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Kenya registers Mau Mau freedom fighters group

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Mau Mau

NAIROBI, Kenya (Reuters) -- Kenya Tuesday formally registered the Mau Mau movement in a move seen by lawyers as a plus for the surviving fighters' efforts to sue Britain for compensation for torture under colonial rule.

A colonial-era legislation outlawed the Mau Mau and branded them "terrorists," accusing them of involvement in secret oaths to kill white settlers and their African supporters.

Kenya's government said in August it had lifted the ban on the group which spearheaded an uprising against British colonialists in Kenya in the 1950s. Kenya marks 40 years of independence on December 12.

"It is a sad fact that it has taken 40 years for the government to finally agree to register this group that was not afraid of death in order to earn freedom for its countrymen," Kenya's Vice President Moody Awori, told the group after handing over the certificate of registration to its leaders.

Several hundred veterans, many wearing dreadlocks, and others toothless and wrinkled, burst into traditional freedom songs and shouted "freedom and land!" when Awori presented their leaders with the registration certificate.

Oxford University historian David Anderson said more than 70,000 Kikuyu, Kenya's largest tribe, were detained without trial for periods of two to six years in camps. Some 1,048 Mau Mau convicts were hanged by the British, who also confiscated their property, cattle, farmland and food.

"We will sue Britain for torturing them. What they did were crimes against humanity," a lawyer for the Mau Mau veterans and member of parliament, Paul Muite said.

Official records say about 32 white civilians and 100 British soldiers were killed during the Mau Mau uprising, which was crushed after its leader Dedan Kimathi was hanged following his conviction by a black jury for treason.

The Mau Mau uprising pushed Kenya toward independence in 1963. The surviving fighters have complained their role had not been appropriately recognized and accuse post-independence governments of neglecting them.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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