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Britain should issue a “public and unconditional apology” to Kenya for injustices committed during the colonial era, the country’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission has said.
The four-volume report, delivered to the Kenyan president late on Tuesday, recommended that the Kenyan government enter into negotiations with the British Government for compensation for victims.
The TJRC was set up in the wake of the 2007 post-election violence to examine injustices dating back to Kenyan independence from Britain in 1963. But the commission chose also to investigate the colonial period in its report.
Lawyers for the British Government are currently engaged in closed-door negotiations for compensation payments that could affect thousands of Kenyans who were detained or tortured for participating in the Mau Mau uprising against the British authorities in the 1950s.
If concluded, the payments would be the first compensation issued by Britain for colonial-era crimes and could open the door to claims from victims of British imperialism in other countries.
“Some of the atrocities committed during the Mau Mau era are well-documented, but when you listen to them told by the families, it is very shocking,” Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat, Chairman of the TJRC, told The Daily Telegraph.
“We investigated from 1963 but we also looked at the colonial period to see if there were linkages to what came later. Some of the laws and policies were continued, some of the problems we are facing are linked to the colonial era. With the apology, it’s goodwill we are seeking.”
A source close to the British Government said that it was not yet in a position to the comment on the report.
Dean Leader, partner at Leigh Day & Co, a British law firm representing three victims of Mau Mau-era abuses, said: “We welcome the fact that the report has also looked at abuses prior to independence.
“What happened in Kenya prior to independence is of enormous significance. The fact that the TJRC is pronouncing on this at such a late stage, means that some of these issues are unresolved,” he added.
The small group of Mau Mau veterans represented by Leigh Day & Co have been at the vanguard of compensation claims.
While acknowledging that abuses had taken place, lawyers for the British government had attempted to deny legal responsibility.
But a High Court ruling last year awarded the veterans the right to a full trial against the government, triggering negotiations for an out-of-court settlement.
Kenya’s TJRC also found that the first three post-independence leaders presided over governments that were responsible for “numerous gross violations of human rights”.
This includes the government of the late president Jomo Kenyatta, the father of Uhuru Kenyatta, who was elected Kenya’s fourth president in March.
The first President Kenyatta held office for 15 years following independence in 1963.
The commission reportedly took more than 40,000 statements, but its activities have been plagued by significant delays, funding issues and questions about the credibility of the commission’s chairperson, who is himself mentioned in the report.
The presidency said in a statement that the government “will take the recommendations of the report seriously”.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto – who are both mentioned in the report – are facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court for their alleged roles in the 2007-08 post-election violence. Both men deny the charges.
The president must now present the report to the Kenyan parliament, where his coalition holds a majority.