The right to be


Posted by kikuyusworld on July 26, 2007

Past Not Yet History for Veterans of Independence Struggle
Joyce Mulama

NAIROBI, May 23 (IPS) – Mau Mau veterans in Kenya have vowed to continue fighting for reparations from the British government for abuses perpetrated during colonial rule in the East African country — this after Britain dismissed the compensation claim.

“We will not be silenced,” Gitu wa Kahengeri, a member of the Mau Mau War Veterans Association (MMWVA), told journalists Tuesday in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. “We are determined to go ahead with filing a case in the British courts, not for money, but…to show that human rights should not be violated.”

Assisted by the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), the veterans made a formal demand for compensation in October 2006.

Certain estimates have it that about 13,000 Mau Mau died in a crackdown which ensued after the movement launched a rebellion against the colonists in the 1950s, while a further 80,000 persons associated with it are believed to have been kept in detention camps. Most Mau Mau were members of the Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest ethnic group.

The abuses meted out to the movement and its alleged supporters included sexual violations by African troops serving under the British.

Britain replied to the demand last month.

“These claimants, you say, will be able to adduce medical evidence which is consistent with their cases, but the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) is unlikely to be in a position to adduce any contradictory evidence from those individuals allegedly responsible for what the claimants say happened to them well over 50 years ago now,” says the Apr. 2 letter, in part.

“We cannot accept that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office…or any other department of State, has any legal responsibility in respect of the matters which you allege,” it states.

The letter further notes that the veterans’ claims exceed the statute of limitations laid down by Britain’s Limitation Act of 1980, a claim disputed by Mbugua Mureithi — legal advisor to the Mau Mau veterans.

“Vindications of human rights abuses were never limited by time,” he said Tuesday, noting that there also needed to be an acknowledgement of constraints on legal action being taken earlier.

A ban on the Mau Mau that was imposed during colonial rule continued after independence in 1963, and was only lifted four decades later after current head of state Mwai Kibaki took power — enabling the MMWVA to be formed.

“The Mau Mau group was banned by the colonial regime and it remained banned even after independence. How would the survivors of Mau Mau meet to discuss their concerns if their movement was considered an illegal one?” asked KHRC Acting Executive Director Mwambi Mwasaru.

For the veterans, there can be no statue of limitations on memory.

“We really suffered at the hands of our colonial masters. We were arrested and taken to detention camps where we were tortured to the point of death. The mzungu (Swahili for “white man”) would clip our genitalia with pliers, and would laugh as we felt pain,” recounts Jimmy Rugunya.

Notes MMWVA Secretary General Augustine Kamunde: “I had 120 people under me; 111 were shot, nine of us fled. As we disappeared into the thick forests, the mzungu took our land.”

“Women were raped and objects inserted in their private parts as their children watched. This was horrific.”

A team of technical experts from the KHRC is scheduled to gather additional information about the case in London, while the suit is to be filed by November. (END/2007)


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