The task of running these enormous camps and prisons, the population varying from 3.000 to 18.000, and of winning them away from Mau Mau is immense. It needs people with special qualifications and understanding. The work is divided between Prison Officers and Rehabilitation Officers.
The Sunday Post (Nairobi) reported on November 13, 1955 that many of the Prison Officers were men out on a two year contract from England. The District Commissioner, Embu, said that in that area in 13 camps there was not one prison officer with any previous experience in prison administration.
One camp of 1.000 detainees “supposed to be undergoing the highly complex business of social rehabilitation before release was run by an ex paratrooper, who eight months ago was a storernan in England.”
With regard to rehabilitation, unfortunately, in my opinion, this was placed in the hands of the Department of Community Development. A Department which before the Emergency was a very small one, centred around a school for training African Community Development Officers.
To do Rehabilitation it had to expand very quickly at a time when it was practically impossible to get staff. Other Departments were asked what staff they could spare and sent those they wanted to get rid of!
There was no policy to help them; things were done by individual trial and error. I felt that an African Proverb, “We don’t know where we are going but we’re on the way”, described the Department!
Many of the officers for Prisons, Police, Administration and Rehabilitation were sent from England on a two year contract. I stayed for a few days in the centre where they went for a five weeks language course. The Common Room floor was littered with empty beer bottles and the chief “conversation”, were shouts of “Boy, bring me another beer” and “When am I going to be issued with my gun?”
Months later I met one of the lecturers who told me the Rehabilitation Officers in his courses needed rehabilitating themselves. Another official said they were. “Subhuman” and wondered who selected them, while a Prison Commandant told me his new officers “were absolutely the bottom of the barrel”. A high ranking official told me it was a “Department of Misfits”.
For the rehabilitation of the women I did not have a single European woman with any training at all. One had only done shorthand typing.
In the Kenya Sunday Post of February 12, 1956 the Auditor General is reported as saying: “The Ministry of Community Development and Rehabilitation appears unable to control its financial operations, and its account is overdrawn. A Government vehicle was used for private running without payment being collected and an expensive car used for local running about”.
One officer told me that his wife was being paid two-thirds of a full time salary for working three afternoons per week. I must add that five of the mate rehabilitation officers were excellent.
What are we to do?
The Settlers are trying to throw off the rule exercised by the Colonial Office and “run their own show”. From the above account one can imagine the fate of the luckless Kikuyu if this happens.
The defeat of Mau Mau is largely financed with money from this country. It is our money that is being spent on these brutal and repressive measures. What are we going to do about it?
Two things struck me forcibly during my sixteen months in Kenya: (1) the large number of offences which, under the Emergency Regulations, carried the death penalty, and the large number of Africans executed under these regulations; and (2) that in every case against a European the charge was either reduced or the case appeared to be conducted in a way favourable to the European.
Most readers will be familiar with the case of Kamau, Mrs. Barbara Castle, MP, having written about it. I include it later purposely to show the attitude and comments which seem to me to suggest that “Justice” is perhaps the wrong word to use!
“Goodwill” to whites only
Searle, a geologist in Government service, during the Emergency, was a District Commandant in the Kenya Police Reserve.
Convicted of perjury in a case where an African was on trial on a capital charge, Searle was sentenced to four years imprisonment.
Europeans immediately started an Appeal Fund and raised £ 3.000. On appeal his sentence was reduced to eighteen months.
A prison officer said to me, “I’m on the wrong side”. Asked what he meant he replied, “I wish I had the treatment Searle’s getting.”
A Petition for clemency was presented to the Governor. On August 31, 1955, the East African Standard reported that the Governor had exercised his prerogative of mercy and cut Searle’s sentence by half.
The Sunday Post reported that Mrs. Searle had then asked the Governor for a complete pardon for her husband. “The Governor listened sympathetically and said he would consider the matter further”.
The Sunday Post also published a large family photo on his release and said, “Mr. Searle will almost certainly be asked by the Colonial Office to resign. It remains to be seen whether good will can overcome Colonial Service Regulations. Good will there is certainly here in Kenya in plenty”.
A Kenya firm paid his fare to fly home from the prisons “a goodwill gesture”!
The Sunday Post reported Mr. Searle understands that the Department has been instructed by the Colonial Office that they must not assist him to obtain another job and bars him from holding any Government post in Kenya. Where is the obstruction coming from? From the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Lennox Boyd, was the opinion”.
The Governor in exercising his prerogative of mercy is reported to have said that there were mitigating factors not put before the Court when Searle was sentenced, for instance, heroism, going single handed into the Bush to try to capture armed gangsters!
The East African Standard, on August 16, 1955, reported that a British soldier had been charged with the murder of a Kikuyu woman on July 2.
He was found guilty. A member of the jury said to me, “We couldn’t bring him as insane because he explained why he had done it. He’ll have to get off on appeal as he’s a British soldier!”
The East African Standard reported on December 1, 1955, that a verdict of guilty had been set aside by the Court of Appeal of East Africa which had directed that though guilty he was insane at the time.
The jury had said, reported the newspaper, that, “They agreed he suffered from mental instability but added that insufficient evidence had been produced to convince them that at the time of the offence he was legally insane!”
The appeal was brought on the grounds that the finding of the jury was “perverse, wholly unreasonable and against the weight of the evidence”.
Crown Counsel said, “He knew what he was doing and knew it was wrong, and that was abundantly proved by his actions... it is significant that within a few minutes of committing the crime he went and confessed it”.
The Sunday Post, December 4, 1955, quoted Crown Counsel in asking for Appeal to be dismissed: “that on the medical evidence (for Defence) one expert had been discredited and the other one contradicted”.
In spite of this, the Appeal succeeded and the jury verdict of “Guilty” was set aside.
£1 per African body
In August, 1955 two British soldiers appeared on a charge of murdering a Kipsigis herdsman. The evidence, as reported in the East African Standard: Two herdsmen were arrested, one of whom was found to have an out of date pass. To check identity he was taken into custody by a Corporal Davies. They met the two accused who took over the prisoner, sending the corporal away. Soon after, the two British soldiers, with their prisoner, left the road and proceeded about 300 yards into the Bush, where the prisoner was shot. They explained later he had tried to attack them.
The prosecution “pointed out several significant points:
When the corporal said he was taking the prisoner to camp the sergeant (one of the accused)” said, “we will shoot him then”. When the corporal refused the sergeant said, “all right I’ll do it myself.
Prisoner was taken a considerable distance off the road instead of straight to camp.
There was evidence that the sergeant was extremely keen to kill a Mau Mau terrorist, his Platoon had not made any kills and the Court would hear that he had been offering £ 1 per body.
It is the case for the Crown that the prisoner was deliberately taken from the road into the Bush and there deliberately murdered by the accused.
The whole investigation was only begun as a result of a complaint from the employer of the herdsmen.
The Inspector in charge of the Police Station admitted that he had not taken the statements from the accused until May 13 but had dated them May 8 because after the complaint from the employer he “thought he had neglected his duty”.
The Defence appeared to rest on three points
A possibility that the chief Prosecution witness disliked the accused (who was his sergeant!).
That one of the accused had been heard to speak kindly to the prisoner.
That after the man’s death they were described as “exultant and jubilant,” and this was not consistent with murder.
The jury retired for 75 minutes and brought in a verdict of “Not Guilty”. Mr. Justice de Lestang said of the accused: “They left the court without a stain on their character”.