Today, we bear witness to a moment that will forever be seared in our memories. The moment when perpetrator and victim, colonizer and colonized, come together to acknowledge several truths that are self-evident. First, that colonialism was a historical wrong, a crime against humanity. Second, that the colonizer acknowledges that colonialism and its atrocities were morally and legally wrong. Third, that there is no hierarchy of cultures. Fourth, that no race on earth has a predestination to rule over other races. Fifth, that we the survivors of British colonial rule accept the apology of the British Government and are ready to embark on a journey to uncover all truth so that justice can be done and we can start the process of reconciliation in earnest. That is why today is a new beginning, a new dawn in which our humanity can start to be restored.
We join hands today to celebrate our gallant freedom fighters – all of our freedom fighters – from every corner, every hamlet, every hill and valley, of this great republic. We salute every freedom fighter (from every ethnicity and race, religion and creed, gender, and identity). They were called terrorists, leaders unto darkness and death; but we know the Mau Mau were the best of us, they were the pinnacle of our humanity and a symbol of the spirit of freedom, of the indomitability of the African spirit.
Let this be clear: there can be no moral equivalence between the violence of the victimizer and the violence of the victim, you can’t be faulted fighting to free yourself of colonial bondage. It is because of the Mau Mau that Kenya is free today. I want to name a few of the many people who participated starting with CJ Willy Mutunga, Maina Kiai, Paul Muite, Betty Murungi, Muthoni Wanyeki, Atsango Chesoni, Davinder Lamba, Karuti Kanyinga, Fr Gabriel Dolan, George Morara, George Kegoro, Godwin Murunga, Mwambi Mwasaru, Davis Malombe, Helena Kithinji, Mumina Konso, Jennifer Miano, Steve Ouma, Alamin Mazrui, Njeri Kabeberi, Moses Wetangula, Amos Wako, Zarina Patel, Zahid Rajan, Githu Muigai, Dan Leader and the Doughtery Street Chambers, the School of Oriental and African Studies, the Liberal Democrats of the UK, the Kenyan diaspora in London, and countless others who worked hard to make this day possible.
I want to especially salute Mzee Gitu wa Kahengeri and the Veterans Mau Mau Association for their tireless and yeoman work in the pursuit of justice. Paul Muite kept us inspired and pushed us, counseled us, and willed this project forward. I want to give a special mention to former PM Raila Odinga who was one of the first officials in government to support our suit after DECADES of neglect, and quite frankly, hostility towards the Mau Mau by the Kenyan state. I salute John Nottingham whose indefatigable work on behalf of the Mau Mau is legendary.
Last, but not least, I want to take my hat off to the entire KHRC board and staff, without whose foresight, planning, and spirit this day would not be possible. Never before in history had a former colonial power taken legal and moral responsibility for such atrocities. We appreciate the British Government for stepping up after hearing the echo of history, and answering the bell of justice.
Let this monument here stand as a testament to the blood, tears, and the treasure that our forefathers and foremothers gave in order for us to be free. But let not this monument become a fossilized museum of antiquities; let this monument be a living and dynamic embodiment of our determination to be free of state tyranny and despotism. Let this monument be the conscience of the nation – and a tomb for tribalism and the evil things and practices that hold us back. Let in this sacred place rest the spirits of those who fought before us to free this country, and those who shall fight after us to keep us free.
Prof. Makau Mutua | Chair of the Kenya Human Rights Commission