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Britain forced to admit to torture and pay compensation in landmark Kenyan victory

The documents showed that responsibility for torture went right to the top − sanctioned by Kenya’s governor, Evelyn Baring, and authorised at cabinet level in London by Alan Lennox-Boyd, then secretary of state for the colonies in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government.

When told that torture and abuse were routine in colonial prisons, Mr Lennox-Boyd did not order that such practices be stopped, but instead took steps to place them beyond legal sanction. “Compelling force” was allowed, but defined so loosely as to permit virtually any kind of physical abuse.

Why did the British keep these documents, instead of destroying them? Plenty else was burned, or dumped at sea, as the British left Kenya.

The answer lay in the unease of some British colonial officers. Many did not like what they saw. When the orders to torture came down, some realised the jeopardy they were in. These men worried that it was they, not their commanders, who would carry the can.

They were right to worry. Official reports from the 1950s always blamed individual officers − the “bad apples in the barrel” − for acts of abuse. But the blame lay not with junior officers forced to implement a bad policy but with the senior echelons of a colonial government that was rotten to the core.

Quoted from ‘Atoning for the sins of empire‘ by David M Anderson, New York Times, 12 June 2013.

Let’s be clear. Torture was and is standard practice for imperialists trying to hold on to their colonies. Eventually, the truth always comes out. And, of course, when they are forced to admit to past atrocities, present-day rulers always look sad and try to pretend that this sort of thing is an aberration from the long-distant past.

“Of course, it was all a long time ago. Nothing like that could ever happen now,” we are told. No, our lovely boys in Afghanistan / Iraq / Libya / Syria are perfect gentlemen, bringing peace and democracy to grateful natives, while our ‘precision’ bombs ’surgically remove’ ‘high-end targets’ to great local jubilation. It’s not imperialism, it’s a noble mission to help those poor benighted souls, who, for some strange reason, are incapable of managing their affairs without our altruistic input.

Castlereagh? All in the past. Abu Ghraib? Bad apples. Guantanamo Bay? A special case. Bagram? Nothing to see here. Over and over and over again.

Right now, though, it’s exceedingly good to see some Kenyans finally getting a small acknowledgement for the extreme brutality they suffered at British hands. Now if imperialist multinationals could stop looting the country the Kenyan people might have a fighting chance of building a decent life for themselves …

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MORE:
Video: ‘UK in payout talks for Mau Mau victims of torture’ (Press TV)
Article: ‘The Kenya files’ (Proletarian)

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