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Kenya: confusion follows Mau Mau compensation deal

United Kingdom
Human Rights

It was announced last week that an out-of-court settlement had been reached between a group of Kenyans tortured in the Mau Mau uprising on the 1950s and the British government. But now confusion seems to have taken over, with other veterans coming out to stake a claim, saying that they too should have been included in the lawsuit, which was filed by Leigh Day on behalf of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC). The British law firm was working on behalf of over 5,000 people who now stand to gain from the £19.9 million ($31.2 million) payment. Numerous law firms say that they too will join the gravy train and file cases for more freedom fighters.

The apparent free-for-all created by the news of the pay-out can partly be pinned on reports that Leigh Day will reportedly pocket 30 per cent of the money awarded, while the victims will themselves get 70 per cent.

In what looks like a dash for a piece of the cash, two more firms – Tandem Law and GR Law, both based in Britain – are now claiming they will soon move to court to press for large amounts of compensation for more ex-fighters against British colonial rule.

Tandem Law, with local Kenyan partners Griffin Legal, is in a legal battle on behalf of over 8,000 veterans. GR Law, in partnership with Rabala and company advocates, has been recruiting ex-fighters on the ground in readiness for a suit similar to the one which gained the compensation deal along with Leigh Day.

Questions are now emerging as to whether the new law firms will be able to recruit genuine victims and ex-fighters, given that not that many of them will still be alive today, a fact underlined by the advanced age of the veterans who came out to receive the news in Nairobi last week. There are fears that these firms, in their haste to cash in on this scheme, may recruit impersonators.

Some in Kenya feel that $31.2 million is a poor deal considering that, after the subtraction of legal fees, the victims’ share will be just $4,542 each. The KHRC has responded by saying that it will sue the Kenyan government to compensate the fighters fully, claiming that the real responsibility for compensation lies with the authorities in Nairobi.

Now the wait is on to see whether the KHRC lives up to its word; the amount promised is laughable, even in Kenyan terms. It is not enough to pay for medical bills in a decent private health facility, let alone take care of the frail veterans for the remaining years of their lives. Kenya’s government would do well to place the ex-fighters under a medical insurance scheme to cushion them from extreme vulnerability and also to give them a form of monthly pension.

Many in Kenya feel that anything short of this would amount to callous and criminal neglect of the very people to whom the country owes its freedom.

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