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Britain backs Kenya memorial for Mau Mau abuses

12 December 2013, 08:50

Nairobi - Kenya's former colonial rulers Britain are supporting the building of a memorial for those who suffered during the brutal Mau Mau uprising, a British minister said Wednesday.

The announcement came on the eve of Kenya's 50th anniversary of independence from Britain, with celebrations due Thursday to mark the half century of freedom.

More 10,000 people were killed during the 1952-1960 Mau Mau uprising - some reports suggest significantly more - and tens of thousands were detained in harsh British-run detention camps, including US President Barack Obama's grandfather.

Britain's Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds on Wednesday launched a competition for Kenyans to design the memorial, in collaboration with the Mau Mau War Veterans Association and other partners.

"Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill treatment at the hands of colonial administration, and we expressed sincere regret that these abuses took place," Simmonds said.

Tens of thousands of Kenyans -- many of them unassociated with the Mau Mau insurgency -- endured horrific treatment including torture and sexual mutilation.

"The Mau Mau Memorial will commemorate all those who were the victims of torture, suffered and supported the Mau Mau movement," Kenya Human Rights Commission said in a statement, which is also part of the memorial project.

The memorial design should "symbolise reconciliation between the Mau Mau and the British government", it added.

In June, Britain announced it will compensate more than 5,200 elderly Kenyans who were tortured and abused during the insurgency.

The deal, worth 19.9 million (23.5 million euros, $30.8 million), follows a four-year legal battle in which Britain maintained it was not liable for the abuse - which remains its position - claiming legal responsibility had passed to the Kenyan government after independence in 1963.

Simmonds is in Kenya to represent Britain at the independence celebrations on Thursday.

Mau Mau guerrillas - often with dreadlocked hair and wearing animal skins - terrorised colonial communities with attacks from bases in remote forests, challenging white settlers for valuable land.

But while attention at the time focused on 32 murdered white settlers, the number of indigenous Kenyans killed was far higher.

While the Mau Mau are now often seen as a key stage in Kenya's path to independence, it also created bitter divisions within communities, with some joining the fighters and others serving colonial powers.



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