Gli scritti di Eileen Fletcher sulla repressione britannica in Kenya

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Detained without trial

The women’s screening has unfortunately been much slower than that of the men. It is in the charge of a woman screening, officer, a settler’s wife employed half time! She is a daughter of settlers and speaks Kikuyu fluently. Incidentally she is the only woman in Rehabilitation work who carries arms, always wearing a revolver strapped in a prominent position, all the other European women (and African) would go alone among the most hardened “Black” women with no protection at all.

She told me it was a waste of time my trying to teach Kikuyu women anything as “they were fat lazy lumps who can’t learn anything” (Later she denied, when I was not present, having said this!).

One of the strange things from the point of view of British Justice is that under the Emergency Regulations convicts who have served the full term to which they were sentenced by the Court, can, without further trial, and on the order of the Rehabilitation Officer, be transferred to a Detention Camp and kept there indefinitely instead of being released.

This woman officer’s screening figures for September, 1955 of convicts who served their sentences are illuminating:


160 classified grey, recommended for Repatriation.

227 classified black, recommended for Detention.

Long Term Convicts

13 classified grey, recommended for Repatriation.

45 classified black, recommended for Detention.

The Assistant Commissioner told me that one District Commissioner had asked her why this woman was recommending so many for detention.

Mr. Justice Cram, Kenya Supreme Court Judge, was reported in April, 1955 as saying:

The Kikuyu Home Guard is an illegal body. Looking at the evidence there exists a system of Guard Posts manned by Head men and Chiefs, and there are Interrogation Centres and Prisons where the Queen’s subjects, whether innocent or guilty, are led by armed men without warrant, detained, and as it seems tortured until they confess to alleged crimes and then led further to trial on the sole evidence of these confessions It is time the court declared any such systems illegal and should come to an end, these dens emptied of their victims and those chiefs exercising arbitrary power checked and warned.

(Following this the Home Guard was made legal! But have the above irregularities been dealt with?)

Detention camps and prisons

The Nairobi paper, “Comment”, of June 30, 1955, quotes their Rongai correspondent as saying the Kikuyu are costing two and a half million pounds sterling per year in Detention Camps and Prisons.

A settler told me it was unfortunate that Mau Mau had learnt jungle warfare and the use of weapons from us when we trained them to serve in World War II!

In Kisumu the Rehabilitation Officer introduced me to a contractor who said the best and cheapest way of dealing with Mau Mau would be to shoot a whole age group. When the Rehabilitation Officer said that could not be done and that the men were being put in camps on islands in Lake Victoria, the contractor said, “Oh well thats just as good, Blackwater Fever and Malaria will do the trick just as well, only take a bit longer”.

Nairobi. The Rehabilitation Officer asked me to go there with him to visit 75 male juveniles under 17 Years of age. The Commissioner for Community Development and Rehabilitation came with us and said to me, “It will break your heart to see them, shackled, nothing to do, in a very small dormitory and with a very small space for exercise. They have been there a year and are just rotting”.

Although I went at the request of the Rehabilitation Officer who accompanied me, and I had an official pass signed by the Commissioner of Prisons, permitting me to visit all prisons, the officer in charge would not allow me to see them!

Later they were moved to Kamiti prison where they were given longer shackles and put to work in the quarry. A visiting American missionary who saw them there told me the duty officer told him one was only eight years old. One wonders how a child of that age can be rehabilitated, shackled among toughs and working in a quarry when our own children would have barely left the Infant School.

Young girls in goal

Kamiti. The woman officer in charge of the Women’s Prison told me that a number of the female convicts were under 14 years of age and it was illegal for them to be in prison but there was nowhere else to put them. She also said that 17 of the girl Lifers would have been hanged for murder, but for their youth and their sex, as at that time under the Emergency Regulations, Africans could be hanged if they happened to be in a house at a time when someone committed a murder, or even for consorting with Mau Mau.

The sentences passed by the court on women, some of them mere children are worth noting (extracts from official records):

Age 11. Taking two illegal oaths. Seven years Hard Labour.

Age 12. Consorting with Mau Mau. Indeterminate Sentence.

Age under 18. Only with gang two days. Sentenced to seven years Hard Labour “for willingly consorting with gang and with a woman sentenced for murder, but not with intent to murder”.

Age 30. Taking illegal oath. Seven years Hard Labour.

Age 12. Consorting with armed persons. Indeterminate Sentence.

Age 18 19. In company with armed persons. Denies adherence to Mau Mau. Little Swahili, few capabilities. It is noted that in opinion of trial Judge she may have been press ganged. Not a dangerous character. Should be detained for a period not exceeding five years if that be the Governors Pleasure.

Age 15. Unlawful possession ammunition. Indeterminate Sentence.

Age 19. Consorting with suspected persons, Seven years Hard Labour.

Age 25. Taking illegal oath (two counts). Five years and seven years Hard Labour concurrent.

Age 16. (1) Member of unlawful society; (2) Attempting to commit offence punishable by death; (3) Assault causing Bodily Harm; (4) Assault causing Bodily Harrn. Sentence 15 years Imprisonment.

Age 42. Has seven children aged from 15 months to 22 years. Charged with being in unlawful possession of ammunition. Sentenced to Death, commuted to Life Imprisonment.

Age 16. Consorting with persons in unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition. Indeterminate Sentence.

Age 16 17. Consorting with persons in unlawful possession of firearms (gang). Indeterminate Sentence.

Age 17. Unlawful possession ammunition. Indeterminate Sentence.

Age 16. Consorting with armed persons. Indeterminate Sentence.

Age 16. Unlawful possession of firearms. Unlawful possession ammunition. Indeterminate Sentence.

Those indeterminate sentences only come up for review every four years. No rehabilitation work had been done with any of them as it was against the policy of the department to work with the “Black” category. I was allowed to work with them as an experiment and had a very marked response from them. After I had to leave I heard the work with them had stopped and the original policy of only working with “Greys” reverted to.

One wonders what these young girls and adolescents will be like after four years segregation with the Hard Core Mau Mau women, some of whom, according to one prison officer have boasted of their murders and of having eaten human flesh. Many of the young ones were terrorised into joining Mau Mau and some of the sentences should surely be reviewed or special provision made for their rehabilitation before it is too late. There is a real risk of them being contaminated by some of the women as oathing ceremonies have taken place in male and female camps and prisons.

In Kamiti nine females were found to have conducted such a ceremony. They were prosecuted and eight of them sentenced to death and a juvenile to life imprisonment. All appealed and their appeal was upheld, the Judge saying:

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