Cabinet 'hushed up' torture of Mau Mau rebels

Eight British officials accused during a vicious colonial war of having prisoners tortured to death – some were burned alive – went unpunished even after their crimes had been reported to the Cabinet, according to a document submitted to a high court yesterday.

Four elderly Kenyans are seeking redress for their brutal treatment by the British during the suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s. The Foreign Office has not disputed that the four were tortured, but is seeking to have the case struck off as the perpetrators were not working for the UK government but for the colonial administration in Kenya.

To coincide with the case, brought by the London law firm Leigh Day, the Government is releasing more than 1,500 files, containing an estimated 17,000 pages, relating to British rule in Kenya, along with thousands more files from other former colonies. None of these documents has been released yet, but David Anderson, professor of African politics at Oxford University, has been allowed to examine about 300 files, and his written evidence was part of yesterday's hearing.

One of the documents he has seen was a telegram sent on 17 January 1955 by the Governor of Kenya, Evelyn Baring, to the Secretary of State for Colonies, Alan Lennox-Boyd, containing the horrific detail that prisoners had been burned alive.

In others, he found ample evidence that officialdom covered up for British officers and their African subalterns who used "coercive force" against the Mau Mau. In February 1956 a provincial commissioner in Kenya, "Monkey" Johnson, wrote to the Attorney General, Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller, urging him to block any enquiry into the methods used against the Mau Mau, because "it would now appear that each and every one of us, from the Governor downwards, may be in danger of removal from public service by a commission of enquiry as a result of enquiries made by the CID."

Another file showed Governor Baring discussing with Mr Lennox-Boyd the "political difficulties" that could arise from the use of torture. In another, Mr Baring, a member of the banking family, asked his staff to update him on the number of suspects "beaten" in Mwea camp.

Tom Askwith, who was as an Olympic rower in the 1930s, before taking up a career in the colonies, was one of the few Kenyan officials to speak out against the abuses; he was sacked as a result. On a visit to Mwea, he witnessed "food denial with starvation for up to three days, sleep deprivation through water being thrown over detainees, and regular brutal beatings."

Robert Jay, representing the Foreign Office, admitted that two of the men in court yesterday, Ndiku Mutua and Paulo Nzili, were tortured and castrated by the British, and a third, Wambugu Wa Nyingi, was beaten unconscious during the Hola massacre, on 3 March 1959, when 11 prisoners were clubbed to death by the guards. The only woman claimant, Jane Muthoni Mara, was tortured and sexually abused.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks