HC Deb 24 October 1947 vol 443 cc10-1W
Mr. Wilkes

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies in what circumstances police fired on strikers at a Government-owned bacon factory near Nairobi on 6th September, 1947; how many casualties resulted; what were the causes of the strike; and what subsequent action has been taken by the Government.

Mr. Rees-Williams

The immediate cause of the strike, which involved some 200 workers at the Uplands Bacon Factory, was a refusal by the manager to accede to a demand that he should dismiss his African head clerk who had refused to attend a political meeting some days earlier or to contribute to a fund intended to buy food for the strikers. Despite every effort by Labour and Administrative Officers and an assurance by the strikers' spokesmen that they had no complaint regarding wages or conditions of employment, the strikers refused to return to work and, being joined by some 500 Africans from the neighbourhood armed with sticks, cutlasses and knives, became very truculent and advanced within a few yards of the District Commissioner who was attempting to reason with them. They became so threatening that a baton charge by the small party of police present was ordered. This failed to disperse the crowd and after many of the police and officials had been injured by stone-throwing and were in imminent danger of being overrun, the senior police officer ordered six of his rifle party to fire on the rioters, who retreated after 18 rounds had been fired. Three rioters were killed and three are known to have been injured. Order was then restored and 90 per cent. of the strikers later returned to work.

In the opinion of the officers present the 18 rounds fired were the bare minimum required to restore order, and I am satisfied from the Governor's reports that the administrative and police officers present acted with the most praiseworthy restraint in the face of the greatest provocation and at the risk of the most dangerous consequences to themselves. An inquest was ordered and on 24th September the Resident Magistrate, Nairobi, found that three persons killed died through their own misadventure.