Why Aren't the Mau Mau Butchers Also in the Dock?

Article excerpt

Byline: by Tony Rennell

DARKNESS had fallen in the remote and beautiful Rift Valley, north of Nairobi, and the white farmer was in his pyjamas ready for bed.

But first he stepped outside his isolated house for his customary evening stroll in the garden with his pregnant wife, before checking the shutters on the windows and doors in case of intruders.

That was when the Mau Mau raiders struck; 30 of them, wielding their sharp pangas or machetes.

Thirty-eight-year-old Roger Ruck and his wife Esmee, a doctor who ran a dispensary for Africans, died in the vicious onslaught, their bodies slashed to ribbons by the mob and left on the veranda.

The same fate was meted out to one of the family's African servants, who ran out to help them. But the horrific massacre didn't stop there. The raiders rampaged through the house, looting its contents, then stormed upstairs.

Behind a locked bedroom door was the Rucks' son, Michael, aged six. We will never know if he was still asleep or if the noise had woken him, in which case he must have lain in terror as the intruders sought him out.

They broke down the door, knives flashed -- and in an instant the boy was dead. Kenya's rebels -- today hailed as freedom fighters against a repressive colonial British administration -- had claimed four more victims in their fight for independence.

It was late January 1953 -- 58 years ago -- when the Ruck family died their terrible deaths, just a few months into the eightyear state of emergency in which police, aided by several battalions of British soldiers, battled an elusive underground army of insurgents.

The British crackdown was brutal and almost certainly what today would be termed a disproportionate response. Thousands of Kenyans died in the guerrilla fighting. A thousand were convicted of capital offences and hanged.

Many more -- perhaps up to 300,000 -- suspected of being Mau Mau or even just associating with the insurgents were detained in camps where sanitation was rudimentary, food inadequate, and discipline often brutal and unrelenting. Beatings are said to have been a daily occurrence.

According to evidence in long-concealed official documents now being produced for a compensation court case in London, inmates were tortured, castrated and raped. Much of this will be recounted, to our horror, as the case proceeds.

YESTERDAY, the Mail reported how a pensioner from Putney in South London appears to be the only living individual accused of human rights abuses relating to the Mau Mau uprising. Former colonial civil servant Terence Gavaghan, 89, was awarded the MBE for his work in Kenya, but now has Alzheimer's.

The four ageing claimants against him -- who say they were tortured -- are being represented by British lawyers on a no-win no-fee basis. If they are victorious, they could set a precedent for an avalanche of other claims from Kenyans which might cost British taxpayers billions.

Let's be clear. Atrocities committed by the British against Kenyans are to be condemned. This was not a pretty war by any means and most definitely not Britain's finest hour, any more than the concentration camps of the Boer War spoke well of British justice.

But in the finger-pointing -- and at a time when the Prime Minister has taken to making grandstanding apologies for supposed misdeeds in our imperial past -- it is well to remember the Rucks and their innocent six-year-old son slashed to death in his bed.

There is another side to the coin of British brutality -- that of the horrors inflicted by the Mau Mau. Moreover, the vast majority of their victims were not British settlers, their supposed enemies, but Africans like themselves. The houseboy who died alongside the Rucks was not an isolated example.

Anyone who sided with the British -- and there were many in what was, in part, a civil war between rival African factions -- was subjected to savagery every bit as bad and often much worse than the British now stand accused of. …