Britain’s headache over its colonial shame appears far from over following fresh compensation claims by 8,000 Mau Mau veterans who say they were overlooked in the restitution deal that was sealed last week.
It is also highly likely that the deal may open the floodgates for claims from other former colonies as well as countries where British soldiers have been involved in deadly wars in the recent years.
Papers filed in the High Court in London show that each claimant in the new case is seeking between £1,000 (Sh130,000) and £150,000 (Sh19 million). The case is being handled by Tandem Law, a British law firm.
Curiously, Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi’s widow, Loise Mukami, who has over the years emerged as the embodiment of the Mau Mau struggle, is the face of the new case and her presence is expected to add weight to the lawsuit.
Speaking on behalf of the law firm, Bryan Cox QC (Queen’s Counsel), expressed concerns that “the sums being awarded appear modest”, a clear indication that they would press for larger settlements.
This week, Britain announced that it was paying Sh300,000 to 5,228 Kenyans who had sued it for rape and torture during the Mau Mau uprising in the run up to Independence in 1963.
Their case was handled by Leigh Day, another British law firm. As part of last week’s payout, Martyn Day, a senior partner at Leigh Day, said their involvement with the Mau Mau had ended.
“We have agreed not to take any more cases under the agreement with HMG (Her Majesty’s Government) so basically this is the end of our work for the Mau Mau,” said Mr Day.
Buoyed by this victory, Mrs Kimathi has now sued the British government alongside James Karanja Nyoro and 8,061 others.
They are claiming damages “for personal injury and consequential losses arising out of allegations of torture, mistreatment, forced labour and wrongful detention by the British Government during the 1952 Kenyan State of Emergency”.
Mr Cox said the expression of regret by British Foreign Secretary William Hague was welcome, but maintained that many more thousands of claims were unresolved.
“We are currently working with over 8,000 Kenyan claimants who have received no such offer,” said Mr Cox. He said his law firm had spent the past 14 months in Kenya taking detailed witness statements from other Mau Mau claimants.
It is expected that Britain will face a barrage of lawsuits from other surviving war veterans who are not part of the two cases.
Just yesterday, Kericho Diocese priest, Fr Ambrose Kimutai said the compensation should be extended to cover other communities who participated in the struggle for independence.
Many analysts believe that London agreed to the out-of-court settlement after suffering a series of losses at the high court in the first case. Mr Day told Sunday Nation that the British government “was looking down the barrel of the gun in terms of a court process which it had a strong chance of losing”.
It is expected that survivors in Britain’s other bloody colonial wars in Malaya, Aden, Cyprus and the north of Ireland, where detention without trial, torture and extra-judicial killings also took place, might follow in Mau Mau’s footsteps.
Additional reporting by Geoffrey Rono