Donald Macintyre's Sketch: A small step, a small audience – but still a piece of history

 

It lasted less than half an hour. The word “apology” was never used. There were hardly a couple of dozen MPs present. But sometimes that’s how history is made. William Hague’s statement that the Government “sincerely regret” the torture of thousands of Kenyan detainees was not only the first official recognition of the lifelong “pain and grievance” inflicted on those that survived it. The Foreign Secretary did not say – and perhaps did not need to – that today’s £19.9m out-of-court settlement was a necessary, if woefully belated, step in the process of facing up to the dark corners of the country’s late imperial past.

Of these, the treatment of Mau Mau suspects during the draconian State of Emergency was surely the darkest. Hague insisted that “torture and ill-treatment are abhorrent violations of human dignity, which we unreservedly condemn”. He reminded Tory backbencher Col Bob Stewart, who urged him also to support a memorial to the 2,000 killed by the Mau Mau, compared with up to 25,000 Kenyans killed by the colonial authorities, that such violations were also “not effective”. (Which happen to be exactly the arguments used by those seeking redress for those subjected to extraordinary rendition).

Hague defended the previous decision by the present government and the previous Labour government to contest claims by three torture victims.

This bothered Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, who said that a litany of Labour MPs in the 1950s – including Barbara Castle, Fenner Brockway and Tony Benn – had thought the then Tory government did indeed have “liability”. Praising the victims for securing the settlement by exposing “the use of concentration camps, torture, castration, and all the vile things that were done to Kenyan prisoners by the British forces,” he added that such practices “reduce our ability to criticise anyone else for that fundamental denial of human rights”.

Much, though not all, had been known about the abuses at the time. Labour’s David Winnick recalled that one of the greatest speeches denouncing the notorious 1959 Hola Camp massacre of 11 Kenyan detaineees had been made by the then Tory backbencher Enoch Powell.

But it was left to the Lib Dem Tessa Munt to suggest Hague “speak to the Education Secretary and consider whether this part of our colonial past, which did not cover us with glory, might be a topic for discussion in schools.” Now that really is something for Michael Gove to think about.

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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map