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Kenya (Anti-Mau Mau Operations)

Volume 526: debated on Wednesday 28 April 1954

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I will now, with per mission, answer Question No. 10.

The latest important development is the large-scale operation to remedy conditions in Nairobi Which the recent Report of the Parliamentary Delegation pointed out "strike at the roots of public security and of respect for law and order." Nairobi has for some time been a major source of support, in recruits, supplies, money and refuge, to the Mau Mau gangs.

Control of the African locations, never easy to secure by ordinary police methods, has been made more difficult, in places almost impossible, by a great rise in the African population, mainly Kikuyu, in the past few years. In 1953 alone the Kikuyu male working population of Nairobi went up by 40 per cent. Mau Mau have achieved almost complete domination of Africans of all tribes in Nairobi by murder, armed robbery, intimidation and the levying of protection money on shopkeepers and tradesmen.

The object of the present operation is to remove the active and passive supporters of Mau Mau from Nairobi to holding camps where a thorough screening will take place on an individual basis. This is bound to take a little time, but will be carried out as speedily as possible. Those who as a result of screening can safely be released will be allowed to go back to their homes. Those who cannot at present be released without endangering peace and good order will continue to be detained but will receive training to enable them to become useful citizens again.

From the night of 23rd-24th April, when the Nairobi operation began, until yesterday morning, some 10,000 Africans were detained for further screening. Since then there has been virtually no crime in the city.

I regret to report that on Saturday last, through a serious error, a party of British soldiers commanded by a captain in the Kenya Regiment entered the India Commissioner's Office in Nairobi in the course of their operations. As soon as this was known the Acting Governor and the Commander-in-Chief apologised to the Indian Acting Commissioner. I should like to take this opportunity to express Her Majesty's Government's deep regret at this unfortunate occurrence.

My right hon. Friend is satisfied that, apart from the incident to which I have just referred, no major irregularities have been committed by security forces in the past few weeks. Minor complaints continue to be received, and are investigated by a committee set up by the Acting-Governor; disciplinary action is taken where complaints are substantiated.

Existing rehabilitation schemes continue, but it is early yet to make a comprehensive estimate of their success. Some progress has been made and many detainees have shown themselves willing to co-operate.

Will the Minister devote attention to one problem which arises, as on previous occasions, out of this matter, that is, the practice of sending some of these people back to the reserve? From information we receive, the position in the reserve is becoming really chronic. They have gone from the farms and now they are going back from Nairobi. Even if this cures the problem in Nairobi itself, it is creating fertile soil for Mau Mau there. Is there not a better way of dealing with these people than by pushing them back to the reserve?

I am very aware of the problem to which the right hon. Gentle man refers, and I can certainly assure him that that aspect of it will be care fully considered in dealing with this operation.

Can the Minister tell us the conditions under which these men are detained, and can he give any estimate of the length of time which is likely to elapse before they are brought to trial?

These persons are detained under the Emergency Regulations. I will not describe in detail the camps in which they are being held, but, as I say, the intention is that they shall be screened one by one. Some are already being screened and some have been released, but it is bound to take a certain amount of time. I cannot say how long it will take. They will be screened as quickly as possible, and will then be held. It is not a question of their going for trial. They will be held under the Emergency Regulations in precisely the same way as detainees were held under Emergency Regulations in Malaya.

Arising out of the first part of the Question and in relation to the scheme which the Minister and the House will recognise as the "General" China surrender scheme, which was so much supported by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) at the time, is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that sufficient use is being made of aeroplane loudspeakers over the forest in order to convince the 1,500 or so people who were about to surrender on 10th April that the un fortunate incident on 7th April had nothing whatever to do with that surrender, and that their surrender under the conditions then proposed is highly desirable?

I know that, in general, loudspeakers have been used by the Royal Air Force to appeal to the Mau Mali terrorists to surrender, but I do not know whether, in fact, they were employed on the dates mentioned at these particular places. It was not something that we could foresee.

That is not quite the point, and I am sorry if I did not make it clear. The Minister will be aware that 1,500 or so people were on the point of surrender when, unfortunately, a day or two before there was an action in the Mau Mau neighbourhood with the result that they again dispersed. What I am asking is whether the Minister is satisfied that sufficient use has been made of loudspeakers over the forest in order to convince those people that the incident on 7th April had nothing whatever to do with them and that their surrender is expected and is still desirable under the terms then proposed.

I replied very fully to this on 14th April when, I think, the right hon. Gentleman was not here.

But the point to which he has drawn attention will be brought to the notice of the authorities. As I explained then, the particular plan for general mass surrender—the "General" China plan as it was called—has been dropped, but the arrangements for the surrender of individuals under the original plan of last August will continue.

In view of the success of the recent operation in Nairobi, will my right hon. Friend urge the Government to offer encouragement to the Kenya Government to continue their present steps?

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether, as a result of this long overdue round up in Nairobi, the boycott on the 'buses, and the non-smoking ban in Nairobi still continue?

The operation still continues. I cannot report to the House on this sort of detail yet, but I will do so on the first occasion possible.

Can the Minister say what numbers of Kikuyu have so far been screened and how many remain to be screened? When I was there I met a great deal of scepticism amongst the camp staffs as to whether they were sufficient in number or were competent to do this immense task. Will the Minister now answer the question during Question time? What is he doing about those detainees who have been immured in the camps since December, 1952, and when is he going to release some of those people again to normal life?

Apart from the present operation—of which I have not got exact particulars, except that 10,000 have been arrested—arrests in connection with Mau Mau numbered 191,587 up to 10th April. Of these, 35,380 were released after preliminary inquiry, 156,207 were screened, and 78,413 were released after screening. Governor's detention orders numbered 1,801. That is the present position, but those numbers, of course, are now going up as a result of the present operation. In general, as I said in reply to the Question, measures for rehabilitation are going on fairly well although it is rather an early stage to be able to report.

I apologise for my earlier absence. Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is done to the detainees when they have been through the process of rehabilitation? Are they given useful work, or land so that they can recover themselves in that way?

In my original reply I said that every effort would be made to give them training so that they would become useful citizens again. That, of course, would include work in the camps where they now are—work, generally speaking, connected with the emergency but work which, we hope, will help to restore them to useful citizenship.