quick post (i should be snoozing, really). david anderson lecturing at Seattle University january on his new book Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire. just on c-span2 (booktv : watch).
In 1952, after years of tension and bitterness, the grievances of the Gikuyu people of central Kenya exploded into open rebellion. Only 32 European settlers died in the subsequent fighting, but more than 1,800 African civilians, over 3,000 African police and soldiers, and 12,000 Mau Mau rebels were killed. Between 1953 and 1956 Britain sent over a thousand Kenyans to the gallows, often on trumped up or non-existent charges. Meanwhile 70,000 people were imprisoned in camps without trial for between two and six years. Men and women were kept together in conditions of institutionalised violence overseen by British officials. David Anderson provides a full and convincing account of a war in which all sides behaved badly, and therefore few of the combatants can be either fully excused, or blamed. His book contains the information the press, public and politicians need to decide for themselves about an important aspect of Britain's recent past. These events are still within living memory, and eye-witness testimonies provide the backbone of this controversial story.
anderson gave an excellent lecture, i thought. he seemed passionate & knowledgeable about his subject & seemed able to address all sides of the issue. what was really touching was hearing him speak about 475 massacred people never buried whose bones are currently in a museum (hopefully, these could be buried in Kenya's Heroes Acre). the bones were kept by pathologists in the hopes that the situation would be investigated (never). anderson discussed the difference between reparations vs. reconciliation (at one point, he said, "words are cheap"). South Africa has focused on reconcilliation (a good model, said anderson) — documenting & acknowledging what happened. apparently providing amnesty so people can come forward ("sacrificing justice for reconciliation"). anderson explained the success rate of different strategies dealing with war crimes & atrocities. only a handful or war criminals are brought to justice vs. significant documentary evidence of the past — and the surprise that not everyone in Kenya knew about all this.
The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was set up by the Government of National Unity to help deal with what happened under apartheid. The conflict during this period resulted in violence and human rights abuses from all sides. No section of society escaped these abuses. The TRC is based on the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, No 34 of 1995. "... a commission is a necessary exercise to enable South Africans to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation" (Mr Dullah Omar, former Minister of Justice). —Truth and Reconciliation Commission
yes, there are similarities with Iraq: we must dehumanize & demonize the enemy to do what we need to do.
not only did i see strong parallels with the current situation in Iraq (and with Al-Qaeda), but it made me also aware of slavery in america where, IMHO, there has been no reparations & no reconciliation. made me wonder about the national memorial for these dead & forgotten human lives — where is it? not only is talk cheap in this country, it's non-existent.
kudos to mr. anderson.