Kenya's Mau Mau uprising: Your stories

The High Court has ruled that compensation claims brought by a group of Kenyans against the British government can proceed.

The three men and one woman allege that they were tortured while detained by the British colonial authorities during the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya in the 1950s. The judge said the Kenyans had an arguable case but that his ruling did not imply there was systematic torture.

BBC News website readers explain how the Mau Mau uprising affected their lives and their feelings on the ruling.

Wamahio Kabugu, Nyeri, Kenya

Mau Mau people in a truck in Nairobi, Kenya (1952). The Mau Mau people were often rounded up before being sent to the detention camps

I feel this decision is justice for Kenya as it is our fathers who were the ones who were tortured and killed.

The court's ruling is only a good thing but now they should give compensation to every Mau Mau and any families who have been affected.

My father - who I am named after - was among those who were taken away by the soldiers and tortured in Manyani.

Start Quote

They took all the men over 18 but the women and we children were left behind”

End Quote Wamahio Kabugu

He survived but was left very very weak and I think that eventually led to his death in 1978.

But he told me afterwards when he came back he had been beaten by soldiers and he had seen people so badly hurt.

He said many of the others detained also picked up disease while they were in the camp - it was everywhere.

I remember when the soldiers came to get my father. We were in our village in Nyeri and I was just eight-years-old. They took all the men over 18 but the women and we children were left behind.

It was not a life though - we couldn't even go to school because we had to become the men of the house as those who should have rightfully had that place had been taken.

My friends and I never spoke about the fact our fathers had been taken but you felt the hurt inside.

I will watch what is happening with this case but I am now considering action on my father's behalf.

Mike Cooper, Stroud, UK

I was in Kenya between 1954 and 1955 serving in the army. We travelled around everywhere and we were well aware of the atrocities that the Mau Mau committed.

Mike Cooper as a soldier in Kenya Mike Cooper disagrees with the ruling

I escorted several flights where RAF pilots would dive over forests and release their bombs before the soldiers would go in on the ground and try to sweep the Mau Mau out.

As soldiers, we were in a camp in the middle of nowhere. We had to have our rifles on us all the time and would have to have these checked at the beginning and end of each day.

We were always worried about being ambushed.

This is because the Mau Mau would try to create handmade guns out of rubber and leftover pieces including copper and nails.

Often the other soldiers would bring in Mau Mau, some of whom were dead. You would see them piled up near the police station on camp.

A few hours later, their fingerprints would be taken.

The thing is with the Mau Mau, you would have gangs of 300 to 400 people attacking Europeans and other Kenyans - especially those who wouldn't take their Mau Mau oath.

Convicts in a Kenya road choppping down a tree Mau Mau convicts often had to do manual work supervised by soldiers

They would also mutilate cattle - it was horrific what they would do.

I was based in Karatina, Nyeri, Naivasha, Limuru, Embu and Thika so I didn't visit the detention camps but we would see Mau Mau prisoners before they were moved elsewhere. They would wear white caps and white shirts.

I am ashamed by the ruling today. The fact that members of the Mau Mau are taking action against the British is shameful.

I just don't think they should even have a case.

Chris Leakey, Reading, UK

Chris Leakey Chris Leakey's family history spurred him to find out more about the Mau Mau people

My great-uncle Gray Leakey, a respected farmer in the uplands of Kenya, was buried alive during the Mau Mau uprising in the foothills of Mount Kenya, by members of the majority Kikuyu tribe who were involved in witchcraft.

It's fair to say that atrocities were committed on both sides.

Although I was brought up in Africa and spent several years in Kenya, I have no personal experience of any of this but the fact my family story is well known has made me more aware and more interested in what was happening at the time.

I find it interesting that Gray's daughter, who has now died, met those members of the Mau Mau committee who decided to kill him, and decided that forgiveness rather than retribution was the only way forward from this.

I have visited his graveyard and it was a weird experience. It was a strange feeling - to think of him suffocating as his life was ended for him.

But the Mau Mau thought of him as a blood-brother and his death was actually a sacrifice. He was respected by Kenyans.

You have to remember that relatively few Europeans were killed compared to Kenyans.

I'm not against people claiming for compensation, despite what my great-uncle experienced. It sounds as if a lot happened and the British were by no means blameless.

But at the same time, it must have been hard for those who were put in charge of the country and told what to do - they may have felt they had no other option.

More comments

I was born and schooled in Kenya and lived through the Mau Mau uprising. My father was a specialist surgeon and often had to try to save the lives of Mau Mau victims. They were not just killed. They were nearly aways hacked with pangas in gruesome ways and teams of surgeons had to battle to save those who survived. My father also saw the oaths the Mau Mau forced fellow tribes people to take. These will be on record, but in essence were bestial and savage. Most of the Mau Mau victims were black Christians who refused to take these oaths. If there were abuses in detention camps, that is inexcusable, but compared with Mau Mau atrocities they were minor. Dr Michael Jarvis, Wellington, South Africa

My father will not talk about it, his mother died refusing to speak about it, but we have pierced together stories from the younger siblings and neighbours about what happened to my grandfather. He was a leader of a Mau Mau cell and before that a foreman in some tea plantation. After he fled to the forest his family was ostracised and my grandmother beaten and arrested often by the colonial chiefs and homeguards. Giving them food was equated to aiding the 'family of Mau Mau' and they were under constant watch. Memories of starvation is something my dad used to speak of when as children we played with food at the dinner table. The day is not certain but the whole village remembers the local district officer parading my captured grandfather. They were forced to watch as he was tortured and finally clubbed to death as a warning to any Mau Mau sympathizers. As colonial custom dictated, a family automatically lost its land and property once associated with the Mau Mau. Eric Kihumba, Atlanta, US

I was born in Nairobi, Kenya. During the time we lived there, through the Mau Mau uprising, my father was in the East African Police although he also worked in his regular job as well. Whilst I do not dispute the fact that many were treated badly and there may well be an element of truth in the claims made, it has to be remembered that a huge number of what were called "White Settlers" were brutally murdered by the Mau Mau. Jenny Keane, Invergarry, Scotland

My father is 72 and during the crackdown on the Mau Mau by the British in the late 50s and early 60s, he was arrested and moved from his home area in Murang'a to a detention camp in Manyani. There they used to be engaged in hard labour and regular whipping from the prison guards. By the time he was released, it was at the dawn of independence in 1963. He went back to his home area only to find his father (my grandfather) had died while he was in detention.The land had all been demarcated. Peter Ngugi, Nairobi, Kenya

Interviews by Dhruti Shah

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