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UK to compensate Kenyans tortured in Mau Mau revolt

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British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Thursday announced a compensation package worth €23.5 million for the thousands of Kenyans who suffered torture and abuse during the Mau Mau uprising against British colonial rule in the 1950s.

Britain expressed regret on Thursday about the abuse of Kenyans by colonial forces during the Mau Mau insurgency in the 1950s and announced a compensation package for over 5,200 elderly survivors worth a total of 20 million pounds ($31 million).

The deal, settled out of court after three elderly Kenyan victims of torture won the right in October to sue the British government, could encourage people in other former colonies to press claims over grievances dating back to the days of Empire.

“The British government recognises that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill treatment at the hands of the colonial administration,” Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament in London.

“The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place and that they marred Kenya’s progress towards independence.”

Hague said the government had reached a deal with the lawyers acting for the Kenyan victims, including payment of a settlement sum in respect of 5,228 claimants. London would also pay for a new memorial in Nairobi to the victims of torture and ill treatment during the colonial era.

The so-called Kenyan “Emergency” of 1952-1961 was one of the most traumatic episodes of British colonial rule in Africa.

Mau Mau rebels fighting for land and an end to British domination attacked British targets, causing panic among white settlers and alarming the government in London.

Tens of thousands of rebels were killed by colonial forces and their Kenyan allies, while an estimated 150,000 people, many of them unconnected to Mau Mau, were detained in brutal camps.

Last month, a British court ruled that three elderly Kenyans who were tortured under British rule in the 1950s could pursue their claim for damages from London, a judgement likely to encourage other claims from victims of colonial-era brutality.

Britain, which had tried for three years to block their legal action, said it was disappointed and planned to appeal while lawyers for the claimants warned the ruling would be studied carefully by victims of other alleged colonial crimes.

Now in their 70s and 80s, the claimants suffered castration, rape and beatings while in detention during a ruthless crackdown by British forces and their Kenyan allies on rebels from the Mau Mau movement fighting for land and freedom.

The trio want Britain to apologise and to fund welfare benefits for Kenyan victims of torture by colonial forces. They were not in court on Friday to hear the ruling but were expected to speak at a news conference in Nairobi later.

"I have reached the conclusion...that a fair trial on this part of the case does remain possible and that the evidence on both sides remains significantly cogent for the court to complete its task satisfactorily," said Judge Richard McCombe.

"The documentation is voluminous...and the government and the military commanders seem to have been meticulous record-keepers."

Dozens of supporters hugged each other and wept for joy at the back of the court in London following the ruling, and lawyers for the Kenyans said it was an historic judgement.