Kenya and Britain – Drawing a line under history

from The Economist..

The old colonial power has apologised, sort of. But who has really benefited?

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INDEPENDENCE songs were sung, antique walking sticks were waved and Britain’s representative in Kenya gamely ventured some words in Swahili to express his regret that Kenyans had been tortured during the Mau Mau uprising against colonial rule in the 1950s. As Britain made a carefully calibrated climbdown over colonial-era abuses on June 6th, none of those words was the Swahili for sorry. Britain has not formally admitted liability for torturing some of the 90,000 Kenyans detained during the rebellion. The compensation offered is modest compared with the payouts British citizens would expect for similar mistreatment back home.

More than 5,000 Mau Mau veterans, some of whom gathered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, for the formal announcement, will each get about $4,000. Wamutwe Ngau, now 82, who never had children after being castrated by colonial officers, said the money was “nothing much” but that an apology was worth accepting.


This may draw a line under Britain’s historical responsibility and instead throw the spotlight back onto the treatment the freedom fighters received in post-colonial Kenya. They were fighting in the central forests for a share of the land. Few got any. When most of the white farmers left, many of the best estates ended up being owned by people in the government of Jomo Kenyatta, the first post-independence president, whose son Uhuru was recently elected to the same post. As one of the veterans put it, “The British did not take the land back with them to the UK.”

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