Gli scritti di Eileen Fletcher sulla repressione britannica in Kenya

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Judge surprised at prosecution

“It was obvious that the women who informed on the appellants all had strong motives for doing so, they would be moved into better compounds, with lighter duties and less onerous discipline. Their evidence was a mass of contradiction, discrepancies and serious divergences”.

Was it safe”, he asked, “to allow conviction on a capital offence to stand on evidence which to say the least was of very poor quality”. He ended by saying, “we feel constrained to add that we are somewhat surprised that the prosecution was even launched”.

In spite of these comments the Police Authorities paid two of the women £20 and £15 respectively for having given

One cannot help wondering how many of the men already hanged were sentenced on such flimsy evidence but did not appeal.

Kisumu. One girl aged 15 had been sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for taking oaths. She said she did it under pressure and that at the screening centre the Chief threatened her with reprisals if she would not have sexual intercourse with him.

A number of the women in this prison had on their prison records, “good behaviour: no evidence of Mau Mau tendencies!”

One hundred and thirty seven of them were transferred from Kisumu to Kamiti prison. One was dead on arrival. The Commandant said there was no need for an enquiry as these things happen. One wonders what state she was in when she was started on the two day journey.

Athi River. I visited here in August, 1955. Some women had been temporarily transferred from Kamiti which was overcrowded.

The woman officer in charge of the women’s section told me that some of the Lifers were very young, only 11 or 12 years old. The camp was unsuitable and the main purpose was to accommodate hard tore males and it was not possible to segregate the women entirely.

Also it was not possible to find the women suitable occupation. I found them (even the young ones) stone breaking. The officer said she hoped eventually to use this only as a punitive measure as they were always damaging themselves either through cutting themselves or hammering their thumbs. There was also. I thought, quite a serious eye risk!

Mageta Island Camp (male convicts). East African Standard Report: “On August, 1955 the Commandant was taking prisoners by launch to work on the mainland, accompanied by guards and also by some warders going on leave. The launch sank and 21 were drowned. At the inquest it was shown that the launch was grossly overcrowded. It was licensed to carry 30 passengers, and there were 48, and in addition more than 150 stones, one of which weighed 45 tbs., five bicycles, tables, chairs and boxes belonging to African warders going on leave. At the enquiry it was stated that gross over crowding was the direct cause of the accident. The Coxswain said he had protested twice to the Commandant (who was one of the passengers) but was ordered to go”.

It was stated that compensation for the relatives would be considered. Has it been?

Prisoners too weak to work

Manyani. A large camp for about 18.000 men. East African Hansard (Parliamentary report) 1954 reported that 97 men died during typhoid outbreak. Questioned about this in Legislative Council the Government replied, “Some were in the incubation period when detained, they could not be ascertained and movement was so quick that the sanitary accommodation in the camp was not completed” (See same excuse in section on villages).

One Rehabilitation Officer had some men from this camp sent to his. He told me they were in very poor shape physically, very thin and appeared under nourished. Later in his own camp the men told him they were always hungry. He spoke to the Prison Commandant and found they were only getting half the ration of flour to which they were entitled. The excuse was that it was issued in two kinds and one kind was not available. Nothing had been given in lieu.

The Rehabilitation Officer said they could not work on the food they were getting and the Prison Commandant replied, “Send them to me; I’ll make them work all right”.

The Rehabilitation Officer had the Commandant transferred but not all would have bothered and anyhow some had not the authority to carry it through. The relative (herself an official) of one Rehabilitation Officer told me that he reported it was impossible to do rehabilitation work with the convicts in his camp while the prison officers were like they were. He was told he was not a missionary and he was moved!

Embakasi. In official reports it is always emphasised that the compulsory work done is for the benefit of the tribe and their own community. Some is, but not that at Embakasi where they are making an airport, whilst surrounded by armed guards. The East African Standard of June 17, 1955 printed a talk given to Rotary by a Mr. Johnson.

“More than a million tons of material have been excavated and 500.000 tons of stone laid at the new Embakasi Airport. He traced the history of Embakasi, the difficulties of financing it and the decision that was taken to go ahead when the increasing flow of Mau Mau prisoners became available after the Declaration of the Emergency.

“He spoke also of difficulties of moving tons of black cotton soil, filling craters and putting down three layers of stone and bitumen to four runways. The total area will be about seven square miles: great precautions have to be taken to prevent water seeping through. “It is a joint effort of prisoners and the Public Works Department”.

I visited this camp in July 1955 with a Rehabilitation officer who was very unsympathetic to detainees and convicts. Yet even he told me the convicts at Embakasi were terribly hard worked. He also told me that 600 of the convicts were attending hospital with skin disease.

The Prison Commandant told me he considered the place unhealthy and much too over crowded: 5.300 people in 19 acres! He also spoke of unauthorised people coming to the camp and said, “Trying to keep any check or order over the camp properly has become quite fantastic. It is no good putting up notices saying. “Prison” or “Protected Place”, as the African takes no notice, can’t read anyhow, and at the moment has no respect for the Government”.

Manda Island Camp. East African Standard of January 19, 1956 reported that some of the detainees are taking correspondence courses and added: “No man is permitted to study anything of a political nature such as Social Science”. (Italics mine.)

Asked about the wisdom of these courses being allowed the Commissioner for Community Development and Rehabilitation is quoted as saying, “It must he remembered that these men are not being punished for anything they have done. They are merely being kept from other people because they might be a danger to security”.

The bitterness being engendered by long periods of detention without trial and the transferring to detention of convicts who have completed the sentence given by the Court, will take a long time to overcome. Moreover the tribal customs and economy are completely disrupted.

When I visited the Friends Africa Mission at Kaimosi even boys still at school and belonging to a tribe entirely unconnected with Mau Mau asked me:

1. What will happen to the girls who cannot get married because they or the men are detained?

2. Is it British Justice to detain a convict who has finished his sentence?

3. Are the youths in Camps and Prisons able to get circumcised? [An important tribal ceremony].

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