In a ceremony attended by thousands of Kenyans, statues dedicated to the victims of torture and ill-treatment by British colonialists were unveiled this past weekend at Uhuru Park’s Freedom Corner in Nairobi.
The memorial, backed by Britain, was witnessed by many veterans of the so-called Mau Mau Rebellion, which brought an end to colonial rule in that country.
In a statement released by the British High Commission, it was revealed that the memorial was part of an out-of-court agreement between the British government and some veteran freedom fighters in 2013. More than 5,200 claimants received compensation in the settlement—worth nearly $31 million.
The memorial features a statue of an armed rebel receiving a bag of supplies from a woman. It stands as “a symbol of reconciliation” between the British government and all the victims of the emergency period, which lasted from 1952 to 1960.
But all is not well in Kenya today. A nationwide teachers’ walkout is now in its second week. The bitter strike brings attention to the government’s refusal to raise low salaries paid to the country’s more than 280,000 essential instructors.
Currently, the lowest paid teacher earns a basic salary of approximately $160 a month, and the highest, a chief principal, takes home $1,090 in basic pay. Yet, demands for decent wages are being met with resistance, and the finance minister, Henry Rotich, recently made clear that raises were not in the cards, saying, “This financial year, we have not provided for resources for any pay hike.”
The claim of no funds available has a particularly false ring, as a shocking report released over the summer by the auditor general revealed that only 1.2 percent of Kenya’s $9 billion budget for 2013-2014 “was incurred lawfully and in an effective way.”