On the 6th of June last year Foreign Secretary William Hague made a statement to the British Parliament on the settlement of claims of Kenyan citizens relating to events during the period 1952 - 1963. The same day I also read out his statement in a press conference in Nairobi to an audience that included many Mau Mau veterans, some of whom I am glad to see here today.
In his statement William Hague recognised the violence and brutality of the Emergency period in Kenya, during which violence was committed on all sides. He made clear that Her Majesty’s Government understood the pain and grievance felt by those who were involved in the events of that period in Kenya.
That statement last year followed settlement of a claim by five individuals who were detained during the Emergency period regarding their treatment in detention. The claim was in respect of 5,228 claimants, each of whom received a settlement payment. As well as the expression of regret and the financial settlement, the British Government also pledged to support the construction of a memorial in Nairobi to the victims of torture and ill-treatment during the colonial era.
Since then my team at the British High Commission has been working closely on this project with the Mau Mau War Veterans Association, the Government of Kenya, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, the Nairobi Governor’s office, and the National Museums of Kenya. We convened a committee that included all of these key stakeholders, and they quickly took forward plans to construct a memorial, including by undertaking a rigorous and open design competition, the results of which you see here today. My special thanks to the Planning Department of the Governor’s office which has pledged to develop a new footpath to the memorial at its own expense.
I would like to thank all of those who have taken part in this process to date for their constructive and progressive approach to seeing this project to its conclusion. This work will continue through to the actual unveiling of the memorial at Freedom Corner in Uhuru Park later this year. I particularly pay tribute to Gitu Wa Kahengeri and his colleagues at the Mau Mau War Veterans Association, for ensuring authenticity in the design, inclusivity in the process, and a very clear focus on the role the memorial must play for future generations, both in terms of recognition of history and as a symbol of reconciliation. Mzee, I salute the way in which you have approached this process, in a spirit of dialogue, not confrontation, of friendship, not hatred, of building bridges not divides. I would like to emulate your support for a process of healing.
The partnership between UK and Kenya is historic and deep. We are walking this journey in a belief, in understanding, with inclusivity and dignity for all Kenyans. What unites us is far greater than what divides us. As William Hague said last year, ‘although we should never forget history and indeed must always seek to learn from it, we should also look to the future, strengthening a relationship that will promote the security and prosperity of both our nations’.