Court in London on June 23 on behalf of victims, Kenyans who participated in the rebellion were held in appalling conditions in detention camps during the uprising against the British colonial administration.

“Tens of thousands of people were killed, died of disease or starvation during this time. Torture was used regularly against detention camp inmates,” Leigh Day & Co, the law firm working with the Kenyan Human Rights Commission and the Mau Mau War Veterans Association, says.

Litigants have submitted over 17,000 documents to prove their case.

“These claimants are representative of the people caught up in the brutal repression of the Mau Mau period. We hope that the government treats these claims with the seriousness they deserve and realises that it is time to apologise and compensate Kenyans for this stain on British history,” Daniel Leader, a lawyer at Leigh Day & Co, who is involved with the case said in a statement posted on the firm’s website.

Acts of brutality

President Obama’s grandfather was among those who were detained and abused at the time.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission and the Kenyan Government are supporting the claims.

The acts of brutality that detainees were subjected to included arbitrary killings, severe physical assaults and extreme acts of inhuman and degrading treatment. The acts of torture included castration and sexual assaults, which in many cases, entailed the insertion of broken bottles into private parts of female detainees.

Camp guards engaged in regular severe beatings and assaults, often resulting in death. In the course of interrogation, guards would hang certain detainees upside down and insert sand and water into their private parts.

When he delivered an earlier ruling challenging the petition at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr Justice McCombe said: “There is ample evidence even in the few papers that I have seen suggesting that there may have been systematic torture of detainees during the Emergency.

“The materials evidencing the continuing abuses in the detention camps in subsequent years are substantial, as is the evidence of the knowledge of both governments that they were happening and of the failure to take effective action to stop them.”

The court was also critical of the Government’s attempt to block the case with the use of technicalities.

According to the KHRC, the full extent of the British Colonial Government’s brutality in the decade preceding Kenya’s Independence in 1963 has only recently been understood.