Saturday, October 14, 2006

When Empires Die, Things Get Rough--The Brits in Kenya

"A Kenyan judge, Arthur Cram, offered a damning verdict after an investigation into torture, murder and cover-up at one interrogation centre, not under Gavaghan, by drawing comparisons with infamous Nazi labour camps. "They not only knew of the shocking floggings that went on in this Kenya Nordhausen, or Mathausen, but must be taken to be the men who were said to have carried them out. From the brutalising of flogging it is only a step to taking life without qualm," he said in his judgment.

"The executioners were also working at a rate unprecedented in the final years of the British Empire. At the height of the emergency, about 50 Kenyans a month were being hanged for rebellion. Prominent Britons, including Bertrand Russell, Michael Foot and Tony Benn, wrote to a senior Kenyan cabinet minister objecting to the numbers of people executed for offences other than murder. The letter noted that in the two years to November 1954, 756 Africans were hanged, more than 500 of them for crimes other than murder and 290 for "unlawful possession of weapons". Only a minority of the 1,090 eventually executed for Mau Mau-related offences during the emergency were convicted of killings.

"What some saw as the inevitable outcome of the camp regimes was realised in March 1959 at a place called Hola, where African guards clubbed 11 prisoners to death while European officers looked on. The camp authorities immediately moved to cover up the cause of the killings. When the local district officer, Willoughby Thompson, arrived, he was told that the dead Mau Mau prisoners were overcome by heat and that water had been thrown over them and they had drowned. Thompson described the explanation as "very improbable", but it was accepted by the colony's governor, Baring, and passed on to London. The truth came out in part because Nyingi and other prisoners gave accounts at an inquiry into the killing of the 11 inmates. The investigating magistrate, W H Goudie, blamed officially sanctioned brutality for the deaths.

"An official report into the emergency concluded that about 12,000 Mau Mau were killed in the conflict. Some historians put the figure much higher. But the numbers are not what concerns the former prisoners now suing the British government. They are worried that their accounts will not be believed in London because the British do not think they are capable of such abuses. "The British see themselves as good," says Njero Mugo, another veteran of the camps. "But from the day the first missionaries arrived we never believed that the British stood for the rule of law. They stole our land. They treated us as though they had more right to be in our country than we did. Did you know that if you were walking down the street and you met a white person you had to remove your hat?"

Found on Angry Arab Newservice

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