Mau Mau Raw British Brutality

By Patel, Zarina | New African, August-September 2009 | Go to article overview

Mau Mau Raw British Brutality


Patel, Zarina, New African


Beatings and floggings, apart from forced and hard labour, were common and constant features of the concentration camps where the British detained members and supporters of the Mau Mau movement. Hewing rocks under the burning sun; carrying buckets on the head filled with stones or overflowing with urine and faeces; being forcibly pushed into a cattle dip full of pesticides--all these measures were enforced with kicks and blows from truncheons and rifle butts. Zarina Patel gives voice to Mau Mau survivors' accounts and their simple but powerful demand for justice.

I ASKED AN OLD MAN WALKING WITH A STICK AND BEING guided by an aide, "Mzee, have you been blind since childhood?" "No," said M'njau Ndei. "They threw chemicals into my eyes for being a Mau Mau supporter." Patrick wa Njogu, a Mau Mau general who already had one leg shot off by British troops, says that after his arrest, "they would drag me around the camp by my remaining leg"

Jane Muthoni Mara (pictured right), who was 15 at the time, used to supply food to the freedom fighters, including her brother. She painfully recalls that when she refused to divulge her brother's whereabouts, "[my interrogator] filled a bottle with hot water and pushed it into my private parts with his foot. I screamed an screamed." That was not all. She and other women were made to sit with their legs stretched out in front of them as the Home Guard marched over them in their army boots. After release, Jane never found her brother and had visions of torture whenever her husband approached her.

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Beatings and floggings, apart from forced and hard labour, were common and constant features of the concentration camps where members and supporters of the Mau Man movement were detained. Hewing rocks under the burning sun; carrying buckets on the head filled with stones or overflowing with urine and faeces; being forcibly pushed into a cattle dip full of pesticides--all these measures were enforced with kicks and blows from truncheons and rifle butts. M'Mucheke Kioru's beatings made him sterile. Others died.

But this was not enough to break the back of the Mau Mau movement. So one British colonial officer, Terence Gavaghan, devised the "Dilution Technique" in which "hardcore" detainees were exposed to "violent shock". This technique, first implemented in the Mwea camps in 1957, was officially endorsed by the Colonial Office in London; and later rolled out to camps at Athi River, Aguthi, Mweru, and Hola in order to "enforce discipline and preserve good order".

"Hardcore" detainees did not mean the worst killers, merely the most defiant. Wambugu wa Nyingi (pictured below) relates how Gavaghan ordered inmates to walk on gravel on their knees with their hands up for long distances.

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