By John Ikani
Families that were evicted from their ancestral land in Kenya’s western Kericho county by British colonialists have petitioned the Royal Family for compensation and an apology.
The group composed of people from the Talai and Kipsigis clans in Kericho were evicted by the British colonialists in early 1900 to pave way for tea plantations.
In a letter to Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, lawyer Joel Kimutai Bosek said the UK Government had refused to engage with the victims and their representatives.
He said a request to meet officials from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office had been denied this week and no opportunity to resolve the matter had been offered.
The move follows a wave of protests against royal tours of the Caribbean where campaigners have demanded Britain’s monarchy address the legacy of slavery.
For decades from 1902, half a million people from the Kipsigis and Talai indigenous groups were violently evicted from the Kericho region of western Kenya.
“Many men and women were raped, arbitrarily detained, and in some cases killed whilst trying to resist the evictions,” said Bosek in the letter.
Foreign settlers seized their highly fertile land and turned it into tea plantations, some of which are now owned by British beverage brands including PG Tips.
The victims were deported to arid areas of Kenya and prevented from returning home. They were still being kept in squalid conditions on “native reserves” in 1952 when Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne while in Kenya on a royal tour.
After Kenya became independent in 1963, Britain’s monarchy showed favour to colonial families that remained in the country. Prince William spent his gap year in central Kenya on a farm run by the descendants of white settlers and later proposed to his wife there.
The petitioners clarified that they don’t want the matter to turn into a bitter dispute, but they are seeking justice and a clarification of the wrongs committed against them to be recognised.
Furthermore, the families noted that they want an apology and a discussion about compensation. The group also informed Prince William that most of the complainants are very elderly and there is an urgency to see them compensated especially as he prepares to celebrate his grandmother’s Platinum Jubilee, which marks Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 year reign.
“Our own elderly family members remember the pain of having their homes and land taken away from them at the same time.”