New Internationalist

British lawyers on the hunt for Mau Mau fighters in Kenya

October 2012

Maina Waruru questions the motivations of firms seeking compensation from the British government.

AGENDA

An item from the Agenda section of the magazine, where we look beyond the news curve with reports and comment on breaking stories.

This feature was published in the October issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

At the beginning of October 2012, a group of Kenyan veterans was given permission to sue the British government over torture in a historic high court ruling. Two British law firms are in engaged in a fierce hunt for former Mau Mau freedom fighters. Both Leigh Day and Tandem Legal are trying to hook in as many victims from Kenya’s pre-independence era as possible, with a view to suing the British government for compensation.

AP Photo
Two young Kenyans arrested for making 'inflammataory' speeches in 1952. AP Photo

While Leigh Day has been pursuing the cases for close to five years, with the help of the Kenya Human Rights Commission and well-wishers, Tandem Legal and partners are going it alone. They appeared on the scene last year, after the high court in London ruled that the Mau Mau War Veterans’ Association had a legitimate right to make a compensation claim against the British government for acts of torture and imprisonment.

Since then, Tandem Law has visited many parts of Kenya in pursuit of clients, signing contracts for free legal representation. Critics, however, are questioning the companies’ motivation. Many fear that the real driving force is monetary gain for the firms themselves. Observers are happy to note that Leigh Day, through senior partner Martyn Day, has in the past squeezed out close to $1 million for Maasai who were injured by munitions left behind in British soldiers’ training grounds in northern Kenya.

Read Maina’s blog: ‘Britain must compensate all Mau Mau veterans’ here.

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