1960-1969 | Censorship | Kenya

Hiding the brutal truth about British colonial rule in Kenya

British troops detain suspect rebels
© IWM (MAU 865) CC Non Commercial License.

3 December 1963

On 3 December 1963, just nine days prior to Kenya being granted independence, hundreds of files of documents were packed into four large wooden packing crates and loaded onto a British United Airways flight to London’s Gatwick Airport. They related to the administration of the colony during the brutal crushing of the Mau Mau insurgency against British rule.  Most of those who knew about the transfer realised that these were files the British government considered to be too revealing to be left behind and some claimed that the most sensitive had already been dumped from aircraft into the dark depths of the Indian ocean.1

Two and a half years earlier, on 3 May 1961, Colonial Seretary Iain Macleod had decreed that certain categories of documents must be prioritized for removal back to Britain, prior to granting Kenya independence. These were to include anything that might embarrass the British government or damage the reputation of the police, army or civil servants or compromise informers or other sources of intelligence. The files, which detailed the close involvement of British officials with torture, abuse and extra-judicial killings on a near industrial scale, were then hidden away in London until legal action initiated in 2009 against the British government by Kenyans detained as Mau Mau suspects over fifty years earlier, finally forced their disclosure.2

FOOTNOTES

  1. Ian Cobain, The History Thieves: Secret, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation, Portobello Books, London, 2017, p. 105 and p. 116
  2. Ibid, p. 112 and Calder Walton, Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire, William Collins, London, 2014, p. xxx.

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