HC Deb 31 March 1953 vol 513 cc1036-40

Mr. Paget (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has a statement to make with regard to the massacre at Uplands, near Nairobi, on Thursday last.

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

On the night of Thursday, 26th March, a number of Mau Mau gangs attacked simultaneously in an area about six miles by three in the Uplands District, about 25 miles from Nairobi. The attacks were carefully planned. The method adopted was to wire up huts from the outside, set fire to the roofs and cut down the people with axes and swords as they tried to escape from the windows. Between 40 and 50 huts were burned. Of their inhabitants, 71 were murdered, 51 are still missing, and 50 were wounded.

Most of the dead are women and children who were cut down as they ran through the maize plots. The heat of the fires was intense. Many people ran away in terror: often only the charred bodies of the victims were left. Thus it is difficult to estimate the casualties with accuracy, and the final figures will probably prove higher than those I have given.

About 2,000 inhabitants of the location have been screened and some hundreds have been detained, of whom at least 150 have been identified by survivors as having taken part in the massacre. A large party of police and an extra company of the King's African Rifles are now conducting an extensive investigation in the area. About the same time a gang attacked Naivasha Police Station and killed three constables and some prisoners. They were unable to break into the police armoury but forced the adjoining Kenya Police Reserve armoury and stole about 30.303 rifles, 18 Lanchester sub-machine guns and a double-barrelled shot gun, and some rifle and revolver ammunition. While the attack on the police station was going on, another part of the gang released 137 remanded prisoners of whom some 50 have since been recaptured or have returned of their own accord. Military and police forces are now combing the district.

I am sure that the House will wish to express their deepest sympathy with all the victims of this outrage. The Governor informs me that every possible step is being taken both to follow up the criminals and to prevent a recurrence of these hideous crimes.

Mr. Paget

Whereas previously we have had sporadic criminality from Mau Mau, the diversionary attack upon the police station and the planned attack by three columns is a quite large-scale military operation and involves a new situation which is well calculated to demonstrate the impotence of the Government to protect their friends and the power of Mau Mau to destroy their enemies. Does not this situation call for very urgent action?

Mr. Lyttelton

Yes, Sir. Let me reply to the first part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's question by saying that certainly the situation has taken on a new phase and that raids by armed gangs have taken the place of sporadic assassinations. All measures possible have been taken. There is no doubt that the situation there is now of a semi-military character and is more like a war than an emergency.

Mr. J. Griffiths

May I associate myself, as I am sure every hon. Member of the House does, with the Secretary of State for the Colonies in conveying our deepest sympathy to all those who suffered from this very savage outbreak? Two questions are disturbing correspondents in Kenya. One is whether the Home Guard are as adequately equipped as they could be and ought to be to deal with savage attacks of this kind. The second is whether the reserves are becoming overcrowded by people flocking there from other areas.

Mr. Lyttelton

Perhaps I might answer the last question first, about migration. This is a matter which causes great anxiety, as much of the migration into the Kikuyu Reserve is voluntary. The Government are doing what they can to check it, but rumours are spread around that those who are not in the reserve will receive no share in the White Highlands when the Europeans have been driven out and that unless the Kikuyu return to the reserves the Royal Commission will not recommend further grants of land. The Government are doing what they can to see that migrations take place in a controlled manner through the transit camps.

The first question related to the equipment of the Home Guard. There is no doubt that while these forces are being built up some improvement is highly desirable in this direction, and we are doing all we can to see that it is made.

Mr. Fenner Brockway

In view of the fact that the great majority of the victims of Mau Mau have been Africans, as is indicated so tragically in this incident, will the right hon. Gentleman urge the Kenya Government to accept the offers of African leaders to take their part in the campaign against Mau Mau?

Mr. Lyttelton

That is a question that the hon. Gentleman has asked before, particularly with regard to the holding of meetings, and he should know that it is open to any African leader to ask the Kenya Government to permit him to hold a meeting of supporters. No such application has been made by any African leader.

Mr. J. Hynd

Some time ago I asked the Minister whether he was satisfied that adequate protection was being given to loyal Kikuyu after the chief had been murdered in hospital, and I was assured that adequate steps were being taken. We now have a further and much more serious incident and the Minister simply tells us that he is satisfied from the Governor's report that everything is done to prevent a recurrence. Can he tell us precisely what that means, and what steps are being taken?

Mr. Lyttelton

Yes, I can tell the hon. Gentleman what I mean. There are 5,000 or 6,000 troops in this area and they are being strongly reinforced; about 12,000 police and about 10,000 Home Guard. I cannot give any guarantee in the course of operations about incidents of this kind, but I can say that everything humanly possible is being done.

Mr. Alport

As this incident indicates the existence of a strong central organisation of the movement, can my right hon. Friend give any idea of the form of that central command?

Mr. Lyttelton

No, Sir, I cannot give any evidence of it except to say that these two incidents appear to have been carefully planned.

Mr. Dugdale

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the security and intelligence arrangements in Kenya are adequate and that we are likely to have warning of any movement that may spread further and involve Kenya in other problems of this character?

Mr. Lyttelton

As the right hon. Gentleman probably knows, the intelligence and security services have been reorganised in accordance with recommendations made by Sir Percy Sillitoe. I am never satisfied in any territory that the intelligence is all that it might be. We must keep it under constant pressure.

Miss Lee

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many daily papers, weekly or other journals, written for Africans by Africans, are still permitted?

Mr. Lyttelton

I should have to have notice of that.

Mr. Wigg

Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether this is the first occasion on which an organised and planned attack upon a public building has been made by Mau Mau?

Mr. Lyttelton

No, I do not think that would be quite accurate. There has been evidence of some concentrated gang attacks other than this, but this is perhaps the first time that several simultaneous attacks have taken place.

Mr. Paget

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I shall ask your permission to move the Adjournment of the House Standing Order No. 9 to discuss this matter. In my submission—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member must do that at the proper time. We have another Private Notice Question.


Mr. Paget

I desire to ask your leave, Mr. Speaker, to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, in order that we may discuss the massacre which occurred at Uplands. In my submission, there can be no question that this is a definite event. Equally, there can be no doubt that it is important. A massacre on this scale, even in these dreadful times, must be important.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and learned Member is arguing it a little prematurely. He ought to bring up his notice of Motion.

Mr. Bowles

Before you give your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, will you hear a submission from one or two other hon. Members?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the massacre of loyal subjects of the Crown at Uplands, near Nairobi, in Kenya, on Thursday last. Has the hon. and learned Member the support of the House?

The pleasure of the House having been signified, the Motion stood over, under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on definite matter of urgent public import-ance), until Seven o'clock this evening.