Kenfrey Kiberenge: Shameful stalling tactics are trying to deny victims closure

Kenyans are keenly aware of the West’s double standards when it comes to human rights

Kenfrey Kiberenge@kenkiberenge
Tuesday 17 July 2012 01:42

Kenyans are keenly watching this case. First, they want to examine the true independence of the vaunted British judiciary, a model often cited in the ongoing reforms of Kenya's convoluted court system.

They are also thrilled by the irony of Britain – a staunch supporter of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which was set up to guard against gross human right abuses – now having to defend crimes committed by its own forces.

It is important to note that the British Government does not reject assertions of gross violations of the Mau Mau's human rights before Kenyan independence in 1963.

What London initially wanted was for the Kenyan Government to assume liability. When this failed following a court judgement last year, Britain tried to cite the elapsed time as a reason for the cases to be thrown out.

How do you explain that to Naomi Nzyula, who claims to have been sexually assaulted with a bottle, killing her unborn baby? Her husband was castrated and made deaf during a brutal beating. Neither has seen their three children since they were arrested in December 1952.

Kenyans are keenly aware of the West's double standards when it comes to human rights. Britain is a strong backer of an ICC case in which four Kenyans face charges of crimes against humanity related to the 2008 poll violence which left more than 1,000 people dead. Questions to any British official about these cases attract a uniform answer: let justice run its course.

Why then is the same administration seeking to have the Mau Mau case struck out on a technicality?

Fortunately Kenyan human rights groups have been willing to take on some of the financial burden of conducting such a difficult legal challenge. Had the three elderly claimants had to rely on their personal finances they would have given up long ago.

But the truth is they are ageing – one of the four original claimants has already died and the rest are in their 70s and 80s. Kenyan lawyer Paul Muite thinks Britain is well aware of this and is stalling. I hope that's not the case.

Whatever the outcome, this is an opportunity for Kenya to confront its past. For the first time, candid questions are being asked as to why so many Kenyans were "conned" out of their prime land by ruling elites in the independence government and encouraged to settle in areas where they were treated as aliens.

Like a double-edged sword, this case can hurt both the British and the Kenyan government, which still has officials – or their descendants – who benefited from the trickery of the independence administration.

Kenfrey Kiberenge works for The Standard newspaper in Nairobi. He is winner of the David Astor Journalism Award 2012 and is on a fellowship programme with The Independent

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