Kenya scraps law against Mau Mau rebels

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The Independent Online

Kenya announced yesterday that it was scrapping colonial era legislation banning the Mau Mau movement, the organisation which led an uprising against Britain prior to independence in 1963.

Kenya announced yesterday that it was scrapping colonial era legislation banning the Mau Mau movement, the organisation which led an uprising against Britain prior to independence in 1963.

The Security Minister, Chris Murungaru, said he had scrapped the statute that outlawed the Mau Mau and branded them "terrorists" after they were accused of conducting secret rituals to kill white settlers and their African supporters during the uprising.

"I have gazetted the lifting of the ban of Mau Mau as an organisation, in effect recognising Mau Mau as freedom fighters and not terrorists," he said.

The move provides a boost for a compensation case being brought against the British Government by veterans of the campaign.

Lifting the ban could smooth the way for a claim from the surviving fighters for compensation for the torture they say they endured during the rebellion.

As many as 100,000 Mau Mau were arrested by the British authorities and detained in prison camps following the declaration of a state of emergency after they began their violent campaign against colonial rule in 1952.

The Mau Mau have maintained that their role in the nation's history has not been properly recognised and accuse post-independence governments of neglecting them.

Scotland Yard announced in May that officers from its anti-terrorism branch had begun making a preliminary assessment into claims that British officials were responsible for human rights abuses during the conflict.

If the uprising is considered by police lawyers to have been a war, and not an act of terrorism, then the Government could be liable for prosecution under the terms of the Geneva Convention for the treatment of prisoners.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said that the investigation was still under way.

Leigh Day, a human rights law firm, has taken up the Mau Mau's case and is appealing against an initial decision by the Legal Services Commission not to grant legal aid.

More than 650 Masai and Samburu women who claim they were raped by British soldiers over the past three decades won public funding in July to bring a multimillion-pound claim against the Ministry of Defence to a British court.

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