Advertisement

Kenyan veteran wants apology for colonial sins

Ndiku Mutua joins campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London. Photo: PA Wire

My GCSE History books would tell the story of Empire in simple terms: those who were lucky enough to live in a British colony benefitted from vast train networks, the English language and three-pin plug sockets.

In turn, Britain got curry houses, some good music and a wave of immigrants to help to re-build post war Britain. There were no losers from this simple deal, it seemed.

Mum and Dad, born in opposite ends of the Empire, would warn that things weren’t quite so simple; despite the many plus-points of living in part of the world that had been ‘painted red’, there were darker shades to Britain’s colonial past, which the history books seemed to dodge.

Today, three elderly Kenyans who were born into that past - veterans of the country’s Mau Mau uprising - won the right to put the Empire in the dock in a trial which might lead to the re-assessment of a defining element of our national history.

The Foreign Office accepts that the veterans suffered ill-treatment at the hands of the Colonial Administration - there was huge bloodshed on both sides during the insurgency of the 1950s.

But British government lawyers have argued that the old imperial power cannot be held responsible almost half a century after Kenya’s independence.

Ndiku Mutua was one of the veterans who launched this extraordinary case. Last year he took me to the place where he says he was castrated on the orders of colonial officials.

I followed him as he struggled through a field, aided by his walking stick. His fingers shook as he pointed to the spots where torture camps once stood.

He said that he wanted compensation from the British government to pay for a decent funeral. “I can have no family. Once I die, who will bury me?” he said.

But it was an apology that he wanted most of all – recognition of colonial sins. Thanks to today’s judgment, his dream appears to be a little closer.