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.

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

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.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 456 This feature was published in the October 2012 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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  1. #1 Starr 11 Dec 12

    It sounds too good to be true. Even though there are many lawyers who will seek compensation for their clients and they work purely in their client's best interest, there are also lawyers who are monetary motivated. By getting more victims to join the case, they can ask for greater compensation. Such cases are not new, and there has been cases of fraud where the lawyer unfairly gains huge claims without their client's knowledge.

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This article was originally published in issue 456

New Internationalist Magazine issue 456
Issue 456

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