Friends, organizers and our much revered Mau Mau freedom fighters
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to say a few words – I speak on behalf of the Kenya Asian Forum. There is a U-Tube that has been circulating; some of you will have seen it. It records the speech of Shashi Tharoor, former Member of the Indian Parliament and a member of the Congress Party. He was speaking in an Oxford Union Debate and the subject was “Are reparations in Order”? He made a very passionate and erudite argument demanding reparations from the UK Government for all the atrocities that British colonialism committed in India.
And listening to him I thought to myself: We not only beat you to it but we have set the ball rolling! Those many years ago when the Mau Mau War Veterans Association and the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) first mooted the idea of demanding reparations most people called it a pipe dream. But the KHRC and the Veterans had a vision and the moral courage and they persevered, pulling in other visionaries. I was one of them and so was my partner Zahid Rajan who could not be here today, but who ran the public relations campaign in the UK when the case was first launched.
And today we are gathered to celebrate the outcome of that grueling journey – the fulfillment of that vision in very concrete terms. We at the Kenya Asian Forum are very pleased that two of our members, Davinder Lamba and his wife Diana, were selected to design and erect the Memorial to the Victims of Torture and Il-ltreatment. As you all know Davinder is a Mau Mau too – he has, and continues to, fight for justice for the Kenyan people. Another of our members, Sudhir Vidyarthi – his father G L Vidyarthi was the first Kenyan to be tried for sedition for reporting on the anti-colonial movement in his Colonial Times Newspaper. The struggle goes on as we take the baton from our past heroes.
The Mau Mau guerillas were soldiers of the Land and Freedom Army – the culmination of the Mau Mau movement which permeated the entire country and had its roots in the early anti-colonial struggles. All ethnicities and races were involved and in which South Asians too played a part. Pio Gama Pinto is the best known South Asian Mau Mau but there were many more, AwaaZ has collected interviews and footage of these freedom fighters and plans to document this history on film. We need to jog the memories of our veterans and record the first-hand accounts of this great movement before it is too late.
For as we celebrate this great event let us never forget that the real heroes are our Mau Mau veterans and their families. The sacrifices they made, the torture they suffered and the misery they still endure – for that there can be no compensation. The financial awards are just a token – what is infinitely more important is that the UK Government has said ‘Sorry’ and with that comes the all-important recognition that a despicable and heinous wrong was committed. Our Mau Mau veterans can rest assured in their twilight years that Kenyans will never forgot their heroism, their bravery and their sacrifices – generations to come will laud them as they wander through this memorial and marvel that Kenya had such great patriots.