Gli scritti di Eileen Fletcher sulla repressione britannica in Kenya

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Tortured to death

The following is the case of Kamau, in which Mrs. Barbara Castle has been interested. The details are taken from reports of Court Proceedings in the East African Standard.

Kamau s/o Gichina was taken into custody suspected of having stolen £ 350 from a Home Guard post (Evidence showed he was tortured for six days to make him confess and died on the sixth day).

At the Inquest a European District Officer who was also a Third class Magistrate admitted having seen him beaten by an African Home Guard. A European Police Inspector admitted that sticks were tied to the back and front of his legs and squeezed tightly and he himself had put sticks in the ground behind the prisoner “as he kept falling over” (An African witness said two sticks were sharpened at both ends, one in the ground and one in the prisoner’s back) .

These European officials admitted pushing the prisoner into a stream and shooting at a piece of floating wood “merely for practice not to frighten him”. The prisoner was kept all night in a garage, hand cuffed to upright poles. This consisted only of a roof and supports, open on all sides. An African constable gave evidence that the prisoner had on only a blanket; it was cold and rained throughout the night. When he had gone to take the prisoner food the European would not allow him to give it him.

The prisoner died on May 10. When his body was picked up “a piece of skin came off one arm. When taken out of the truck at the Hospital a large piece of skin stuck to the floor of the vehicle”.

The Inspector told the doctor he suspected poison. A District Officer who was also a Magistrate said the deceased was looking quite well just prior to his death.”

On examining the body at Hospital the doctor reported: Extensive multiple weals all over body. Superficial skin on outer side of left arm had been removed from the knuckles to two inches above elbow, and 12 square inches removed from inner side. Blisters on fingers and legs. A wound 14 inches long and 1/4 inch deep over left shin bone. On the back 30 square inches of superficial skin had been removed.

An African witness reported having seen the prisoner beaten by an European officer for about half an hour. It was also reported that his toes were smashed and bleeding and his arms so swollen that the handcuffs could not be seen.

The Chief Inspector agreed that Kaman’s arms were swollen and said, “He could have had treatment if he complained about it!”

Dr. Brown said, “My feeling, in view of what was said by the Senior District Officer and others at the time, was that I could not say definitely that these injuries were the cause of death. I have seen people with as severe injuries who did not die. What I can say is that there was no evidence of any disease in the body. In view of the negative poison finding. I should think it is possible that these various wounds were the cause of death”.

Asked if accompanied by two or three nights of exposure and often neglect “would that influence your opinion?” the doctor replied, “With enough exposure all the injuries together could have caused death”.

The Magistrate, Mr. A. C. Harrison, announced that the evidence of Dr. Brown had materially altered the position of two of the accused. “Dr. Brown had expressed the view that death from natural causes could not be ruled out entirely [He would appear to have been tricked into disposing of some of the organs of the body as a result of the accuser’s suggestion of poisoning. E.F.], accordingly a committal to the Supreme Court on charges of murder or manslaughter would not be justified; therefore the murder charge would be dismissed and they would be charged with causing grievous bodily harm”.

At the subsequent trial the two European Police Inspectors were sentenced to eighteen months hard labour, and the European Chief Inspector and European District Officer fined £ 25 and £ 10 respectively.

Later the East African Standard reported that the East African Supreme Court had set aside the fine of £ 10 and sentenced the District Officer to six months hard labour, and increased the two sentences of eighteen months to 31 years hard labour.

Contempt for law

The remarks of the Magistrate, during the Trial, as reported in the Press are illuminating.

There has been contempt for the law of this Colony, for British tradition of justice and for the right of the individual.

The case was undoubtedly serious for several reasons. Dr. Brown had considered the most likely cause of death to be the injuries sustained by Kaman combined with exposure. Therefore the four accused men might well be fortunate in having their charges reduced as a result of what appeared to have J been an incomplete post mortem examination.

A disturbing factor in the case was the possibility that Kamau may have been innocent in fact as well as in law. In spite of his treatment he died without admitting his guilt. [He was never charged during the six days, being merely a suspect E.F.]

Another serious aspect was that a District Officer and Magistrate had admitted at the Inquest that he gave false information to the CID, and another District Officer and Magistrate informed Dr. Brown that the deceased was looking quite well just prior to his death. Concerning this Dr. Brown has said: “This statement influenced me to the extent that it led me to discount the importance of the injuries more than I would otherwise have done”.

Indeed all evidence points to the fact that the deceased was in a very bad condition and his death was rapidly approaching. As a result the Doctor was apparently induced to suspect poisoning as the cause of death, after the police officers concerned had put the idea into his mind. Probably as a further result the post mortem examination was not thorough and the cause of death cannot now be stated with certainty.

There is evidence that they [the accused officials), or some of them, attempted to mislead, tried to hinder police investigation, and generally disregarded their responsibility.

The East African Standard in a leading article said, “It was necessary to impose penalties which would have a deterrent effect on others and induce a respect for the law” and added it was right these men had been punished “with the full rigour of the law”.

Considering that under Emergency Regulations Africans have been hanged for possessing a single round of ammunition “rigour” is perhaps an odd word to choose!

On December 9, 1955 an announcement was made of an official investigation into alleged corruption in the affairs of the Nairobi City Council. As the enquiry went on for months, thousands of pounds and more and more people and firms became involved. Included was a trial resulting from an “alleged plan to “rig” a jury.

The Sunday Post had a photo of a European official and two Asians and underneath (the) Nairobi magistrate said “a more unscrupulous collection of rogues it would be hard to find in Kenya” when he acquitted them!

III - White Supremacy in Kenya

by Eileen Fletcher

The East African Standard of October 22, 1955, reported that during the Debate in Legislative Council, Mr. Mathu, the African Representative Member, stressed the need to take quick action to compensate people whose land had been commandeered for construction of villages and Guard Posts:

“Many people had lost their entire holdings and had nowhere on which to plant the crops on which they depended. This grievance, unless dealt with promptly, would be a means of storing up hatred and bitterness against the authorities in the future. Already there was considerable tension in the villages”.

The Minister for African Affairs said “he believed there would be some return by loyal smallholders to their farms, but this might take some years”.

The following quotations are also from the East African Standard:

June 17, 1955. “Mau Mau to feel ‘lash’ of New Bill” (Forfeiture of land by terrorists).

July 20, 1955. “Land Rights forfeited by 3097 Terrorists described as Rank and File members of Mau Mau Gangs, and of 324 Terrorist Leaders and Organisers”.

More bitterness and hunger

“All the men lose their rights to clan land in the reserves”.

“Remembering how extremely sensitive members of the tribes are on the question of their land the legal consideration…

“Relatives of a terrorist presumed at large today may later prove he died before July 10 and may take justifiable claims for restoration of land. Insufficient public examination has been given to this complex matter which bristles with difficulties. It is essential that the Government should not unwittingly build up another source of bitterness and misunderstanding among the Kikuyu and other affected tribes”.

This land confiscation is a serious matter. There is no provision for old age for the Africans and they are unable to save out of their earnings. They depend on having a piece of land in the Reserve to assure them a place among the Tribi in their old age.

The East African Standard reported on September 9, 1955. Apparently abandoned farms in Kenya: the Census reveals 210.000 acres of unused agricultural land including 118 farms of over 200 acres. This is disclosed in the first comprehensive post war census of Kenya’s Non African Farming Industry, just completed and published by East African Statistical Department”.

Sunday Post, October 9, 1955 “European Settlement Board buys the farm for the newcomer and charges the tenant farmer rent. Since the Board’s creation £900.000 has been spent settling new farmers, out of a million pound development vote”.

Sunday Post, November 6, 1955: “Kenya plans for 200 new farmers in five years.” East African Standard, October 13, 1955: “Competition keen for Highland Farms.”

Multi racialism

There will be a general election in Kenya within the next few months. There is a movement to try and do away with the multi racial Government. Some Settlers would also like to do away with the control exercised by the Colonial Office.

The East African Standard, September 7, 1955, reported:

Kenya’s Chance to Halt Multi Racialism: Major Roberts, president of the Federal Independent Party, said: “Kenya had only one chance of halting the rush into multi racialism and that was at the General Election in nine months” time. It was essential to put back into Legislative Council only those people who would oppose the multiracial set up and stand on a policy they could bargain with in England.

“Major Roberts referred to certain “misconceptions” among British politicians. These include the belief that most of the Europeans in Kenya wanted multi racialism... When Mr. Oliver Lyttleton announce his plan he made it quite clear it was an experiment; we have got to hang on to that word”.

The East African Standard, October 17, 1955 “Multiracial Principle a Safeguard”.

Apartheid or Partnership was the only choice before Kenya today, Mr. Havelock, Minister for Local Government, told his constituents on Saturday. He said he agreed that the details of the Lyttleton Plan had been forced on the country but it was the principle and not the details of multi racial Government that would be the greatest safeguard to the European Community. Multi racial co operation for the future of Kenya was the greatest possible protection against cranks in Britain and elsewhere.

East African Standard, November 23, 1955: “Racial Co operation Kenya’s Only Hope”.

Mrs. Shaw, member for Nyanza, said: “The re-education of Kikuyu, Embu and Meru would be a long process and it would take years before they could be freely admitted to the normal life of the Colony. Many Kikuyu would never see the light of day again. They had lost not only their liberty but their land and families, such was the price of rebellion”.

This statement by Mrs. Shaw gives some meaning to a newspaper headline accusing the Government of Kenya of Genocide. If the sexes are kept apart long enough the Tribe can be very much reduced numerically. Remember also that a recent letter in a paper in England concerning the number of Africans hanged under Emergency Regulations, referred to it as “a massacre”.

I have recently been sent a review of a book written by a Kenya settler in which he is reported as saying, “We made a country out of virgin bush”. I suppose by now most readers of Peace News know how the land for the White Highlands was alienated, but do they know the large incomes the settlers are making, or what African farm labourers are paid?

The African women working on the farms get paid one shilling per day. The African men on one farm get two shillings per day, if they are very steady and have worked a long time for the farmer! In addition they get a little hut generally built of mud, often only a tumbledown hovel, and a certain amount of food.

In Southern Rhodesia I was told there is a Government Regulation that the food given must be properly balanced, and quantities and kind are definitely laid down. The labourers have taken readily to the new food and their health is said to have improved. When I discussed this with Kenya settlers they said their labourers wouldn’t eat proper food and didn’t like vegetables! There are no standards laid down. The food given can be judged from the fact that 25 shillings per month can be deducted from wages! A frequent reply to every question is “They’re only Wogs. What does it matter?

False standard

The price paid for coffee has risen from £ 40 per ton just before the war to £ 840 one would think a larger wage could be “squeezed out”!

One of the troubles about Kenya is that the Europeans will not give up their false standard of living, and the amount spent on entertaining, drink and cigarettes is far above the English standard, while their housework is done by Africans, most of whom have to live apart from their wives either because there is no house for them or they cannot afford to keep them in towns.

With a few outstanding exceptions I found a lack of interest in the welfare of the Africans amounting to callousness. When on the few occasions atrocities by Europeans were brought to light there was no criticism or rousing of public opinion.

When I commented on this a woman whose husband was in a responsible, non governmental position said, “We wouldn’t risk saying anything. If we wanted to, our husbands might lose their jobs”.

When the Commission of Enquiry into alleged corruption in Nairobi City Council was proceeding, the two remarks I heard most were, “The enquiry should never have been held, it will get into the English papers!” and “It shouldn’t have been held. It will give us a bad name with the Asians!”.


ISSN 1824 - 4483

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