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British government on the spot over colonial era human rights violations

By Nikko Tanui | February 7th 2021

Dickson Sitienei, a member of the Talai clan and a victim of the British colonial government land injustices.

Members of the Talai clan and the Kipsigis community in Kericho County on Friday expressed their frustration seeking justice for human rights violations during the British colonial era.

In a virtual meeting with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on promotion of truth, justice and repatriation, local leaders poured out their frustration in trying to get justice for the affected people.

Kericho County Governor Paul Chepkwony narrated his administration’s frustration in trying to negotiate with the United Kingdom government to settle the matter. Chepkwony’s family were among villagers brutally evicted by the British from Timbilil to pave way for tea plantation now owned by Unilever tea company on a 99-year-lease. 

“We have tried different ways of asking the British government to acknowledge the crimes that took place under the colonial rule. We have been ignored on several times,” he said. 

Decent education

The claimants counsels Joel Bosek and Rodney Dickson said besides oral evidence of 20 victims who had given their evidence to the United Nations special Rapporteur, they had also submitted written and video submissions of 40 other victims of the British historical injustices. 

The special witnesses and victims represents the 110,000 members of the Talai clan and the Kipsigis community who had registered for the suit against the British. 

“The United Nations special Rapporteur will process the evidence. What will follow is the filling of a report with the United Kingdom government which will have 60 days to respond,” said Dickson. 

The Queen Counsel added that the report from the United Nations together with that from the UK will be made public paving the way forward. Dickson at the same time denied that the historical land suit against the British government was time barred.

“The case is certainly not time barred under the international law and before the United Nations. The fact that issues took place years ago will not in any way interfere with the current process going on with the United Nations,” he said.

He explained that they had decided to place the matter before the United Nations because it doesn’t have” artificial restrictions” like a national court where some of the claimants’ claims could be time bared. 

Lawyer Joel Bosek pointed out that the multinational tea plantations boundaries literally divide the have-and-the-have-nots.

“On one side of the road along the Kericho-Nakuru highway, are people suffering because of the vicious circle of poverty and other side big multinational tea companies making huge profits from a land that was clearly stolen from the indigenous Kipsigis community and Talai clan,” he said.

The lawyer expressed dismay that the country was still grappling with a matter which could have taken at least five years after the country gained independence in 1963, to resolve.

Destitutes in own land

During the closure of the four-day virtual interview, Dickson Sitienei told the UN Special Rapporteur Prof Fabian Salvioli, how members of the Talai clan who included his parents, were evicted from their agriculturally rich land around Kericho town and forced into exile in the tse-tse fly infested Gwasi in present day Nyanza through the 1901 Talai Removal Ordinance. 

“We are destitutes in our own land. What we require is the restoration of the land that was forcefully taken away from us. Unlike other Kenyans who enjoy independence, the colonial yoke is still weighing heavily on us,” he said. 

Sitienei added that the British disfranchisement was still being felt to the present day since the community cannot even afford to give their children a decent education. 

“For the few our children who have managed to attain good education, they are grappling with unemployment,” said Sitienei. Members of the Talai clan live around Kericho Green Stadium where they were allocated small plots by the Grand Coalition Government.


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