HL Deb 31 March 1953 vol 181 cc370-3

3.36 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps the House will permit me to intervene for a few moments to make a statement similar to the one being made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in another place.

On the night of Thursday, March 26, a number of Mau Mau gangs attacked simultaneously in al area roughly six miles by three in the Uplands District about twenty-five 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 away 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 which 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 thirty 303 rifles, eighteen Lanchester submachine 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 re-leased 137 remanded prisoners, of whom some 50 have since been recap- tured or have returned of their own accord. Military and police forces are now combing the district.

I am sure the House will wish to express their deepest sympathy with all the victims of this outrage. The Governor has assured my right honourable friend that every possible step will betaken both to follow up the criminals and to prevent a recurrence of these hideous and ghastly crimes.


My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Munster, for making this statement. We on this side of the House should like to join with him in expressing our deepest sympathy with all the victims of the outrage, which he has graphically described. He told us that his right honourable friend has been assured by the Governor that every possible step will be taken to follow up the criminals and to prevent a recurrence of these hideous crimes. On that, may I ask the noble Earl whether the attention of the Government has been drawn to the report appearing in the Daily Telegraph last Saturday from their representative in Kenya, which reads as follows:— This double episode, that is, the episode described to-day— the blackest yet in Kenya's five-months-old emergency, seems to have caught the Colony's Government largely by surprise. Already there has been considerable criticism of the alleged slowness on the part of the Nairobi authorities to initiate counter-measures on the scale called for by the gravity of these audacious Mau Mau attacks. So far as I can ascertain not one senior police or military officer has visited Uplands up to this evening"— that was on Friday evening. The report continues: In Nairobi the Government Information Department appears to be attempting to minimise the incidents. For nearly twenty hours after the Uplands massacre began the information service refused to issue any figures of the numbers killed. Does the noble Earl regard those criticisms as just with reference to the Government's action in Kenya?


My Lords, my attention has been drawn to the article which appeared in the Daily Telegraph and to which the noble Lord referred, but I have no information either to support or refute that article. With regard to the point, also mentioned in the article, that the information service appears to be attempting to minimise the incident, I can assure the noble Lord that the Governor, and, indeed, my right honourable friend, do not minimise this incident in any way whatever, but take a grave and serious view of it. I may add that the Governor has informed my right honourable friend this morning that he is himself making a three-day tour of the trouble areas, including Kiambu, to investigate the situation for himself.


My Lords, one question that causes me some anxiety is the security and protection that is given to these places where arms are kept. Here you have machine guns, rifles, and that sort of thing, which are obviously weapons which should be kept absolutely safe. Is the noble Earl satisfied that proper precautions were taken to guard these weapons; and if not, will he take steps to see that an admonition goes out from here, pointing out how vitally important, in this centre of trouble, such protection is?


My Lords, I feel sure the noble and learned Earl is perfectly correct in saying that it is vital that these police stations should be adequately and properly protected. Although I have not any further information I can usefully give to the noble and learned Earl at the present moment, I can assure him that my right honourable friend and the Government of Kenya are very alive to the particular point he has made.


My Lords, I have not the slightest wish at this moment to criticise anybody on the spot, but the noble Earl, Lord Munster, will recollect the great improvement which took place in the campaign in Malaya after direction of the campaign had been concentrated into fewer hands, if not, indeed, into a single pair of hands, and that the liaison between the military, police and civilian authorities was very much improved. Can the noble Earl say whether he is satisfied that steps have similarly been taken in Kenya to concentrate the direction of the campaign against Mau Mau into fewer hands, and to ensure that the liaison between all the authorities concerned has been improved and is working smoothly?


I think I can give the noble Lord an assurance that the liaison is working far better than it did a short time ago. But I have nothing to add to the information given by my noble friend Lord Swinton on January 28 last about the set-up in Kenya.


My Lords, would the noble Earl differentiate carefully between the circumstances in Malaya and those in Kenya? The background appears to be totally different in the two cases.


My Lords, I quite agree that the background is different in the two cases. Nevertheless, the murder and the slaughter of people are identical.


My Lords, I hope that the noble Earl and his right honourable friend will look into the question of the allegation of complacency that has been made in this article in the Daily Telegraph. We have had to fight that in Malaya and in Kenya, to a large extent. When troubles die down a little it so often happens that the local people seem to become complacent, and then there is another frightful outrage, or something of the kind. This sort of allegation is distressing to us all.


My Lords, I agree that it is distressing, but I hope the noble Lord will not press me now either to confirm or deny the accuracy of what appeared in the Daily Telegraph. I will certainly make inquiries into the point. Let me add that I am certain there is no complacency in Kenya at the moment in regard to destroying this evil Mau Mau organisation which has arisen.


My Lords, it is evident that the country has been profoundly shocked by the news that has come from Kenya in the last two or three days. On behalf of Liberal Peers, I should like to join with the expression of sympathy that has just been made with the victims of this tragedy, and also to express the hope that the steps to be taken by the Government will be adequate to deal with what is clearly the worst development yet in that country.