HC Deb 16 October 1952 vol 505 cc388-94
The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)

Sir, with your permission and that of the House, I wish to make a statement about Kenya in reply to a Question put on the Order Paper by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) yesterday but which was not reached.

Mau Mau is a secret society confined almost entirely to the Kikuyu tribe. It is an off-shoot of the Kikuyu Central Association, which was proscribed for subversive activities in 1940. It encourages racial hatred and is violently anti-European and anti-Christian. It pursues its aims by forcing secret oaths upon men, women and children and by intimidating witnesses and law-abiding Africans. It resorts to murder and other brutal and inhuman methods.

Early this year Mau Mau attacks began in the Nyeri District and then spread to the Kiambu and Fort Hall Districts in the Central Province. The situation became progressively worse. Accordingly reinforcements were brought from other areas; many arrests were made; curfews were imposed, magistrates given enhanced powers and public meetings banned in most areas.

These measures proved insufficient because African witnesses were afraid to come forward and give evidence in face of the brutal methods and vicious reprisals of the Mau Mau against them. Africans who refused to take a Mau Mau oath have had ropes tied round their necks and have been strung up from rafters until they were unconscious. Those who have informed the police have later been found murdered. Charges against over 100 persons for administering or participating in the administration of Mau Mau oaths had to be withdrawn, because the witnesses had disappeared or been intimidated into changing their story.

Up to 13th September there had been 23 murders, including two women and three children, 12 attempted murders, four suicides, 24 hut burnings, 12 serious assaults, a church desecrated and missions attacked.

That was the situation when I received from the Acting Governor of Kenya draft legislation designed to enable the Kenya Government to deal with intimidation and to give them greater control over secret societies. On 16th September I discussed this legislation and the need for it with the Attorney-General of Kenya and the Chief Native Commissioner.

From 13th to 30th September there were at least 13 further murders, three suicides and a large number of European owned cattle were slaughtered and mutilated. During October there have been further attacks, including the murder of two European women and Senior Chief Waruhiu, a Kikuyu who had served his community and the Government nobly and loyally for a great number of years. A European was seriously wounded while protecting his wife and on 10th October Lieutenant-Colonel Tulloch, 74 years old, and his wife were savagely attacked.

The Governor reports that since 1st October four Africans are known to have been murdered. These Africans had rendered assistance in anti-Mau Mau activities. I am pleased to say that Colonel Tulloch and his wife and Mr. Bindloss are all out of danger and making satisfactory progress.

The Governor has now reported that John Mbiu Koinange, a son of ex-Senior Chief Koinange, was charged yesterday as a principal in the murder of Chief. Waruhiu. The African driver of the car and the actual gunman, so it is alleged, are charged with him. Ex-Senior Chief Koinange and certain members of his family have been charged as accessories after the fact. The charge against John Mbiu Koinange is that he counselled and procured the murder and provided the gun.

I feel sure the House will wish me to convey their sympathy to all those who have suffered from these savage attacks. Those guilty of such crimes must be accounted the enemies of the whole law-abiding community of Kenya and not least of its African members who so overwhelmingly outnumber the lawbreakers. I wish to make it clear that Her Majesty's Government fully support the Government of Kenya in the action being taken to deal with the situation.

Of the legislation discussed with me, seven Ordinances were passed by the Kenya Legislative Council and assented to by the Governor on 3rd October. The eighth, the Societies Bill, has been referred to a Select Committee. These Ordinances give additional protection to witnesses and power to restrict the place of residence of persons associating with unlawful societies, to control traffic at night, and to control undesirable printing presses. They also increase the maximum penalties for certain offences.

Mr. J. Griffiths

May I associate my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself—and, I am sure, the whole of the nation—with the sympathy which the right hon. Gentleman has expressed towards all those who have suffered in this outbreak in Kenya? I should like particularly to mention one whose hospitality I was privileged to enjoy and who played such a distinguished rôle in racial co-operation in Kenya—Senior Chief Waruhiu. The Government of Kenya must get every support to put down this outbreak of violence.

We have so far seen only Press summaries of the legislation to which the Secretary of State has referred. It seems to give extraordinary powers to the Government; they may or may not be necessary. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, first, whether he will place copies in the Library, so that we may be able to study the legislation, and particularly the Societies Bill? Secondly, is this legislation for a temporary period, for the duration of the emergency, or is it permanent?

There are, no doubt, underlying causes for what has happened, which may or may not be exploited. May I ask the Secretary of State whether he will be able in the very near future to announce the composition of the Royal Commission and the date upon which it will leave for Kenya? It seems to me that the sooner it is completed as a Commission and goes to Kenya, the better it will be.

Mr. Lyttelton

Nearly all this legislation is temporary and of one year's duration; it comes to an end automatically. With regard to the most contentious piece of legislation, about which I have had the most anxiety—that is, Ordinance Number 35, which deals with the right to take evidence by affidavit—it follows an Ordinance authorised during the life of the previous Government, but has three additional safeguards which I suggested to the Kenya Government and which they have readily accepted.

These three safeguards are, first, that no one is to be convicted on one affidavit; it must be supported by other corroborative evidence. The second is that these affidavits can only be sworn in front of an administrative officer, of first or second grade magisterial rank, or police officer. The third is that all convictions from magistrates' courts must be confirmed by the Supreme Court. These are three new safeguards. All the controversial legislation, if I may so call it, is of a year's duration and will come automatically to an end.

Mr. Griffiths

May we have copies in the Library?

Mr. Lyttelton

I have received very few copies—I have only just got my own—but I will certainly have copies of the legislation placed in the Library. Regarding the Royal Commission, I am not in a position to give its composition now, but I should hope to be able to do so very shortly.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Can my right hon. Friend give the House any examples of the secret oaths administered by the Mau Mau?

Mr. Lyttelton

Perhaps these are two of the most dramatic: If I am sent with four others to kill the European enemies of this organisation and I refuse, may this oath kill me. When the reed-buck horn is blown, if I leave the European farm before killing the European owner, may this oath kill me.

Mr. T. Reid

Kenya has generally been a very law-abiding place. Can the Secretary of State say why this sudden outbreak of violence, murder and injury, even to animals, has sprung up? Secondly, can he say what is the final objective of Mau Mau, which is evidently confined to the Kikuyu tribe? Is it that they want to abolish White rule in Kenya or in the Kikuyu tribe lands, or is it that they want to get possession of the Kenya Highlands, whose wealth they evidently envy?

Mr. Lyttelton

I have some diffidence in giving the House a considered opinion about what the causes are. There are a great many causes for these secret societies. One, which perhaps will strike hon. Members as being rather curious, is that many of the tribal dances and other means of "letting off steam" have been suppressed by the missionaries, and this has given an impetus to secret societies. Other causes, no doubt, are land famine and social problems, but as regards the second part of the hon. Member's question, I think I could reply that in the main the object of the Mau Mau is to drive the Europeans out of Kenya.

Mr. Teeling

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the three safeguards he has today announced on the question of evidence will give very great satisfaction to a large number of Africans who have been very worried on that point? Can he make it quite clear that the majority of the Africans and Asians are in no way involved in this, and that their loyalty is a matter about which we have no doubts whatever.

Mr. Lyttelton

I am very glad to be able to reiterate what I said in my statement, that the law-abiding Africans are overwhelmingly in the majority. I hope the House will feel that the extra precautions and safeguards which we have put in are as far as we could reasonably go in the situation with which Kenya is faced.

Mr. Bowles

Has the right hon. Gentleman read in the papers this morning the statement made by the leader of the African Members in the Kenya Legislative Council that a one-third increase in the African or native wages might prevent a great deal of the effectiveness of Mau Mau? Secondly, has the Secretary of State any information as to the social consequences and the economic effect upon the cost of living of the tribal customs of having to pay for brides in money rather than in cattle? I believe that the amount is about £100, and it takes a great deal of time to earn £100 to buy a wife. It is an important matter to know whether the right hon. Gentleman or his office has any information on this matter, which is regarded locally, I believe, as being very important.

Mr. Lyttelton

Any reply to the hon. Member's question would be largely a matter of conjecture, and I should prefer to confine myself to the facts as I know them.

Mr. Bowles

I asked whether the right hon. Gentleman's office had any information.

Mr. Alport

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether there is any evidence that Mau Mau is connected with the other Kikuyu political organisation, the Kenya African Union?

Mr. Lyttelton

I should prefer not to answer that question.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Does not the right hon. Gentleman deprecate a suggestion of that kind, which can only add to the difficulties? None of us wants to add to the difficulties in Kenya.

Mr. Dugdale

Has the Secretary of State seen the report of a speech by Mr Neep, the Deputy-Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in Kenya, who has protested, I understand, against the legislation that has been introduced, saying that it is likely to lead to frame-ups and informing? Has the right hon. Gentleman any comment to make upon this?

Mr. Lyttelton

My only comment is that the moment one engages in any democratic processes, more than one point of view is likely to be aired.

Mr. Bowles

The right hon. Gentleman was not fair in replying to my question, which was not really concerned with matters of conjecture. I asked a simple question, to which obviously he does not know the answer. Does he, or does his Department, have any information about the cost of living rise caused by the tribal custom of having to buy brides? It is a very simple question. He does not know.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps an answer can be obtained at a later date.