The scramble for Mau Mau proceeds

PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI Mau Mau freedom fighters follow proceedings during a press conference in Nyeri recently. The group is asking the government to arrest people circulating letters seeking their signature for their compensation.

What you need to know:

  • The recent ruling by a UK court and the revelation that the British are ready to settle matters out of court have set off a vicious struggle by groups claiming to represent the veterans

A scramble for the huge amounts of money expected to be paid to Mau Mau fighters by the British Government in compensation has begun among organisations claiming to represent the veterans.

This follows the news that Britain is keen on an out-of-court settlement that could run into billions of shillings. London would also build a monument in Kenya worth Sh1.2 billion as part of the deal.

But the anticipated payout has touched off cut-throat competition among three Mau Mau associations.

This week two of them took out newspaper advertisements warning members against taking part in the an out-of-court settlement deal.

A fortnight ago, members of another group issued a similar alert through a law firm handling their case in the UK.

It all started after a breakthrough by one of the organisations, the Mau Mau War Veterans Association, which, in conjunction with the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), has filed a case in London through the British law firm, Leigh Day.

The group says it has been pursuing a two-pronged approach: suing the British Government while negotiating with it for a possible out-of-court settlement.

After revelations that Britain was keen on the latter, Tandem Law, which has filed a separate case in London, issued a warning to surviving veterans that they should only register with them or Griffin Legal.

The latter is a Kenyan management claims company that Tandem Law has been working with to record statements from many of the former freedom fighters.

Tandem Law said it was representing 8,000 former fighters while Leigh Day was handling just three.

Leigh Day successfully argued the case of Wambugu Wanyingi, Jane Muthoni Maara and Paul Nzili before a UK court.

Undermining our hope

In an e-mail to the Sunday Nation on Saturday, Martyn Day, a senior partner, dismissed Tandem Law’s allegations as nonsense.

“We have 5,200 clients and have evidence they were tortured or seriously abused by the colonialists. We are in discussion with the British Government and are hopeful a deal will be reached soon,” it read.

He said he had no knowledge of Tandem’s claims.

Leigh Day convinced the court there was a possibility of a fair trial although the crimes were committed over 50 years ago, and most of the involved parties had since died. Tandem Law’s statement was followed by an advert on Wednesday, which disowned the out-of-court settlement, saying the case by the Mau Mau War Veterans Association was still before the UK court.

That case was lodged on behalf of Eloise Mukami Kimathi and James Karanja Nyoro, among others, by Tandem Law.

“We ask all veterans affected by recent reports to be patient as we work towards ensuring that the voice of our struggle is not buried by a deal that undermines our hope,” read in part the advert signed by Eliud Kinyua, Geoffrey Mwai and Duncan Mwangi.

The trio, who also claimed to have 8,000 members in their ambit, went on to accuse some association members of working with Leigh Day to collude with the British Government in order to defraud the veterans.

“Forms are now in circulation requiring veterans to sign for a payment of Sh330,000 as compensation. This is false and aimed at defrauding them,” they said.

A day later, another group calling itself the Mau Mau Harambee Jamhuri ya Kenya Association, claiming to have 3,427 members, also disowned the out-of-court deal in an advert. They said Tandem Law was holding brief for them, too.

Right to honour

“No one has mandate to stop us from being represented by our lawyers, and we condemn any efforts to frustrate us. We will fight for our right to honour and justice no matter what it takes,” said the advert signed by Isaac Mureithi and James Gachege.

On Friday, Mrs Kimathi, whose husband was hanged by colonial authorities, told off KHRC and Leigh Day, saying they do not represent Mau Mau interests.

In a rejoinder, KHRC said no payments have yet been made to any victims.

“When a settlement is agreed, it will be publicly announced. The court case and settlement negotiations have nothing to do with Tandem Law, Griffin Legal or any other law firm or organisation,” Atsango Chesoni, the Executive Director of KHRC, said.

In the compensation plan, Britain would rely on the records in their custody which have the names of the detainees.

The colonial records have even impressed a judge.

“The government and military commanders at the time seem to have been meticulous record keepers,” Justice Richard McCombe said in a past ruling of the Mau Mau case.

Last year, a secret archive of over 2,000 boxes containing 8,800 files from 37 former colonies, among them Kenya, was discovered hidden in a colonial archive in London.

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