Politics and policy

Mau Mau UK lawyers to be paid Sh780 million

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Some of the Mau Mau veterans who attended the Hilton Hotel conference where the UK government payout was announced. Photo/Jeniffer Muiruri

Some of the Mau Mau veterans who attended the Hilton Hotel conference where the UK government payout was announced on June 6, 2013. Photo/JENIFFER MUIRURI  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By George Ngigi

Posted  Thursday, June 6  2013 at  21:26

In Summary

  • They are set to pocket a third of the £19.9 million (Sh2.6 billion) paid out by Whitehall.
  • The 5,200 Mau Mau claimants are set to share £13.9 million (Sh1.8 billion) while the British law firm, Leigh Day, will pocket £6 million (Sh780 million).
  • The UK government agreed to make an out- of- court settlement with the group after its efforts to have the case ruled as stale were dismissed.

Mau Mau lawyers are the biggest beneficiaries of the British out-of-court compensation to the former freedom fighters.

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They are set to pocket a third of the £19.9 million (Sh2.6 billion) paid out by Whitehall. The 5,200 Mau Mau claimants are set to share £13.9 million (Sh1.8 billion) while the British law firm, Leigh Day, will pocket £6 million (Sh780 million).

Paul Muite, one of the local lawyers involved in the case said Kenyan lawyers had not charged for their services in the Mau Mau case.

“The local lawyers have not asked for a single cent and we have not been paid a single cent,” said Mr Muite. The local lawyers were George Morara, Gitobu Imanyara, and Mr Muite.

The out-of court settlement marked the British government’s official admission that its troops had committed atrocities in Kenya from 1953 as the crackdown on freedom fighters began following the declaration of a State of Emergency.

For years, London had refused to accept responsibilities over its colonial atrocities in Kenya and dismissed the freedom fighters as terrorists.

The UK legal team sought to justify the amount it would be paid, stating that they had deployed huge resources in researching and presenting the case in courts.

“We have fought a rigorous battle of four years, we have employed a huge team to the case and also research work. That is why the cost is a bit high,” said Martin Day, the lawyer who kick-started the compensation case.

Part of this included the discovery of thousands of documents on Mau Mau that had been hidden in a London vault and which directly incriminated the British civil servants.

On Thursday the UK government announced that they were abandoning an appeal they had lodged and agreed to pay compensation of £2,600 (Sh338,000) per claimant.

In the settlement document, the UK government agreed “to pay the legal costs of the case to ensure the claimants received all the agreed monies.”

Mr Day was also involved in the 2002 suit by Maasai and Samburu pastoralists who had been injured by bombs left in the Laikipia plains by British troops training in Kenya.

Thursday marked yet another victory for Mr Day’s law firm. The excitement in the Hilton Hotel room was palpable as British High Commissioner Christian Turner expressed regrets over his government’s actions to the Mau Mau members.

“The court did not find the government as liable, but in spite of that, there is this deep expression of regret and acknowledgement that wrongs were committed” he said.

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