An appeal by the British government is seeking to overturn a London High Court ruling that an elderly group of Kenyan Mau Mau veterans have a valid compensation case. The appeal is due to be heard on 13 May, in what is promising to be a case closely studied not only in Kenya, but across the world.
The British government is unhappy that the courts found merit in a case that may have serious financial implications on its finances and far-reaching impacts, thanks to the country’s imperialist past.
In Kenya, victims, human rights activists and well-wishers are worried that if the case is thrown out then the veterans will lose their last chance to receive some justice for torture they suffered at the hands of the British authorities – in the form of compensation. But there is a possibility that the new Kenyan government will step in.
The men and women behind the case, former freedom fighters who suffered cruelty at the hands of British colonial authorities nearly 60 years ago, are seeking millions of pounds in compensation. This is, according them, money that would help them get medical attention for their frail condition and to live a relatively easier life in their old age.
The British government’s appeal is based mainly on the fact that the injustices happened so many years ago, and that few witnesses remain alive. This does not invalidate the fact that inhuman treatment was committed by a government against citizens of a foreign country seeking justice on their own land.
In Kenya, opinion seems unanimous that even if the status quo is maintained in the case, the appeal will have the effect of delaying proceedings and minimizing the chance that many of the ageing veterans would enjoy the cash if it is ever paid out.
Already courts have been fixing dates three months apart; in other words, very little progress is likely to happen during 2013.
Meanwhile, the Kenyan octogenarians’ suffering continues, as they live in penury, unable to afford medical care in a country where there is no such thing as social welfare.
The probability of this appeal going through is, of course, too painful to contemplate for lawyers Martin Day Leigh, the Kenya Human Rights commission (KHRC) – who are the brains behind the suit – and the victims.
Some people are hoping that the new Kenyan government, led by Uhuru Kenyatta, will implement a request made to authorities last year seeking government financial support in the matter, recognizing that so far legal fees have been borne by well-wishers and donors who have no direct obligation to help.
Arguments have been made that Kenyatta, himself a harsh critic of the West, son of former British detainee Jomo Kenyatta, and a suspect at The Hague’s International Criminal Court, may just look at this matter favourably.