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25 Oct, 2023 14:54

Apologizing for colonial injustices in Kenya is ‘extremely difficult’ – UK envoy

Neil Wigan explained why his country hasn’t issued a formal apology for atrocities committed during the colonial era
Apologizing for colonial injustices in Kenya is ‘extremely difficult’ – UK envoy

Britain has acknowledged and expressed deep regret for some of the wrongdoing that took place during the colonial period in Kenya, Neil Wigan, the British ambassador to the country, told Spice FM on Tuesday. He made the comments ahead of a visit to the country by British King Charles III.

Wigan referred specifically to the Mau Mau uprising – an insurgency in the 1950s that was brutally suppressed by Britain and led to the deaths of at least 11,000 people – saying the UK had actively engaged and reached out-of-court settlements with some of the victims, as well as helped establish a commemorative monument at Uhuru Park, Nairobi. 

Britain's crimes in Kenya also include the detention of up to 1.5 million people in a network of 'concentration' camps across the country, where women and children were exectuted, tortured and starved.

“We chose the language carefully and expressed regret in Parliament. We said it in the most public way,” he said. “We’ve been very open about those difficult bits of our history.”

However, offering a formal apology would apparently create a challenging legal situation for the UK government.

“We haven’t made an apology really in any context, it is an extremely difficult thing to do,” he said. “An apology starts to take you into difficult legal territory, so to say, and the agreement we made was an out-of-court settlement, so it showed our sincerity and openness about recognizing that abuses had been committed. That was the route that we chose and it was accepted by the Mau Mau Veterans Association.”

Wigan’s interview occurred in anticipation of King Charles III’s visit to Kenya on Tuesday, October 31st. The king’s visit will be dedicated to recognizing some of the more painful aspects of the UK and Kenya’s shared history.