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23 Aug, 2022 21:56

Africans sue UK over colonial-era abuses

Kenyans forced off their lands under British colonial rule have lodged a case with a top European court
Africans sue UK over colonial-era abuses

A group of Kenyan activists filed a case against the UK to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday. Lawyers representing peoples forced off their land in Kenya’s Rift Valley argue the UK has violated the European Convention of Human Rights, to which it is a signatory, by consistently ignoring complaints lodged by the victims of colonial rule. 

“The UK government has ducked and dived, and sadly avoided every possible avenue of redress,” Joel Kimutai Bosek, representing the Kipsigis and Talai peoples, has said. “We have no choice but to proceed to court for our clients so that history can be righted.”

The British Empire ruled Kenya between the late 19th century and 1962. The peoples living in the Rift Valley were forced off their lands in the early 20th century. Today, the area around Kericho, the biggest town in the Valley, is a major tea-growing region farmed by multinational majors. 

“Today, some of the world’s most prosperous tea companies, like Unilever, Williamson Tea, Finlay’s, and Lipton occupy and farm these lands and continue to use them to generate considerable profits,” the plaintiffs said in a statement.

Previously, the Kipsigis and Talai took their cause to the UN, where a special investigative panel expressed “serious concern” last year over London’s failure to acknowledge its share of responsibility or issue an apology for colonial-era abuses. The complaint to the UN was signed by more than 100,000 people who suffered from colonial rule or their descendants, demanding an apology and reparations for their land being ceded to white settlers. 

Filing the case with the ECHR has been praised by the outgoing governor of Kericho County, Paul Chepkwony, who said it was “a historic day” for the whole region.

“We have taken all reasonable and dignified steps. But the UK Government has given us the cold shoulder ... we hope for those who have suffered for too long that their dignity will be restored,” Chepkwony stated.