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Last Updated: Friday, 3 October, 2003, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Kenyan rape claims tainted by 'lies'

Andrew Harding
BBC East Africa correspondent

Alice says she was gang raped

A bitter war of words has erupted between two communities in the foothills of Mount Kenya.

The issue is rape - specifically whether or not more than 600 women, who claim to have been raped by British soldiers, are telling the truth.

At stake is a multi-million dollar compensation suit pending against the British Ministry of Defence.

In one corner are the alleged victims - mostly poor rural women from the Masaii and Samburu tribes, who complain of an "epidemic" of rape by British soldiers training near their settlements over the last quarter of a century.

They have already been granted legal aid by Britain to sue the MoD.

Opposing them are the inhabitants of Nanyuki - the town which has long prospered from the presence of the British Army - whose squaddies usually pack the local bars, buy the local souvenirs, and regularly hire the local prostitutes.

All soldiers have now been confined to barracks in the wake of the rape allegations - much to the fury of the largely Kikuyu business community, which says the claims are not only ruining the economy, but are also lies.

"It's not fair," said bar owner David Nderitu, who suspects the whole affair is a scam to defraud the British Government.

"We have dealt with the British army for a very long time, and we've never heard of any rape cases... There are people who want to take money from the British."

'Compensation culture'

So who is telling the truth?

Several Nanyuki prostitutes have now come forward seeking to discredit Impact, the local organisation championing the rape claims.

Angela Muguri has a mixed-race child from a brief relationship with a British soldier.

Sitting with two-year-old Brittany on her lap, she said men from Impact had urged her to lie about being raped - "the guy said you get good money if you say it was rape".

Another prostitute, Muthoni, said Impact officials wanted a share of any compensation money.

In fact, both women's claims were rejected early on by the British lawyers acting on behalf of the alleged rape victims.

Angela Muguri
Angela Muguri - was urged to lie

"This is bullshit," said James Ole Kaparo, Impact's manager. "We have never encouraged anyone [to make a rape claim].

"Clearly the British army has not been able to go to Nanyuki town, so the business community in town is mobilising the prostitutes to say the Masaii have no case."

Impact's office is in Dol Dol, a small settlement about two hours' drive on rough roads from Nanyuki.

Some people here have already been made overnight millionaires following a separate legal case against the British army, which awarded 4.5m last year to victims of unexploded ordnance left on nearby ranges.

The same lawyer, Martyn Day, is dealing with both cases.

Mr Kaparo admitted that a compensation culture was emerging in the area.

"It's true that some women are trying to jump on the [rape] case," he said.

Lying accepted

Impact has been put on the defensive, not just by the prostitutes' claims, but also by last week's announcement by the British High Commission in Nairobi that "no genuine entries have been found in any of the police records" relating to the rapes.

Forensic experts reached that conclusion after examining contemporaneous police reports dating back as far as the 1970s.

Impact acknowledges that many of the medical reports relating to alleged rapes "are forgeries".

But Mr Kaparo said he still believed the police records were genuine.

He conceded that "50%" of the 650 women claiming to have been raped were probably lying.

But insisted that the rest were telling the truth, "although I accept that it's not easy to clearly say which of these women are genuine".

An investigation by Britain's Royal Military Police is continuing.

'Raped' Kenyans win legal aid
02 Jul 03  |  Africa
Kenyan women in rape protest
14 Aug 03  |  Africa
Defending Africa's downtrodden
03 Jul 03  |  Africa


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