Kenyans Petition British Prince

Their families were brutally evicted by the British empire to make way for tea plantations, Phil Miller reports. Now they want the crown to apologize and make reparations. 

Tea farm in Kenya’s Kericho region. (Harmon Okinyo, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Phil Miller
Declassified UK

A letter delivered to Prince William’s household in London Wednesday seeks justice for a notorious land grab in East Africa.

It comes from a group of Kenyans whose ancestral land was stolen by British imperial forces. They are calling on the royal family to apologize and make reparations.

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,” an advocate for the victims, Joel Kimutai Bosek, wrote in a letter to the duke of Cambridge.

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.

Prince William in 2014, greeting World Bank Group staff.
(World Bank, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

After Kenya became independent in 1963, Britain’s monarchy showed favor to colonial families who 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.

‘Entirely Ignored’

In the letter seen by Declassified, the Queen’s grandson is told that the

“suffering as a result of this period has been entirely ignored by your family and successive British Governments. We are urging you at this historic time to stand on the side of justice and to recognise the grave violations we have endured for decades.”

On behalf of the victims, their Nairobi-based lawyer wrote:

“The pain of our colonial past has been inherited in many forms and is exacerbated by the ongoing economic hardships of losing such precious land to profit-hungry corporations. But this is also your colonial past and, where we inherited the pain, you inherited the profit.”

He added: “Despite our immense suffering under British rule, the British government has refused to acknowledge this fact or meet any of us, let alone apologise. Which is why we are now appealing to you.”

From left: Lawyer Joel Kimutai Bosek, Kericho County Governor Paul Chepkwony and Kericho Assembly Speaker Dominic Rono deliver the letter to Clarence House, London. (Supplied to Declassified UK)

Last year, six U.N. special rapporteurs wrote to the British government expressing concern “at the alleged lack of reparation provided to victims for the gross violations suffered at the time of the events; as well for the harm suffered by victims and their descendants in the succeeding decades as a result of the loss of property.”

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U.K. authorities did not respond directly to the specific details of the Kericho case, instead claiming to have addressed colonial-era grievances through a settlement awarded to victims of the Mau Mau uprising that occurred in another part of Kenya.

“We are clearly different victims whose land was forcibly taken away,” today’s letter notes. “The provision of reparations to one discrete group of victims plainly does not address our grievances as a separate and distinct group of victims.”

Platinum Jubilee

Landmarks in Canberra lit in royal purple in February mark the queen’s 70th year on the throne. (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The letter comes at a delicate time for the royal family, when the palace wants to focus on marking the queen’s 70th year on the throne. 

“As you prepare to celebrate your grandmother’s Platinum Jubilee, our own elderly family members remember the pain of having their homes and land taken away from them at the same time,” the Kericho campaigners said to Prince William. “We have very little to celebrate.” 

“We are asking that you therefore do the right thing and support our quest for justice by making a public statement of recognition of what we suffered as well as an apology and an arrangement for appropriate reparations.”

Prince William has met Kenya’s president on multiple occasions, including as recently as November. 

He is heavily involved in conservation efforts in Africa — an activity which can often benefit old colonial landowners — and is patron of Fauna and Flora International, formerly the Society for the Preservation of the Wild Fauna of the Empire.

Professor Philip Murphy, an expert in imperial history at the University of London, told Declassified: “Colonial legacy issues are increasingly the focus for protests and calls for reparations. This is changing the whole dynamic of the interactions between the Windsors and the Commonwealth. 

“In the past there was an assumption that royal visits and Commonwealth patronages were an essential part of British ‘soft power’ despite their often blatant imperial overtones. Following developments like the Black Lives Matter Movement and the Windrush scandal, however, these imperial echoes are provoking pushback from a variety of quarters.” 

Prince William was asked to comment.

Phil Miller is Declassified UK’s chief reporter. He is the author of Keenie Meenie: The British Mercenaries Who Got Away With War Crimes. Follow him on Twitter at @pmillerinfo

This article is from Declassified UK.

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7 comments for “Kenyans Petition British Prince

  1. susan mullen
    May 5, 2022 at 18:59

    It’s almost unknown that UK was world’s biggest and most brutal slave trader, that it made 10,000 trips to Africa to capture slaves the great majority of which went to Jamaica and its other Caribbean sugar slave colonies. Jamaican slaves were treated so brutally and died so quickly that UK needed 10,000 new slaves every year. “Caribbean slave colonies, particularly Jamaica, powered the Atlantic trading system and served as the economic hub of the British Atlantic empire.”…”Defending Britain’s sugar-producing Caribbean colonies, which generated revenue vital to national security, took precedence over reclaiming the [US] rebel territories.” US and its UK pals have been happy to keep quiet about UK’s history instead putting all the focus on US history. UK nearly had a major ‘civil war’ itself. In 1800s when UK declared it would no longer own slaves, this wasn’t good news to many happy Caribbean slave owners living in UK. The only way they’d agree to “free” their slaves was if the gov. paid them for the lost cash value of their slaves which then was judged to be $20 million. That debt wasn’t paid off to descendants until 2015.

  2. Mojo
    May 5, 2022 at 17:07

    When will this ridiculous hounding of people stop. Prince William was not responsible for what went on 150 years ago. Neither were people born today responsible for what one or two ancestors did linger ago than that.

    If we really are going to get into history, maybe we should ask Africans for reparation in doing what they did to their own people. It cost the British taxpayer until 2014 to pay for abolition of the slave trade. That money went to many African slavers who sold their own people into slavery. They were paid to stop selling their own people to the Dutch, the Americans and the Spanish. The British did not have slaves in this country because our Common Law protected the freedom of every man and woman who lived here.

    The Americans were the biggest slavers and the Africans sold those slaves to Americans.

    • joey_n
      May 6, 2022 at 04:55

      Did the USA not have Common Law at the time as well, like it does today?

  3. Litchfield
    May 5, 2022 at 16:06

    This reminds me of the issue of the Chagos Islanders.

    Here is a pretty recent story:

    An interesting detail is this:

    “Since Mauritian independence in 1968, consecutive governments have challenged the detachment of the Chagos islands, claiming they are part of Mauritius. In 2019, the International Court of Justice published an Advisory Opinion in response to a request from the United National General Assembly on behalf of Mauritius, stating that decolonisation had not been lawfully carried out.

    In particular, it said that detaching the Chagos archipelago from Mauritius was not based on *the free and genuine will of the people.* Consequently, the UK’s continuing administration of the Chagos archipelago was unlawful.”

    The second sentence implies that “the free and independent will of the people” determines independence and sovereignty.

    So, this implies that Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk have a right to their independence, since the will of the people was made clear.

  4. Jim other
    May 5, 2022 at 14:38

    Answers to this request or lack there of will show what kind of leader he will be.

    Will he be as obdurate as the British courts are about Julian Assange?

    • Caroline Fisher
      May 5, 2022 at 18:12

      Agree Jim and I personally would like to see the monarchy of Britain and all monarchies or rule by those who hold undeserved and not properly earned privilege’s (not that anyone should be privileged over another really), rapidly dismantled, as they are something of the old age now crumbling.
      But it is very good to see that those who have been used and abused, in Kenya and so many other places, are now standing up and saying ‘no more use and abuse’.

    • jimmy kraktov
      May 5, 2022 at 20:54

      If they truly think that Bald Billy will help they’re going to be very disappointed.

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