Hundreds of elderly Kenyans are planning to sue the British government for alleged displacement and torture during the colonial period, hoping to win “significant” compensation and the return of large swathes of land from the High Court in London.
The land in question is largely owned by international tea companies, according to Nandi County’s legal advisor, George Tarus.
The British foreign office have declined to comment on the legal proceedings which are being financed by the North Rift region’s county government.
Ahead of August’s elections, the case could be politically important for millions of voters and some politicians have already started to stoke tensions over land.
Many British settlers moved to Kenya and settled on the best agricultural land where they grew tea, coffee and tobacco.
Hundreds of Nandi and Kipsigis families – sub-tribes of Kenya’s third largest ethnic group, the Kalenjin – were displaced from the Rift Valley highlands to make way for tea plantations, with some locals forced to live in reserves, while others were employed as cooks, gardeners and security guards.
The potential plaintiffs say that dozens of villages were decimated and those who opposed the displacement were tortured and exiled.
When the British left Kenya in 1963 at the end of 43 years of colonial rule, much of the land vacated was sold to the political elite who could afford to buy it, rather than being returned to its original owners.
Kenya is the world’s largest exporter of black tea, employing more than 3.5 million Kenyans.