A British lawyer,Chris Esdaile,has offered to assist victims of the March 3 1959 massacre in the claims right in London and would be in Malawi next month to get finer details of the matter, parliamentarian Ralph Mhone has said.
In an exclusive interview on Wednesday, Mhone, a lawyer by profession, said his law firm has already linked up with Esdaile, chosen because he successfully represented 5 000 elderly Kenyans against Britain for the torture and abuse suffered during the Mau Mau uprising in 1950s.
Malawians, whose unarmed relatives were massacred at Nkhata Bay Jetty by federal forces, are demanding compensation from the British government.
“We may include Malawians who died in other districts during the same struggle, but a known figure we have in Nkhata Bay is 31 and their names are there. This is a typical human rights issue,” said Mhone.
“It was London which sanctioned the State of Emergency that led to the massacre of these unarmed Malawians and today they cannot deny that and say it was the federation.”
Mhone said as Britain’s protectorate, Malawi was supposed to be protected by the Queen, hence London’s liability for the massacres.
Mhone and chiefs from Nkhata Bay raised the matter during this year’s Martyrs’ Day commemorations.The chiefs expected the Malawi Government to engage the former colonial masters for compensation.
Mhone, who is also MP for Nkhata Bay Central, said there were two ways to approach the matter: the diplomatic channel which Malawi Government should have pursued if it wanted and the legal channel the claimants have decided to take.
Mhone said it is expensive to launch a lawsuit in the high court in London and appealed for financial support from well-wishers.
But Minister of Information Kondwani Nankhumwa, who is government spokesperson, told the Weekend Nation that the claimants needed to use appropriate channels because government could not trace any record to confirm the bereaved families’ belated demands.
But in reaction to the claims, UK’s High Commissioner to Malawi Nevin Michael previously said the issue of compensation does not rise and that the past two governments had not approached the British government.
In the Mau Mau case, Britain paid the Kenyans nearly £20 million (about K14 billion at today’s exchange rate) in costs and compensation.
At the time of compensating the Kenyans, then UK’s foreign secretary William Hague told the British House of Commons that the out-of-court payment constituted “full and final settlement” of high court action brought by five of the victims who suffered under the British colonial rule.
“We understand the pain and the grief felt by those who were involved in the events of emergency in Kenya,” Hague was quoted as saying by The Guardian newspaper of the UK. n