HC Deb 21 October 1952 vol 505 cc865-9
Mr. J. Johnson

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the sending of troops to Kenya.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)

Yes, Sir. As the House is aware, a state of emergency was proclaimed in Kenya last night. This was done with my full knowledge and approval. Secrecy was essential if the ring-leaders were to be arrested quickly and outbreaks of violence avoided. The timing of the operation was therefore arranged to coincide with the arrival of the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers from the Middle East.

There are two battalions of the King's African Rifles stationed in Kenya and one battalion and two companies of the King's African Rifles are being moved in from Uganda and Tanganyika, respectively. These troops have been brought in solely as a reserve and all action now being taken is by the Police. Until these troops had been brought in and the Police had taken action against the ring-leaders it would have been undesirable to refer to this plan.

Since the middle of September the situation has become progressively worse. Once, crimes were committed by stealth, but now law and order are challenged in broad daylight. Chief Waruhiu was murdered on the highway by a hired gunman who did not even know his victim. Firearms and gelignite continue to be stolen and fire-arms instead of knives are being increasingly used by the terrorists.

Mau Mau terrorism is carefully planned, centrally directed and its object is to destroy all authority other than Mau Mau. Its leaders are establishing their own courts in their attempt to usurp the functions of Government.

Action against these leaders was imperative. The ordinary process of the law is necessarily slow. In present conditions in Kenya it would have allowed time and opportunity for those behind the outrages to organise widespread disturbances in which numbers of innocent people might have been killed. The declaration of an emergency has enabled the Kenya Government to detain the ringleaders and their lieutenants, about 130 altogether. The prisoners will then be screened and some may be released when the tension following the operation relaxes.

Since I have drafted this reply, I have received a telegram from the Governor, which I will read to the House: Information received at 10.30 this morning 89 persons had been detained. Reports are still coming in. There was no resistance to arrest and up till now Nairobi has remained quiet and there has been no disorder either there or elsewhere in the Colony. The arrival of the British battalion flown in to act as a reserve went entirely according to plan. The Police carried out the operation most efficiently and in a manner which reflects credit on all ranks. I am leaving for Kenya next week, not to discuss the present measures—which, as I have already made clear have my full support—but to see for myself what is happening and to consider, with the Governor, plans for the future development of the Colony. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a further statement as soon as possible after my return.

Mr. Johnson

Is the Minister aware of the keen anxiety on all sides of the House at the worsening situation and also of the keenest perplexity on this side of the House, at least, at the apparently sudden flaring up of disorder in the last few weeks? Is it not now apparent that there are wider social and economic causes besides the growth of Mau Mau? Will the Minister do all in his power to avoid any danger of racial conflict?

Mr. Lyttelton

Yes, that is why I made it clear in my previous statement that there are long-term problems of great urgency and gravity for Kenya which I hope will be examined in a calm and peaceful atmosphere by the Royal Commission, whose appointment I have already foreshadowed. Anything in the present emergency which should result in the worsening of racial relations is, of course, to be highly deplored.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we commend indeed his action in deciding to go himself to Kenya immediately? May I ask whether reports which appear in this afternoon's Press are true, that is that Jomo Kenyatta, the leader of the Kenya African Union, has been arrested? May I ask the Minister if any information is as yet forthcoming about this and whether he will make a statement as soon as possible?

This is the largest organisation of Africans in Kenya, and I think that it is of the utmost importance that the support of all Africans and Asians of all communities should be enlisted against this terrorist organisation, on the basis of racial co-operation. I am perturbed about this news, if it is true, lest it should convert an important African organisation and turn them against the Government.

Will the Minister, before he leaves at the beginning of next week for Kenya, consider this point—that if there is time I still urge the importance of a quick announcement of the membership of the Commission so that they can proceed. The Governor himself in his broadcast said that there are grievances and underlying causes. Whilst we join in putting down terrorism, it is very important that we should develop our colonial policy at the same time.

Mr. Lyttelton

I am very much in sympathy with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. These are merely the facts of the matter. I hope that the House will take it as a hope, without a commitment, that I shall be able to make a further announcement before I leave. With regard to the first part of the question, it is most necessary to say that the Kenya African Union, as such, is not being proscribed. The action is not in any sense political; but it is true that Jomo Kenyatta has been detained.

Mr. Griffiths

I am glad to learn that it is not the intention to proscribe the Kenya African Union. This is a most important organisation of Africans. If the leader has been arrested, may I gather that it is not because of association with this Union but for something else? If so, can that be made clear?

Mr. Lyttelton

Jomo Kenyatta has been arrested as an individual concerned with Mau Mau terrorism and he happens to be leader of the Kenya African Union which is not being proscribed.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Is the Minister aware that this early action will give very great encouragement to peoples of all communities, African, Indian and European? Can he tell the House to what extent certain trouble-making minorities in this country have encouraged this trouble in Kenya and how long Mr. Kenyatta was being trained in Russia?

Mr. Lyttelton

The first thing is, of course, that I am glad of the opportunity of saying again and again that the great bulk of Africans have had nothing to do with these terrorist activities. I should be extremely diffident about ascribing any of these troubles to any statements made from this side of the world, though some of them admittedly have not been helpful.

Mr. Griffiths

May I ask the Colonial Secretary a question in view of the supplementary question which has been put to him? As I gather that Kenyatta has been arrested, presumably he will be or may be brought to trial. In view of that, is it not undesirable that a question of that kind should be asked in the House?

Mr. Lyttelton

The right hon. Gentleman must be content with the answer I gave on the subject. This and many other matters connected with these arrests, apart from judicial processes, are to be the subject of discussions between myself and the Governor when I reach Kenya.

Mr. Poole

Whilst all right-thinking people are desirous of lending support to putting down real terrorism, I would ask the Minister, in view of the fact that he says that 130 arrests have been made, whether that means that the identity of Mau Mau terrorists to the number of 130 are known—as they must have been—and how long the authorities in Kenya have known the identity of these people.

Mr. Lyttelton

These are not necessarily officially members of Mau Mau. These are the number of ringleaders and their lieutenants who have been arrested.

Mr. Teeling

In spite of all that has been said, should not my right hon. Friend let it be known that Mr. Kenyatta, no matter what his present feelings may be, has had to be arrested, because at every single Mau Mau meeting he has been named as their leader, to whom they should look and, indeed, as the person who should take the place of Jesus Christ.

Mr. Lyttelton

I should prefer to rest upon what I have said.

Mr. S. Silverman

When he makes his own personal visit next week, would the right hon. Gentleman take the opportunity to investigate the very authoritative statement published in our newspapers a day or two ago to the effect that the level of wages is such as to leave people who do not want to starve no option but to steal. The statement was expressly made in those words. The most effective contribution that could be made towards a settlement in the area would be the advance of native wages by one-third.

Mr. Lyttelton

I am not going to commit myself to any answer to that statement at this moment, except to assure the hon. Gentleman that all economic facts in relation to the present state of affairs will be examined in the time available to me.