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Britain's Compensation For Mau Mau Torture 'Historic': Lawyer

posted 6 Jun 2013, 14:41 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 6 Jun 2013, 14:42 ]

The lawyer representing thousands of Mau Mau victims of abuses by British colonial forces says London's offer of compensation and a statement of regret are "historic".

 LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM   (REUTERS) -  The lawyer for victims of abuses committed by British authorities during their colonial rule in Kenya in the 1950s on Thursday (June 6) hailed London's statement of regret and a payout package as historic.

Britain expressed regret on Thursday for the abuse of Kenyans by colonial forces during the Mau Mau insurgency and announced compensation for 5,228 survivors, but stopped short of apologising.

The deal was settled out of court after three elderly Kenyan torture victims won the right in October to sue the British government.

Lawyer Martyn Day said the case represented a huge challenge.

"My clients first came to see me in a hotel in Nairobi 10 years ago in October in 2002. In terms of them telling me what the case was about -- the idea of being able to bring to justice the British government after so many years seemed really a massive uphill struggle. And yet here we are 10 years later, receiving compensation, getting the apology," he said in London, describing the development as an "absolutely historic moment".

The lawyer commended British Foreign Secretary William Hague for the decision.

"I take my hat off to Mr Hague, he stood there and took it on the chin and he's made the decision. As a result, there will be some very happy Kenyans in Nairobi this afternoon cheering away," he said.

The 5,228 claimants are due to receive 13.9 million pounds ($21.4 million), about 2,600 pounds each, or about 340,000 Kenyan shillings.

Day said the Mau Mau veterans would not have been happy with just the payout.

"I think if they had just been offered the money, they would have refused -- no question about that. It was the combination of the apology, together with the compensation that meant so much to them. It meant it was real and it meant that theBritish government had basically to go on its knees and say sorry," Day said.

The lawyer said he was disappointed, however, that it took the British government10 years to come to the decision.

London will 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 violent 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 inLondon.

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 the Mau Mau, were detained in camps.