The Nation (Nairobi)

Kenya: Unveiling Secrets of Kenya's

(Page 5 of 6)

The 21 families each received Sh2,000 - a much larger sum then than it is now, but still a paltry recompense for their loss.

General Erskine then wrote personally to local chiefs, perhaps hoping to heal the breach with this previously loyal allies, to reassure them that "investigations have satisfied me that whoever is to blame, it is not any of the persons killed".

The letter is still in the Nairobi archives. Despite this admission of guilt to murder, the army did not pass its findings to the Attorney General, and so prosecutions could not be taken forward "due to lack of evidence".

There was sufficient evidence, but also reluctance on the part of the British army to expose that evidence to public scrutiny.

Having so far kept matters out of the public gaze, Erskine next set about disciplining those concerned.

All of the soldiers involved in the Chuka patrols were placed under open arrest at Nairobi's Buller Camp, but Erskine decided not to prosecute them. Instead, he would make an example of their commanding officer, Major Griffiths.

And, rather than risk bringing publicity to the Chuka affair, Erskine was able to obtain evidence to have Griffiths charged with the murder of two other suspects in a separate incident that had taken place a few weeks before the Chuka massacre.

This ruse went badly wrong, however, when the 5th KAR soldiers giving evidence at the courts martial in November 1953 refused to speak frankly against Griffiths. He was acquitted of the charge.

One of the British soldiers later admitted that he had lied, deliberately committing perjury. Erskine was furious. And so was the British Conservative government in London, where rumours of "army atrocities" had leaked to the press.

When the Cabinet met, an inquiry into the conduct of the army in Kenya was ordered. The inquiry was to be chaired by Lieutenant-General K. McLean, who arrived in Nairobi in December 1953.

All this gave the appearance that the army had resolved to clear its name by thorough, honest examination of uncomfortable issues: But Erskine knew only too well that an investigation of events before June 1953 would have revealed things much worse than Chuka.

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