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Kenya (Situation)

Volume 524: debated on Wednesday 3 March 1954

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With the permission of the House, Sir, I should like to make a statement on the situation in Kenya.

The following announcement was made by the Government of Kenya this morning.

As a result of the interrogation of "General China," it appeared that there was a fairly widespread feeling among the terrorists that further armed insurrection would bring nothing but hardship to the Kikuyu people and that there was little to be gained by continuing the struggle. It was decided that if this appreciation was correct it afforded an opportunity of hastening the end of the emergency which should not be missed.

On Sunday, 14th February, "China" was moved to a closely guarded building in Nyeri. From there, largely by means of personal letters from "China," touch has been established with Mau Mau leaders in the forest and the Reserves. There has also been personal contact between "China" and the individual leaders.

Special Branch representatives have always been present at these meetings. "China's" movements in the Reserves have been by armoured car and under police guard. The result of such contacts cannot be clear for some time, but should any organised meeting take place, safe-conduct arrangements to all parties will be guaranteed.

Meanwhile, there has been and there will be no relaxation of the impact of the* security forces upon the terrorist organisations. Indeed, during the past three weeks security forces have had some of their most successful operations. These operations will be continued and intensified.

Will the Undersecretary of State confirm a statement which appeared in the midday Press that the death sentence passed some time ago on the leader known as "General China" has been commuted to enable him to carry on these negotiations; and will he assure his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Governor that the House will support fully this action which they have taken? We fervently hope that as a result of these discussions peace will be restored to Kenya.

I believe that the statement about the commutation of sentence is correct, and I will certainly convey to my right hon. Friend the right hon. Gentleman's observations.

Is the Undersecretary aware that those of us who, a fortnight ago, urged, by letter to the Colonial Secretary, that "General China" should be used in this way welcome very heartily, and congratulate him upon, the statement which has just been made?

Will my hon. and learned Friend assure the House that nothing will be done in this matter which may in any way jeopardise the lives of the loyal Kikuyu men and their families who have stood stubbornly, fairly and courageously by the forces of law and order during the emergency?

The commutation of "General China's" death sentence is a commutation to what?—to life imprisonment, or is he free, and will the commutation remain permanent or will the death sentence be revived?