Nandi County plans to sue UK govt for past injustices, torture

Nandi County begins process of suing British the government over historical injustices during the colonial era.

Thursday March 17 2016

Lawyer Karim Khan (right), Nandi County government officials and lawyers during a press conference on March 17, 2016, when they announced plans to sue the UK government for past colonial injustices.

Lawyer Karim Khan (right), Nandi County government officials and lawyers during a press conference on March 17, 2016, when they announced plans to sue the UK government for past colonial injustices. PHOTO | AGGREY MUTAMBO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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Lawyers for Nandi County say they have started analysing evidence of torture incidents for a possible lawsuit against the British government.

The claims, ranging from forced detention, rape and killings to land grabbing may yet again force the UK, Kenya's former coloniser, into a tight corner for its past misdeeds.

On Thursday, lead lawyer Karim Khan told reporters the analysis will determine whether the county government should sue for compensation or abandon the matter altogether.

"I am not assuming anything yet but the decision we take will be informed by the evidence at hand," Mr Khan told journalists at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nairobi.

"But we don't want to give false expectations to the people of Nandi County...this is going to be a long process and we will be guided by the evidence.

"My role will be to try and get evidence in terms of testimonies, records and documents and I will give my advice based on the evidence I have."

The announcement means that a team of lawyers under Mr Khan will review available records and continue to collect testimonies from people in Nandi who claim they were mistreated by British colonialists.

"The Nandi people feel, as a community, that they suffered and continue to suffer the effects of colonialism up to now, Nandi Governor Cleophas Lagat said.

The British government has tried to detach itself from blame for past injustices during their colonial time in Kenya.

BLANKET REGRET

In 2014, the UK government issued an official blanket regret after a group of Mau Mau survivors sued it for compensation.

And while the Mau Mau were finally paid in an out-of court settlement, more groups in Kericho and Nandi counties have emerged to accuse the British of committing atrocities.

"The fact that one gets compensation for one car crash doesn’t mean they can't get compensation in another crash, Mr Khan said, referring to the previous payment to the Mau Mau.

Mr Khan is representing both counties, but Dr Lagat argued that Nandi County is pursuing specific issues that the Nandi people suffered.

"We will not, as Nandi County, accept a blanket apology because what we are asking for is specific," he argued.

Specifically, the Nandi claim British colonialists murdered their leaders such as Koitalel arap Samoei, detained others, forcibly acquired their land during the construction of the Kenya-Uganda Railway and disrupted their way of life.

Dr Lagat, who says the case has the blessings of the county assembly, has previously offered the British a chance to reconcile with the Nandi by building an educational institution and naming it under one of the fallen Nandi elders.

On Thursday, he told reporters the offer is only one of the options but Nandi County officials will rely on advice from lawyers after reviewing evidence.

"If they (British) want the case to be settled out of court, that is something that we will look at but they must accept (responsibility).

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This story has been updated to correct the year in the photo caption.

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