Envoy: Why it's 'difficult' for Britain to apologise to Kenya for colonial atrocities

British High Commissioner to Kenya Neil Wigan.[David Gichuru, Standard]

British High Commissioner to Kenya, Neil Wigan, has defended his country’s refusal to apologise for the atrocities committed during the colonial era in Kenya, especially against the Mau Mau rebels.

Speaking on Spice FM on Tuesday, October 24, the UK High Commissioner said that Britain had expressed deep regret for what happened in the emergency period and had made an out-of-court settlement to some of the victims.

“We chose the language carefully and expressed regret in Parliament. We said it in the most public way. We have engaged very carefully with the Mau Mau veterans affected and paid compensation individually. We also helped arrange for the monument that sits in Uhuru Park, Nairobi,” he said.

The envoy said Britain had been very open about “those difficult bits of our history” and had acknowledged them, both to the country and to the individual communities.

However, making an apology in any context would be an “extremely difficult thing to do” and taking it in that direction would immerse Britain into a difficult legal territory, Wigan averred. 

“We made an out-of-court settlement. It showed our sincerity and our openness in recognising the abuses that had been committed. That is the route we chose and it was accepted by the Mau Mau Veterans Association,” he said.

Wigan’s remarks come in the back of a much-anticipated visit by King Charles III and Queen Carmilla to Kenya next week. 

Their majesties visit faces calls for Britain to apologise for colonial-era atrocities in Kenya.

Buckingham Palace said Charles and his wife Queen Camilla will visit Kenya from October 31 to November 3, his first trip to a Commonwealth country since ascending to the throne last year.

It said the trip would also “acknowledge the more painful aspects of the UK and Kenya’s shared history including the Emergency” in 1952-1960, a reference to bloody rebellions against colonial rule.

About 10,000 people were killed during Britain’s brutal suppression of the Mau Mau uprising, one of the British Empire’s bloodiest insurgencies.

Britain agreed in 2013 to compensate more than 5,000 Kenyans who had suffered abuse during the revolt, in a deal worth nearly £20 million (Sh3.65 billion).

Wigan said that despite the dark past, Kenya and the UK had a forward-looking relationship and that they were both sovereign States with equal votes in the United Nations General Assembly.

He added that Britain saw Kenya as a critical partner in the region and wanted to do many things together.

He said that they were trying to arrange for some public events where the king could meet people, but security was a bit difficult.

“We will try to do that as much as possible so that they get an opportunity to get some of the variety and energy that I see in Kenya and enjoy so much,” he said.