The British government must compensate Mau Mau Veterans for colonial atrocities

It’s been more than sixty years since the British government invaded Kenya in the name of the British Empire, after abandoning African enslavement when it was no longer profitable, in favour of colonial conquests. 

During this period, many thousands of Africans suffered, physically, mentally and economically – and continue to do so to this very day. It was an era that should evoke national shame and not the glorification of the British Empire for human rights abuses that today the British government rebuke other nations for and go to war against.

However, up to now, rather than issue an apology and offer compensation to the victims of these atrocities (much like the slave trade), successive governments  have remained stubbornly unremorseful.

The shame of that era followed the British Government into the 21st century with the revelations of a grand cover-up with thousands of documents being destroyed to aid their avoidance of paying compensation to Mau Mau veterans.

The news that the British Government is now in talks with the Mau Mau veterans and may finally compensate the now elderly surviving victims (and I hope their surviving families) is late in the day. Many have sadly passed on having never seen justice prevail (much like the victims of the Chagos Islands).

But it is a step that must be taken. I met some of these Mau Mau veterans back in 2007 when I was in Kenya working with a Maasai –led NGO called IMPACT. I had been working with the organisation on a report/documentary investigating poverty among the Maasai and other ethnic groups as a result of the loss of their land which was appropriated by the British government during the colonial invasion.

I interviewed many of the Mau Mau veterans, most of whom were elderly, frail, impoverished and still deeply mentally scarred by what they had endured. One woman was so traumatised that in recounting her experience she became very emotional and burst into uncontrollable sobs, and could no longer continue speaking to the camera.

I shed tears that day too, not least because as one of the surviving children of a Mau Mau veteran reluctantly acknowledged – ordinary Kenyans are still suffering because the British still occupy the land that was stolen from them and they are still living in poverty as a consequence of the loss of that land and the theft of their livestock.

They were forced to leave their homes with only the clothes on their backs and when it was over they were left with nothing. All their belongings had gone and their livelihoods and means of earning an income were a distant memory.

There is no moral justification for the colonisation of Kenya, just as there was no moral justification for the enslavement of African people nor the sheer, brutality, sadistic violence and the dehumanisation of members of your own family – the human family.

So it’s time for the present British government to do the right thing and compensate the surviving Mau Mau veterans and their families.