The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, September 27, 2003

Kenya rape shakedown hits a snag

A cautionary tale on the need for vigilance where truth and moral hazard are in play.

A British lawyer called Martyn Day has been organising a lawsuit against the UK MOD (that is, Hapless Hoon's outfit) on behalf of a large number of Kenyan women who say they were raped by members of HM Forces in Kenya on manoeuvres. According to a piece in the Guardian today , the total sum he was seeking was around $15m. (Quite what his cut would be is not discussed.)

However, rather than roll over, the MOD put in a forensic team to examine the police records; and found them all to be forgeries!

Now, anyone paying the slightest attention to the evidence at the Hutton Inquiry would understand that the MOD's playing fast and loose with the truth would not be an altogether new experience. I'm rather thinking, though, that the information would not have been released unless the evidence of forgery was clearly able to stand up to judicial scrutiny.

And the Kenyan record for bribery and corruption is legendary. The Kenya branch of Transparency International produced a report (c750KB PDF) in 2001 which (based on a survey) rated in a Bribery Index the incidence of corruption in various government institutions (p10a): the Kenya Police come top of the list with 68.7 out of a hundred [1]. A separate table on the same page shows a 90.4% incidence of bribery in the Kenya Police; that is (p11a)
...the likelihood of obtaining satisfactory service from [the Kenya Police] without paying a bribe is less than 10%...

A further table (p11a) shows that 57.5% of those surveyed said they had paid bribes to the Kenya Police, or suffered from not paying such bribes.

In a TI Corruption Perceptions Index (2002) Kenya ranked joint 96th out of 102 [2].

So, is the rape business a scam dreamt up by local chiselers to guilt Whitey into handing over moolah, with rakeoffs for the KP and the (no doubt) many other officials who had assisted in the project? According to the article, Martyn Day is no neophyte when it comes to suing the MOD on behalf of Kenyan claimants:
Mr Day began documenting the rape allegations after concluding a successful compensation campaign on behalf of Kenyan farmers killed or maimed by ordnance left on two nearby British army firing ranges. The MoD paid £4.5m in an out-of-court settlement to injured and bereaved Samburu and Masai herders but did not admit responsibility for any ordnance left lying on the ranges, which it shares with the Kenyan army.

Rumours have since circulated in northern Kenya that many of those claims were fraudulent with penniless herders awarded sums of up to £250,000 for injuries allegedly caused by wild animals and domestic accidents.

The background is the period of colonial rule in general, and the Mau-Mau terror campaign in particular. Whilst the politics of Mau-Mau were complex and dynamic [3], the left-liberal perception is of some kind of colonial holocaust (a legend on a par with that of Winston Churchill having the army fire on striking miners in Tonypandy in 1910. [4])

Labour pin-up [5] turned battleaxe Barbara Castle and others made a fuss about some rough treatment of prisoners at Hola Camp in 1959, which has come to stand as the representative pink factoid for colonial Kenya [6], guaranteed to be in the crib-notes of at least one lefty talk-show caller whenever the subject of the British Empire can be shoehorned into the discussion [7]!

Since the sums asked in the current Kenyan case are chicken-feed in relation to total UK government spending, and the asymmetry of means between plaintiffs and defendants makes for tough PR, one could not blame the MOD for rolling over. However, it seems the spirit of Rorke's Drift may not quite have disappeared...

  1. The Ministry of Public Works comes second with 41%.

  2. States that it beat? Angola, Madagascar, Paraguay, Nigeria and (undisputed champions of corruption - according to the list) Bangladesh.

  3. I can recommend The Mau Mau War in Perspective by Frank Furedi for a sane and detailed exploration the subject. For a wallow in post-colonial guilt, try elsewhere.

    Online material of any substance is thin on the ground: a paper by Caroline Elkins and John Lonsdale looks like the best introduction to Mau Mau available. (Interestingly, it does not seem to mention Hola Camp at all!) For more recent ethnic conflicts in Kenya, Mr Google has thrown up this paper from 1997 and this from 2001.

  4. One might also compare the Rosa Parks fantasy (my piece of October 1 2002).

  5. As Barbara Betts, supposedly the most attractive woman in the Labour Party as the Attlee government took power in 1945.

  6. Violence perpetrated - mostly against fellow Africans - by Mau Mau tended to be rather more serious than the beatings handed out at Hola.

  7. Secular patron saint of terrorists Frantz Fanon had (so far as I'm aware) nothing to do with the growth of Mau Mau, but still, 9/11 notwithstanding, seems to give a aura of respectability to the notion of terrorism in the minds of the Guardian tendency. (For instance, how many of them would accept that Umkhonto we Sizwe - which, very roughly, was to the ANC what the IRA are to Sinn Fein - were terrorists?)

    Of course, Fanon's topic, as a psychiatrist and FLN groupie in Algeria in the 1954-62 war, was the way that colonial war screwed with the minds of those on both sides. (Roughly contemporaneously with Philip Larkin's famous comment on parenthood along similar lines.) Forty years after the end of the British Empire in any recognisable form, the Fanon effect continues (in attenuated form) to affect the mentality (if not necessarily the policy) of those in whom other illusions of the same era have been extinguished by the reign of Thatcher.

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