King Charles and Queen Camilla announce visit to Kenya where they will address legacy of Empire head on – after Kate and William’s Caribbean tour was criticised for ‘colonial overtones’
The British colonial presence in Kenya formally began in 1895, when white settlers acquired large tracts of rich agricultural land. Kenya became a British colony in 1920.
Settlers arrived in increasing numbers as tales of Kenya’s cocktail hour ‘Happy Valley’ lifestyle reached British shores. It was a time of dispossession and violence for the Kenyan population. Calls for Kenyan independence grew – led by the anti-colonial party Mau Mau, which is said to mean ‘get out, get out’.
In 1952, the British declared a state of emergency after a wave of strikes and violent attacks.
Up to 80,000 Mau Mau supporters were arrested in one month alone and an estimated 25,000 people died as Kenyan militants rebelled against the British Empire in their quest for self-rule.
The United Nations said more than half a million Kenyans from the Kericho area suffered serious human rights violations, including unlawful killings and displacement during British colonial rule, which ended in 1963.
Mau Mau Chief Kaleba is arrested in 1953 while Mau Mau was fighting British colonial rule in Kenya
During the uprising, detention camps were set up by the British authorities. They have been described by some historians as ‘Kenya’s Gulag’.
At the height of the rebellion, an estimated 71,000 Kenyans were held in prison camps. The vast majority were never found guilty in court.
Kenyans were beaten and sexually assaulted by officers acting for the British administration to suppress the ‘Mau Mau’ rebellion.
In 2013, Britain agreed to a multi-million dollar compensation settlement for those Kenyans who were tortured by colonial forces during the uprising.
Many Kenyans continue to suffer economic consequences from the theft of their land, the United Nations said, even as that same land has become profitable for multinational companies.
On December 12, 1963, the African country of Kenya gained independence from the British.
According to Britannica, African demands for more involvement in political processes were denied until 1944, when an African was included in the legislature.
Despite this, disputes over land and cultural traditions continued, movements against colonial rule grew and the uprising of the militant nationalist group, Mau Mau, in the 1950s led to the country being forced into a state of emergency.
However, this meant that African political participation increased in the early 1960s and Kenya gained independence in 1963. A year after the first Jamhuri Day, Kenya was admitted as a republic into the Commonwealth in 1964 with Jomo Kenyatta as president.
In 2013, the British government announced that it would pay £14 million in compensation to some 5,000 elderly Kenyans who were tortured by British colonial forces – after a legal battle that lasted four years.
The admission came at the end of a test case brought by law firm Leigh Day, which established British courts did have jurisdiction to hear historical claims made by those held in military camps.
Negotiations began after a London court ruled that three elderly Kenyans who were castrated, raped and beaten while in custody during a crackdown by British forces and their Kenyan allies in the 1950s can sue Britain.
Including legal fees, the total bill for the cruel treatment of thousands of prisoners who were tortured and raped under colonial rule was around £20 million.
But then-Foreign Secretary William Hague stopped short of issuing an apology. Mr Hague told MPS the UK government continued to deny responsibility for what happened during the uprising, conceding only that “we understand the pain and grief experienced by those involved”.
The torture took place during the so-called Kenyan ‘Emergency’ of 1952-60, when fighters from the Mau Mau movement attacked British targets, causing panic among white settlers and upsetting the government in London.
The then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said at the time: ‘The British Government recognizes that Kenyans were subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment by the colonial administration.
‘The British Government sincerely regrets that these abuses have occurred and that they have undermined Kenya’s progress towards independence.
“Torture and ill-treatment are heinous violations of human dignity that we condemn without reservation.”