British soldiers assist police searching for Mau Mau members, Karoibangi, Kenya, 1954. (Photo: Popperfoto/Getty Images)
Kenyan activists are suing the United Kingdom for its grave abuses during the country’s colonial era after London refused to take any accountability for its crimes.
This article was originally published by Al Mayadeen English.
Several Kenyan activists are suing the United Kingdom over abuses committed during the British empire’s colonial era, raising a case against the country in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday.
The plaintiffs, Africans forced off their land in the Kenyan Rift Valley, are saying London violated the European Convention of Human Rights through the abuses it committed in Africa during its colonial rule of the continent.
The UK is a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights, and the plaintiffs’ lawyers are saying it violated the accord by consistently ignoring complaints raised by the victims of the brutal British colonial rule.
“The UK government has ducked and dived, and sadly avoided every possible avenue of redress,” Joel Kimutai Bosek, a lawyer representing the Kipsigis and Talai peoples, said. “We have no choice but to proceed to court for our clients so that history can be righted.”
The British Empire, the world’s biggest colonial empire, ruled Kenya between the late 19th century and 1962 while having a chokehold on the majority of the African continent, among various other regions of the world.
The peoples living in the Rift Valley were uprooted from their land in the early 1900s. One of the areas they were forced off of, the one surrounding Kericho, the biggest town in the Valley, is a key region used to grow tea, which is then farmed by multinational corporations to this day.
“Today, some of the world’s most prosperous tea companies, like Unilever, Williamson Tea, Finlay’s, and Lipton occupy and farm these lands and continue to use them to generate considerable profits,” the plaintiffs said in a statement.
The indigenous peoples of the region are not only deprived of their land but are also robbed of the potential profits they could be making from the fertile lands.
Previously, the Kipsigis and Talai took their cause to the UN, where a special investigative panel expressed “serious concern” last year over London failing to take any part of the blame and accountability or even issue an apology for the abuses committed during its colonial era.
The complaint sent to the UN was signed by more than 100,000 people that directly suffered from the colonial rule and those people’s descendants. They were demanding an apology and reparations for their land being ceded to white colonial settlers.
Kericho County outgoing governor Paul Chepkwony highly lauded the plaintiffs’ filing of their case with the ECHR, saying it was a “historic day” for the whole region.
“We have taken all reasonable and dignified steps. But the UK Government has given us the cold shoulder… we hope for those who have suffered for too long that their dignity will be restored,” Chepkwony said.