More than 20,000 members of the Kipsigis and Talai communities will on Saturday be expected to gather at the Kericho Green Stadium in Kericho County where the process of seeking compensation from the British for alleged historical atrocities is expected to kick off.
Kericho County Attorney Gideon Mutai told the Nation on Friday that Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony will preside over the launch of a month-long registration process which aims to reach at least 200,000 direct or indirect victims of colonial rule.
Mr Mutai said other senior leaders among them MPs from Bomet and Kericho counties, where most the victims will be drawn, will also be expected during Saturday’s meeting.
“We want to officially start the suit against Britain at the High Court of Justice in London over historical injustices as we were mandated by the County Assembly last year. The registration and vetting of the victims is an important aspect of this process if we are to succeed,” he said.
The registration will focus on people who were forcefully evicted from their ancestral land by the British settlers when they arrived in the South Rift so as to create room for the creation of expansive tea farms which have become synonymous with Kericho and Bomet.
Following Saturday’s launch, the listing of all the victims who turn up will continue for a full month during weekdays at the Brooke Hotel in Ainamoi constituency where a registration centre has been set up.
Mr Mutai added that 20 clerks had been trained on the procedure of collecting information from those seeking to be registered, noting that care will be taken to ensure that only the genuine cases were recorded.
“We are going to do thorough vetting of all those who turn up because we want to make sure that the case if watertight and we have formidable evidence. We already have the documentation but what we are seeking now are witnesses who will be willing to testify what happened,” he added.
Nairobi lawyer Joel Kimutai Bosek has been selected to represent Bomet and Kericho counties in the case they are expected to jointly file in August in London demanding compensation and an apology from Britain over alleged historical land injustices.
Mr Bosek said on Friday that he was prepared for the process to start and assured victims of the incidents of the 1900s that a court battle was in the works on their behalf.
“We are prepared to go all the way in the search for justice. We are however urging as many victims of the happenings or their descendants to turn up for the registration drive so that they can be part of the process,” he said.
Mr Mutai said there was a massive violation of human rights during the colonial period including mass displacement, forceful eviction and forced transfer of the population.
Priority will be given to the three Kipsigis age sets of Nyongi, Maina and Chumo who are the oldest and who witnessed the alleged human rights violations.
The Kericho County Assembly last year mandated the county government to pursue compensation for the victims of the colonial era administration through a legislative motion moved by Cheptororiet/Seretut MCA Livingstone Kipkoech.
Mr Kipkoech said numerous efforts by those affected to seek recompense from Kenya’s former colonial masters through petitions to the National Assembly for the injustices suffered between 1918 until independence had failed to yield any fruits.
In the motion, Mr Kipkoech likened the colonial period in Kenya to the Apartheid system in South Africa where the indigenous population was confined to overcrowded zones (in Kenya’s case the African Reserves) and huge tracts of land reserved for the white settlers.