HC Deb 26 October 1954 vol 531 cc1761-8
The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)

Mr. Speaker, I rise to make a statement on my recent visit to East Africa, with particular reference to the situation in Kenya. I shall, in the near future, say something about the constitutional talks recently held in Uganda under the chairmanship of Sir Keith Hancock.

To Kenya, I brought a message of encouragement from Her Majesty's Government to all who are fighting to bring the present emergency to an end—to the troops, both those from the United Kingdom and the K.A.R., to the R.A.F., the regular Police, the Police Reserve, the Kikuyu Guard—to all the administrative and other services and those engaged in the work of freeing the Kikuyu of this deadly infection, and to all who live in the danger areas.

I saw something of the many loyal Kikuyu, and of the settlers, so many of whom came from Great Britain. No tribute is too great to the courage and determination of all, and not least the women, who are living under this awful threat. I saw, too, the leaders of the Churches, who are playing a vital part in Kenya today.

Members will already have seen reports of the review last week by the War Council of the two years' campaign. Steady progress is now being made and the gangs can no longer obtain supplies and assistance as and when required and have to fight for them. The mounting co-operation with the Government now being shown in the Reserve areas known as the Reserves and the increased strength and efficiency of the Kikuyu Guard, assisted by the security forces, is beginning to tell. As this gathers momentum the terrorists will become more vulnerable and less determined to fight on. I will not attempt to forecast the end of the emergency. The danger of outrages and terrorism still remain, as the singularly brutal murders a few days ago show.

I conceived my duty to be to help in the restoration of confidence in Kenya. I found much fear among Africans that those who had promoted a reign of terror would be allowed to return once more to areas where the loyal Kikuyu live. The measures which have proved necessary to deal with the emergency include the detention of large numbers of Kikuyu, Embu and Meru. We all regret the need for this action, but I am fully satisfied that it is necessary. Indeed, it is since "Operation Anvil" in Nairobi that the turn of the tide has come.

The Kenya authorities and all the departments concerned—prisons, community development, agriculture, health —and many devoted Christian workers, are striving with vigour and imagination for the return to a sane and civilised outlook of as many as possible of those associated with this barbarous and degrading movement and now held in detention.

I visited Manyani Camp from which, but for the typhoid epidemic, a small number of detainees would already have been released and a larger number drafted to the works camps where the main effort of rehabilitation is being made. I visited two of these works camps. I am certain that this work must be pursued with the greatest drive and determination. We must, however, face the fact that there may well remain, at any rate for a very long time to come, a hard core of fanatical Mau Mau who will be impervious to all that is done to try to help them.

It has been the possibility of the return of these to their former homes that has caused much fear among Africans. They are not only afraid of the return of the great offenders—they fear, also, that those who were the managers and organisers of Mau Mau may return. I was able to assure them that the irreconcilables will not be allowed to return and that arrangements would have to be made for these people which will ensure that this shadow is lifted from the loyal members of the tribe.

I found, too, a certain lack of confidence among some European settlers. I told them that they were in Kenya to stay and that they had nothing to fear for the security of their homes, for themselves, their families and their descendants.

I was glad, also, to see how those Asians who have made Kenya their home and have given their loyalty to the British Crown are anxious to play a constructive part in their country's affairs.

I discussed with the Governor many of the urgent problems connected with the emergency and beyond. Closer administration of the Kikuyu Reserves is going ahead. Twenty-two new sub-stations each containing a district officer, a police officer and in some cases an agricultural and veterinary officer have already been established. Six are under construction and a further 18 are proposed. Two hundred and fifty-nine villages have been built and a further 124 are planned. These are sited so that each is protected by a guard post, and the greatest care is paid to security, hygiene and future expansion. Some already contain schools, dispensaries and community centres. The Home Guards now number 22,000 in 550 posts with 7,000 precision weapons.

This closer administration is having its effect on the terrorists and making their life more difficult. Three hundred and twenty-nine terrorists surrendered between the end of August, 1953, and the end of August, 1954. Between 1st September and 12th October a further 106 surrendered.

The rate of surrender is increasing and the Kenya Government, whose aim is to end the fighting, have always been ready to consider any approach for a mass surrender from gang leaders who are able to influence large numbers of terrorists into surrendering. They are using all possible means to bring this to the notice of the terrorists.

All who know Sir Evelyn Baring and have seen him at work are confident not only in his power to lead Kenya in the problems of today but never to lose sight of the future of Kenya on which the hopes of severel great races are set. The multi-racial Government introduced by Lord Chandos has been an immense stop forward. The presence of unofficial Ministers in the Government has helped to close the ranks against Mau Mau. There is very real harmony in the way in which the Council of Ministers are going about their vital tasks. I believe that the principle of multi-racial Government commands a very wide measure of acceptance in Kenya and we can all draw from this great encouragement for the future.

Mr. J. Griffiths

As one who had the privilege of visiting Kenya recently, I should like to join the right hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the courage which has been shown by the people of all races there in these very difficult circumstances. I pay tribute particularly to those who are engaged out there. and express our good wishes to those who are about to proceed to Kenya to engage in the important work of rehabilitation.

I should like to ask the Secretary of State a few questions on his statement, first, about surrender. It seems from the information which the right hon. Gentleman has gleaned that the terrorists are now broken up into separate gangs and that they have no cohesive force. Some time ago there was a chance of a surrender which might have brought the end much nearer. Does not the Secretary of State think he ought now to consider the advisability of again proclaiming surrender terms so that surrender might be induced, rather than allowing matters to continue, which may lead to a permanent form of forestry banditry?

I should also like to ask the Secretary of State about the detention camps. There is some concern about the number of people in the detention camps. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether it would not be wiser to concentrate smaller numbers of people in individual camps?

On the same point, concern has been expressed about the danger to innocent people, and we now hear from our trade unions that they are deeply concerned about the number of trade union officers who were arrested in "Operation Anvil" and about the slowness of the screening. Will the right hon. Gentleman give consideration to this point?

Finally, while I welcome and approve of what has just happened in Kenya, the emergence of a multi-racial Government, upon which the future of Kenya so much depends, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it very desirable, particularly in view of the necessity for providing an alternative leadership for Africans since they are now the only race there left without a political organisation of their own, to provide them with the means whereby they can express their political desires? Will the right hon. Gentleman now consider a proposal which, I gather, has been put before the Governor for the formation of an African political organisation so that the Africans who are in the multi-racial Government shall be on the same basis politically as the Europeans and the Asians?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I will do my best very briefly to answer those most important questions.

With regard to surrender, the offer of August, 1953, remains open to individual terrorists. If it is argued that the fear of execution is a deterrent to surrender, I can say that the Kenya Government have under constant review the possibility of reducing the number of offences for which the death penalty is at present prescribed.

I wholly agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the need to break up the detention camps into smaller units or to move the people into smaller camps as speedily as possible. This would have happened at the biggest camp of all, Manyani, which I visited, but for the distressing outbreak of typhoid.

With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's question about the trade unions, I am anxious, as we all are, to see the growth of a responsible industrial trade union movement in Kenya. I recognise that at the time of "Operation Anvil" 45 trade union officials were held. I very much regret to say that, so successful has been the Mau Mau infiltration even into trade union circles, that of the 45, 27 have, after screening, been detained on Governor's orders, while 15 have been released, and the remaining three are being speedily investigated.

Finally, the right hon. Gentleman asked me about an African political party. It has been our unhappy experience in Kenya that a nation-wide organisation is liable to get into the wrong hands. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!".] Yes, indeed. All efforts will be made to give guidance and encouragement to divisional or tribal organisations which can then, by a process of growth and federation, become in better days nation-wide organisations.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Since my own view is that the future of the multi-racial Government depends on the co-operation of all races, might I ask the Secretary of State whether it is not important to put the three races in the multi-racial Government on an equal footing? Will he reconsider that matter?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am very conscious of the need for equality of that kind, but I believe that a lot of responsible African opinion is behind me when I say that it is better to build from smaller foundations than to run the risk of recreating the circumstances from which we are steadily emerging. The Governor has all these points in mind.

Mr. Walker-Smith

What progress is being made or has been made in formulating the arrangements to which my right hon. Friend referred for dealing with the hard core of irreconcilable Mau Mau'? Has any estimate been made as to what their number is likely to be?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

No, Sir. Our policy and our view must be that we must never abandon hope of anybody and we must constantly strive to cure as many as possible of this foul disease. There will be a hard core of irreconcilables and it may be a considerable number, but I should not at this stage like to give any guess as to how many there would be. Naturally, the Kenya Government have under review possible sites where such hard core can be detained.

Mr. Hobson

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether kikuyu Home Guard posts have been established in the Kikuyu locations in Nairobi and whether the boycott of the bus services continues?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The boycott of the bus services has been broken, and the situation in Nairobi does not now justify the establishment of Home Guard posts in the Kikuyu areas. However, I should like further notice of the question.

Mr. Braine

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the difficulties about speeding up the work of screening in the detention camps and providing rehabilitation for work has been the lack of adequate supervisory staff? Does that situation still obtain? If not, is there any special help which Her Majesty's Government can afford Kenya?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

It is quite true that more suitable staff are needed. The situation is a good deal better than it was, but people with the necessary experience would be most gladly welcomed. I cannot imagine a more worth-while job than to go out to help in Kenya today.

Mr. Bottomley

Is the Secretary of State aware that the only way in which we can end the troubles in Kenya is by securing the active co-operation of the Africans? Did he take the opportunity of seeing the acting President of the Kenya African Union, who proclaims his interest in political advancement for Africans but equally strongly condemns the Mau Mau movement? Ought he not to be released?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I think it would be most dangerous if the Secretary of State attempted to answer about individual Kenya detention orders at this moment. I am absolutely satisfied that the Governor, the Ministers, and the War Council have all these considerations in mind.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

Can my right hon. Friend indicate how many active Mau Mau there are in the field today? Is he satisfied that the security forces that we have there are competent to deal with the Mau Mau both now and in any further action that we can expect to take in the months ahead?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Yes, Sir. The answer to the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question is "Yes" It is always dangerous to give an estimate, and the only estimate that I can give is that there is an active strength of about 7,000 with a possible 5.000 known as Komerera, who are fugi- tives both from justice and from Mau Mau.

Mr. Dugdale

Was the right hon. Gentleman correctly reported as having said while he was in Kenya that he was in favour of an extension of immigration of white settlers? Does he not think, as many people on both sides of the House do, that it would be extremely unfortunate to have such an extension of immigration while the present difficulties exist and, in particular, while there is a known shortage of land?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I was correctly reported. In the assurances which I gave to the European settlers who are there now and to their descendants, I added also the hope that their numbers would be reinforced. I must add that no greater disservice could be done to the multi-racial society or to Kenya than to attempt to deprecate the need for further European settlement.

Several Hon. Membersrose—

Mr. Speaker

Order There is no Question before the House.