The journey to justice has been long and arduous. For over ten years (since 2003) now, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and the Mau Mau War Veterans Association (MMWVA) have remained focused and relentless in their fight for justice for the Kenyan victims of colonial torture as well as for the rightful recognition of our liberation heroes within Kenya’s body politic. It is that focus and relentless commitment from the KHRC and the MMWVA that has yielded the victory—an out of court settlement with the British Government; an apology from the British Government; and the funding of a memorial from the British Government—that we celebrate today.
Today’s celebration is a true testimony to the fact that all those who commit serious human rights violations, regardless of their standing or position in society, or their might among the nations of the world, must be held to account for their actions. However, we are fully aware of the fact that such accountability is only possible if the perpetrators of human rights violations are subjected to a free, fair and functional justice system. We take this opportunity to thank the British courts for having provided that system for the Kenyan victims and the British government for having finally accepted responsibility for the serious crimes of torture that were perpetrated by the British Colony during the emergency period.
We note that today’s victory only marks one step in the journey for justice for the wrongs that were suffered during the fight for Kenya’s independence as well as providing a real opportunity for a meaningful acknowledgement of the heroic role of the Mau Mau in the struggle for our independence. Therefore, while it is commendable that the British have taken responsibility for the way they treated Kenyans during the Emergency, we will now turn our full focus and attention to the Kenyan Government and demand that it must also take full responsibility for its less than stellar treatment of the Mau Mau liberation heroes since Kenya became independent.
For example, the Mau Mau veterans have long standing issues around land that must be resolved. Most continue to live in conditions of abject poverty and squalor despite their gallant contribution to Kenya’s Uhuru. We hope that any outstanding issues facing the Mau Mau will now be addressed within the framework of the recently released TJRC report, the National Land Commission and the robust provisions of the Constitution of Kenya framework that recognizes the heroic roles of our Mashujaa as well as providing a framework for ensuring that the elderly live in dignity.
Finally we want to note that today’s celebration would not have been possible without the solid and honest commitment of the many men and women who held the firm belief that all those who commit serious human rights violations, regardless of their standing or position in society or their might among the nations of the world must be held to account for their actions if or when they are subjected to a free, fair and functional justice system. While it is impossible to name all of them, we want to take this opportunity to recognize the following for their immeasurable contribution to the Mau Mau cause:
- Mzee Gitu Wa Kahengeri, Secretary General of the MMWVA: He has remained firmly committed to the course of searching for justice for the Kenyan victims of colonial torture and remained true and honest in his commitment to the Mau Mau.
- John Nottingham: We would not have come this far without his meticulous research on the colonial era torture and without his invaluable first-hand account of the terrible acts of torture that took place during the Emergency.
- Prof. Makau Mutua and the entire KHRC board for their commitment to the Mau Mau case
- The KHRC staff (both past and present who have worked on this case) and in particular Atsango Chesoni, our current Executive Director and her Deputy Davis Malombe, Steve Ouma, Dan Juma, Mikewa Ogada and George Morara who have all contributed greatly in pushing the wheel of justice for the Mau Mau case this far.
- Our partners, Senior Counsel Paul Muite and Hon. Gitobu Imanyara as well as Njeri Kabeberi, the Executive Director of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD), for their unwavering commitment to the Mau Mau case.
- Prof Carolyn Elkins of Harvard University and Prof. David Anderson for their ground-breaking research on the colonial torture of Kenyans.
- We also want to thank the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga; the former Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula; the former Attorney General Amos Wako; the former Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa and the current Attorney General Prof. Githu Muigai who all have made significant contributions to the Mau Mau case.
- Last but not least, we want to thank Leigh Day for having taken this case up in 2003 and meticulously pursued it to its logical conclusion. We are most grateful to Martyn Day, Dan Leader, David Roberts, Rebekah Read, Kavita Modi and her field team and our QCs Richard Hemmer and Phillipa Kaufmann for a job well done!
Atsango Chesoni, Executive Director, the KHR