As Kenya celebrated its independence from British colonial authority in December 2019, two ethnic nationalities in the Great Rift Valley petitioned the UN to examine a colonial-era land grab. Between 1895 and 1963, the British ruthlessly expelled the Kipsigis and Talai populations of Kericho county from their native lands to make room for profitable tea plantations controlled by white settlers.
The village of Kericho in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley is currently known for its tea fields, the majority of which are owned by various British and multinational tea firms such as Findlay’s, Williamson Fine Tea, and Unilever. Despite the fact that Kericho has some of Kenya’s most profitable agricultural land, the Kipsigis and Talai say they have not reaped the benefits.
They maintain that their forefathers were subjected to major human rights violations including torture, unlawful killings, sexual violence, arbitrary incarceration, arbitrary displacement, and infringement of privacy and property rights and that they have yet to obtain compensation or restitution.
“On the day of eviction, armed men working for the British administration came and forcibly drove us out of our homes,” remembered Kibore Cheruiyot Ngasura, who was forcibly evicted from his home by the British in 1934 and is now in his late 90s. “Women who had their husbands imprisoned were raped. They beat everyone. It was a chaotic day.”
He claimed that he and hundreds of other families were deported by decree and forced to go to Gwasi, where many died due to bad living conditions.
After their families were exiled from their lands in Kericho, many Kipsigis and Talais now live as squatters and are landless. Since then, Ngasura and over 100,000 individuals from the Kipsigis and Talai ethnic nationalities have been suing the British government for compensation.
They requested an investigation from the UN in September 2019. “Our argument is that in Kericho, they established a type of apartheid.” And our position is that the rest of the world has to know,” one of the lawyers representing the two groups, Joel Kemutai Bosek, said at the time.
“Our argument is much as we are concerned, very bitter, and very much strongly coming out as people who are oppressed, we are also saying we are reasonable enough. And they should be reasonable,” he added.
In February 2019, Kenya’s land commission concluded that the British illegally stole land from the Kipsigis and Talai communities and recommended that the UK apologize. But that didn’t happen because tea businesses continued to fight the verdict in court.
That year, Kericho County Governor Paul Chepkwony informed VOA that they are dealing with the situation through legal ways. “These individuals do not want to scare away potential investors.” This is something I want to be absolutely clear about. However, they are aware that these investors are conducting legitimate business on stolen land. And they want to talk about how they can fix it so they can live in peace with the investors,” he said.
In August of this year, UN officials stated that Britain should compensate two Kenyan villages that were evicted from their homes as a result of “serious human rights breaches.” Six UN special rapporteurs wrote to the government, expressing their dissatisfaction with the UK’s failure to compensate the Kipsigis and Talai people.
Reparations should comprise “measures in the areas of restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, and satisfaction, as well as the participation of the victims in the development and implementation of such measures,” according to UN rapporteurs.
The United Nations said it interfered because the British government had refused to engage in any type of procedure to settle the situation and publicly apologize to the victims. The UN went on to remind the British government of the “obligation of States to adopt measures to ensure justice, truth, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence of past human rights violations,” as well as the “obligation of States to adopt measures to ensure justice, truth, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence of past human rights violations.”
According to The Telegraph, the UK is unlikely to face fines if it does not reply to the rapporteurs’ comments.
Kericho County Governor Chepkwony recently told the BBC, “The world needs to know that the tea being shipped from Kericho is blood tea.” “We must demand restitution and an apology from the UK government to bring this matter to a close.”
The UK government has already acknowledged that certain Kenyans were abused by the colonial authority during the “emergency era” and the Mau Mau uprising, according to a representative for the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO).
“A UK Government statement released in 2013, commemorating the victims of torture and ill-treatment during the emergency period, was part of the UK Government’s settlement of claims filed by Kenyan citizens,” the spokeswoman continued.
“We regret that these violations occurred and that they have hampered Kenya’s march toward independence.”