Kenya unveils memorial to those tortured during British rule



People gather near the sculpture of the Mau Mau war veterans at Uhuru park during the unveiling of the Mau Mau veteran memorial in Nairobi, Kenya. (AP photo)

NAIROBI: Thousands of Kenyans attended the inauguration Saturday of a monument that pays tribute to the victims of torture and ill-treatment during the emergency period of British rule.

The memorial, backed by Britain, was officially opened in a ceremony witnessed by many veterans of the “Mau Mau” rebellion, which hastened the end of colonial rule in the East African country.

Several thousand now-elderly Kenyans say they were beaten and sexually assaulted by officers acting for the British administration trying to suppress the Mau Mau rebellion, when groups of Kenyans attacked British officials and white farmers who occupied fertile lands.

The British High Commission said in a statement that the memorial was built as part of an out-of-court agreement reached between the British government and some Mau Mau veterans in 2013. The agreement, which included more than 5,200 claimants, was worth nearly 20 million pounds ($31 million).

The memorial features a statue of an armed rebel receiving a bag of supplies from a woman. It “stands as a symbol of reconciliation” between the British government and all the victims of the emergency period, which lasted from 1952 to 1960, the statement from the British High Commission said.

“This memorial is about reconciliation, allowing us to discuss together the issues arising from a difficult period in our shared history, and to move forward together,” said British high commissioner Christian Turner.

Kenya gained independence in 1963.

“The recognition that Mau Mau fighters were victims of human rights abuses and torture is a significant step toward the recognition of our past and its impact on our future,” said former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga.