1950-1959 | Kenya

British general advises against prosecution of Kenyan militia

Erskine watches operations against Kenyan insurgents.
© IWM (MAU 821)

9 January 1955

On 9 January 1955, General Sir George Erskine, commanding British forces in Kenya, advised the War Office not to prosecute any Home Guard loyalist forces for murder, torture and other war crimes.

‘I do not like.’ he explained, ‘arrangements by which loyalists charged and arrested at present will have their cases proceeded with. This places them in a more unfavourable position than Mau Mau (rebels) and does not relieve to the extent that I wish the damage to loyalist morale that has already occurred. In my opinion after 14 January no cases against loyalists which were on the books before 14 January should proceed whatever their stage.’1

The Secretary of State for War wrote back to Erskine to let him know that he agreed with the proposal and that he thought the Colonial Secretary ‘will suggest that the slate should be washed clean for all before January 17.’  An amnesty was then issued on 18 January which included all war crimes committed by loyalist forces, even those of deaths resulting from the most brutal forms of torture.

FOOTNOTES

  1. Quoted in ‘Witness Statement of Huw Charles Bennett,’ in Ndiku Mutua and Others V Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Claim no: HQ09X02666 p31 https://www.leighday.co.uk/LeighDay/media/LeighDay/documents/Mau%20Mau/Historian%20witness%20statements/Dr-Bennett-3rd-statement-FINAL.pdf?ext=.pdf

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