The Guardian (UK)June 5, 2013.
In the wake of its announcement, Britain now faces potential claims from across its former empire. From a historical perspective, the government has every reason to be concerned about its legacy. There is unequivocal evidence of colonial brutalities in end-of-empire Malaya, Cyprus and elsewhere. Whether there is enough for successful legal claims is another matter altogether, however.Read the rest here.
Lessons from the Mau Mau case in the high court are instructive. History was on trial, as it would be in other cases. As such, the level of historical reconstruction needed was extraordinary, as was the volume of evidence for a successful claim. The case was one that clearly rose and fell on highly detailed levels of historical knowledge and evidence.
The Kikuyu had a team of three historical experts – myself, David Anderson and Huw Bennett. Together, we brought decades of revisionist research to the case, and with it a full range of knowledge necessary for a successful claim. Outside Kenya, no other field has the depth or breadth of revisionist scholarship documenting British colonial violence at the end of empire. In part, this is due to the fact that British colonial authorities destroyed evidence at the time of decolonisation, or withheld other boxes of files for years. Regardless, without revisionist work, other potential cases will be at a disadvantage.
*****Comment: Also see the Guardian's "UK to expect more colonial-era compensation claims" (June 6) for more discussion.
Mau Mau veterans who posed individually at the Hilton hotel in Nairobi,
Kenya, during a press conference by the British High Commission.
Photograph: Phil Moore/AFP/Getty Images
This is an extraordinary case even though the damages to be paid is very small. One could cynically say that the settlement has bought the UK the right to excuse its brutality.
According to The Guardian the settlement is as follows:
Some 5,228 Kenyans are to receive a total of £13.9m in compensation – worth about £2,600 per person – under the terms of the settlement. The government is also paying £6m in legal costs and has agreed to fund the construction of a memorial to the country's victims of colonial-era torture.A paltry sum and marginal concession indeed but I am going to hold out for the principle of confrontation that is being demonstrated. The past is never in the past and the truth will find a way out in one way or the other.
Still, it should be remembered that the truth about the past was always known to the victims.
What is significant is that the decision to draw compensation for the victims clearly identifies Britain as the perpetrator of gross human rights violations.
More to come no doubt.