“Never eat with the British in the dark. They can never be trusted”
A source in the militant but non violent Southern Cameroon National Council SCNC told me many years ago. The group wants to secede from French speaking Cameroon where they strongly believe they are treated like second class citizens by their francophone “brothers”.
SCNC activist still blame the British for deliverying them like “cows” on a slaughter to their francophone counterparts. They hold that the British who should have known better should not have colluded with the French to make it easy for them to join French speaking Cameroon in 1961, a year after it’s independence. Britain did not insist that English speaking Cameroon could have voted to become an independent country. Attempts by SCNC activists to get Britain to assume its responsibility and fight for an independent English speaking Cameroon have fallen on deaf ears. That is why my SCNC source made that statement. He said to be a good eating partner with a Brit, always use a long spoon. The British are just not interested in visiting their colonial past.
Yesterday, that all changed.
Britain again had to stare at some of the excesses of its colonial past in the face.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague was forced to give a grovelling apology to a half empty house of Parliament and to offer to pay compensation to 5228 Kenyans, victims of a brutal state of emegency British colonial officials were forced to impose to fight back at the equally violent Mau Mau activists who wanted to drive the British out of the East African country.
Two wrongs don’t make a right
William Hague was also right when he said atrocities were commited on both sides.
The Mau Mau was basically a kikuyu led terrorist organization. In 1953, it invaded the home of the Ruck family, white British settlers living in the rift valley. They hacked Roger and Esmee and their six year old son Michael to death. However, most of the victims of Mau Mau brutality were other Kenyans who they considered traitors. In 1953, in what is now described as the Lari massacre, mau mau terrorists attacked the mostly kikuyu dominated area and killed, maimed and burnt some of their own people to death. Their crime was that they refused to take the Mau Mau oath. The full horror of the mau mau atrocities can be seen here in their chilling oath
The British had to return fire for fire. They maimed, raped, tortured, castrated and even killed mau mau activists and anybody suspected of supporting them. The three victims whose cases ultimatedly led to yesterday’s apology and small compensation testify to their own brutality. Paulo Muoko Nzili was castrated, Wanbuga Wa Nyingi was severely beaten while Jane Muthoni Mara was subjected to “appalling sexual abuse”. All the victims are in their late 70s and early 80s now. That means they were in their twenties when the torture occured. That most probably ruined their lives.
Though it accepted to negotiated an out of court settlement, the British government refused any direct responsibility for the atrocities committed by its colonial administrators. William Hague repeated this in parliament yesterday.
“We continue to deny liability on behalf of the government and British tax payers today, for the actions of the colonial administration in respect of the claims and indeed the courts have made no findings of liability of the government in this case. We do not believe that claims relating to events that occurred overseas outside direct British jurisdiction more than fifty years ago can be resolved satisfactorily through the courts without the course of keys witnesses which is no longer available”
Only some 5228 victims of the British torture camps survive today and according to yesterday’s compensation pot, they will each receive a meagre £2600, sixty years after they were tortured almost to death. Television pictures from Kenya showed veterans singing and dancing and mostly happy with the compensation. Some pretended there were more interested in the apology but that again was not sincere because William Hague could not possibly refuse responsibility of the government and offer a sincere apology.
“So why are you compensating victims Mr Minister?” any keen observer will ask.
The British government has been less than honest in the case, destroying documentation related to the case. It’s Biggest problem is that yesterday’s apology does not lead to a flood gate of similar cases from other countries like Malaysia and Cyprus where there was also armed insurrection to kick British colonial officials out. William Hague acknowledged the government could not stop anyone filing new cases but he promised they will vigorously fight against any further claims.
Former Libyan leader Muamar Gadaffi was forced to pay $10 million to each of the family of the 259 passengers and crew of the 1998 Pan Am air crash which she was accused of blowing off Lockerbie in Scotland. Libya also had to pay the same compensation to the 11 people who died on the ground when the plane crashed. The total compensation pot was an eye watering $2.7 billion! America used it’s might as a superpower to force Gadaffi not only to pay but to hand over two of it’s secret service agents who were eventually jailed for the crash.
In the case of the British atrocities in Kenya, none of the families of the 90.000 Kenyans who were killed were compensated. Only people still living were qualified. It now begs the question, was the Kenyan government not involved in the negotiations to pay the victims? Why was the amount paid to each victim so ridiculously low? After the London court accepted the Kenyans had a case they could take to court, why did the British government decide to negotiate for an out of court settlement?
A little bit of digging was all it needed for me to see why and how this settlement was arrived at. Evidently, the Kenyan government had no hand in the negotiations which is again proof that African governments really never pursue the interests of the people who vote them into power.
Leigh Day, the personal injury law firm that brought the test case to court will be paid-wait for it, £6million in cost by the British government, almost half the amount the 5228 Kenyan victims have been paid. Now that is what I call double standards. It is easy to see why the firm was so anxious to discuss an out of court settttlement with the Kenyan victims