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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 August, 2003, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Kenya lifts ban on Mau Mau
By Martin Plaut
BBC News

The Kenyan Government has decided to legalise the Mau Mau, the movement that fought colonial rule, over 50 years after it was banned by the British authorities.

The decision, announced by Kenya's minister of national security, will allow former Mau Mau fighters to register as a society and end the stigma that has hung over the movement, even after independence in 1963.

President Jomo Kenyatta was jailed for his alleged links with the group
Mau Mau - or the Land and Freedom Army, as they called themselves - have waited a very long time to receive recognition.

Their attacks on white settlers threw colonial society into panic and Britain imposed a state of emergency in 1952.

Yet despite their obvious role in fighting for independence, no Kenyan Government has previously been prepared to lift the ban.

This is because the Mau Mau rebellion was, at least in part, a civil war.

'Bury the past'

Kenya's first President, Jomo Kenyatta, was a strong nationalist, but he was not a member of Mau Mau, despite being convicted of belonging to the movement in what historians regard as a rigged, show trial.

Once independence came, Kenyatta's government included more people who had fought against Mau Mau than had participated in the rebellion.

"When he came to power in 1963, Kenyatta tried very hard to bury the past, to put Mau Mau behind him," says David Anderson of St Anthony's College, Oxford.

"He told Kenyans that they should forget it, that the quickest way to curing the evils of that period was to forget it. And so in public life, it became almost impossible to mention Mau Mau, never mind to memorialise it."

The conflict took a terrible toll: Mau Mau lost around 20,000 men.

They killed some 4,000 people - including 32 white settlers.

The movement administered oaths and inflicted death on anyone who betrayed them. More than 1,000 were hanged, including their leader, Dedan Kimathi, whose body still lies in a Nairobi prison.

Monuments for the Mau Mau
22 Mar 01  |  Africa
Country profile: Kenya
29 Oct 02  |  Country profiles

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