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Britain has agreed to compensate Kenyans tortured during the Mau Mau uprising against colonial rule in the 1950s, Foreign Secretary William Hague has said.
Hague expressed "sincere regret" on Thursday that the abuses had taken place and told parliament the government would pay a total of $30.8m to 5,228 clients represented by a British law firm.
Negotiations began after a London court ruled in October that three elderly Kenyans, who suffered castration, rape and beatings while in detention during a crackdown by British forces and their Kenyan allies in the 1950s, could sue Britain.
The torture took place during the so-called Kenyan Emergency of 1952-60, when fighters from the Mau Mau movement attacked British targets, causing panic among white settlers.
London tried for three years to block the Mau Mau veterans' legal action in the courts, drawing condemnation from the elderly torture victims who accused Kenya's former colonial master of using legal technicalities to fight the case.
Mau Mau militants were guilty of numerous atrocities. The most notorious was their attack on the settlement of Lari, on the night of 25–26 March 1953, in which they herded Kikuyu men, women and children into huts and set fire to them, hacking down with pangas anyone who attempted escape, before throwing them back into the burning huts. The attack at Lari was so extreme that "African policemen who saw the bodies of the victims . . . were physically sick and said 'These people are animals. If I see one now I shall shoot with the greatest eagerness'", and it "even shocked many Mau Mau supporters, some of whom would subsequently try to excuse the attack as 'a mistake'".
A retaliatory massacre was immediately perpetrated by African security forces who were partially overseen by British commanders. Official estimates place the death toll from the first Lari massacre at 74, and the second at 150, though neither of these figures account for those who 'disappeared'. Whatever the actual number of victims, "[t]he grim truth was that, for every person who died in Lari's first massacre, at least two more were killed in retaliation in the second."
Aside from the Lari massacres, Kikuyu were also tortured, mutilated and murdered by Mau Mau on many other occasions Mau Mau racked up 1,819 murders of their fellow Africans, though again this number excludes the many additional hundreds who 'disappeared', whose bodies were never found
For their part, as already discussed, the British colonial government eventually instituted a system of detention and torture that was sanctioned at the highest levels of government in London, as well as carrying out or overseeing any number of extra-judicial executions and various massacres. One such killing spree was the Chuka massacre of June 1953, in which twenty African civilians, including a child, were shot in cold blood by soldiers of the 5th KAR B Company
What difference does it make who did the deeds?