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1954: British crackdown on Kenya rebels

Security forces have rounded up more than 10,000 men in the biggest anti-Mau Mau operation since a state of emergency was declared in Kenya 18 months ago.

The British authorities have ordered the clampdown on the Mau Mau, a guerilla movement opposed to white settlers in the East African colony, following a breakdown in law and order.

Those suspects found to be Mau Mau supporters will be sent to detention camps for further questioning.

More than 4,000 British and African troops, Nairobi's entire police force and African loyalists are involved in the operation. They have orders to shoot to kill if there is any armed resistance.


"There has been a virtual breakdown of the processes of law and order"

Internal Security Minister Richard Turnbull

Operation Anvil began at dawn this morning with raids on homes throughout the city. Mau Mau supporters are mostly members of the Kikuyu tribe but any suspects are being handed over for further screening.

Rumours about the impending clampdown have persisted for some time and so it was feared many of the rebels may have already escaped to the countryside. But spotter planes have reported no mass exodus from the city.

The Minister for Internal Security and Defence, Richard Turnbull, issued a statement this morning, saying: "The great majority of the Nairobi Kikuyu are either active or passive supporters of Mau Mau or are in tacit sympathy with the movement's aims.

"In certain parts of Nairobi there has been a virtual breakdown of the processes of law and order. During the past 15 months there have been something like 100 cases of murder and manslaughter, for which not more than a handful have been successfully prosecuted."

Hold-ups are described as commonplace and many African and Asian shopkeepers have been terrorised into paying protection money to local gangsters.

Already 2,000 detainees have been transported to two newly-built detention camps.

There they will be questioned by special teams. Those who can be safely released will be returned to their homes, while those judged to be a danger to others will be detained but receive some form of rehabilitation training.

Earlier this month, the Kenyan Government withdrew its "mass" surrender offer to the Mau Mau gangs in order to kickstart peace talks.

It appears clashes between troops and a gang of Mau Mau rebels near Mount Kenya led others to fear they were being led into a trap and were to be slaughtered so the planned surrender did not take place.

Since then the government has launched a major offensive against the Mau Mau, sending RAF planes to bomb areas where the gangs are concentrated.

Last year black activist Jomo Kenyatta was jailed for seven years for his part in the organisation of the Mau Mau movement.

In Context
British attempts to put down the Mau Mau rebellion continued. At its height, 80,000 Kikuyu were detained in camps and many hundreds of thousands were resettled in new fortified villages, cut off from their surroundings.

There was criticism at home and abroad of British interrogation methods in the camps. Police informers wearing hoods to disguise their identities were used to pick out the "hard-core" supporters judged to have been involved in some of the group's terrorist activities and there were reports of torture.

In 1958 11 Mau Mau detainees died in the Hola camp after being beaten. Political protest in Britain led to a call for a constitutional conference and ultimately independence for Kenya in 1961.

In August 2003, the Kenyan Government announced it was legalising the Mau Mau movement over 50 years after it was banned by the British.

The Mau Mau rebellion cost around the lives of around 20,000 supporters. They killed some 4,000 people, including 32 white settlers.


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