The largely ignored suppression of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya and the psychological warfare employed by the British Government paint a bleak picture for Theresa May’s current Brexit negotiations in a “fake news” world.

The rebellion’s organised absence from history is a stark warning in the age of misinformation, not only for victims of the atrocities but also for the citizens of the government committing them.

The Mau Mau uprising which occurred in Kenya in the 1950s and 60s was plagued with violence. The rebellion was the result of discontent with colonial rule. When the British arrived in Kenya, they stole land from the native population; it was the Kikuyu people who suffered most from this.

As living conditions grew harder for the Kikuyu under British occupation, they began to fight back, and these fighters were then given the name Mau Mau. To quell the rising violence and anti-colonial sentiments, the British established a system of detention camps to incarcerate thousands of the Kikuyu population. In these camps, several prisoners were tortured and, in some cases, murdered.

A document is held within the British National Archives which details the categorisation system of detention camp prisoners into different degrees of “Very Black” to “White”. Detainees categorised as “Very Black” were perceived as degenerative and in need of “rehabilitation”. Consequently, they would be subjected to abuse under the guise of rehabilitation and to safeguard British imperial interests.

To justify the camps, a government-run “Psychological Warfare” campaign was launched using propaganda to demonize the Mau Mau. Kenyan radio broadcasts labelled them “hyenas in the dark”, and government-directed mobile cinema vans showing footage of Mau Mau violence were stationed around Kenya – the aim being to highlight Mau Mau “barbarity” to the masses.

The existence of such documents and government action teams makes it exceedingly difficult to comprehend the outcome of a YouGov poll conducted in July 2014. This poll indicated that by a ratio of three to one, British people believed that the British Empire was “something to be proud of”.

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Recalling my own earlier schooling, little education was given about the trickery of the British colonial government. Instead, Britain was framed as a country that modernised far-away lands.

This is an ideology which politicians have tried to reiterate. In 1997, Tony Blair argued that the empire shouldn’t be a cause for apology, “nor handwringing”. Instead, Britain’s history of empire could be used to “increase Britain’s influence in the world”.

The 2011 Mau Mau court case against the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) highlighted the ill treatment of British colonial subjects. This case was also the catalyst for the Hanslope Park Scandal. This involved the FCO being forced to admit its mass holdings of unreleased documents from the colonial era.

This scandal is exemplary of the era of misinformation which Britain inhabits today. That the British Government actively endeavoured to hide the full extent of its violent colonial activities for more than 50 years is indicative of how the current British Government intends to prevent public knowledge of its contemporary political manoeuvres.

The discovery of these “lost” documents has highlighted the lack of information available to the general public. The absence of a full and comprehensive history with an understanding of colonial tactics prevents an understanding of the intricacies of modern post-colonial relationships, which are so crucial to the post-Brexit world.

The fake news society which we all inhabit has been influenced by the British Government’s dissemination of political and historical narrative. Newspapers continue to exhibit the political will of the Government. This was a precedent established during the Mau Mau rebellion.

The British press disseminated the idea of the Mau Mau as atavistic, tribal warriors driven by blood lust. The Sunday Post, the Dundee Courier and the Manchester Guardian provided ample coverage of the events and consistently described the Mau Mau as terrorists, reiterating the British Government’s perception of the Mau Mau.

Even today, when looking at modern news coverage of the Mau Mau court case, news outlets such as Kenya’s Daily Nation, The Telegraph and BBC News have all detailed how Mau Mau fighters “terrorised” communities, or “attacked British officials”. These news reports made no mention of the land seizures by the British settlers.

The court cases resulted in the British Government paying for the erection of a Mau Mau memorial statue in Nairobi, as well as providing a monetary settlement to the ex-detainees.

Upon the unveiling of the monument, the British High Commissioner stated that “we should never forget history”. Yet, curiously, the British Government has continually supported the forgetting of Mau Mau.

On the day of the announcement of a monetary settlement, former UK foreign secretary William Hague stated that the British Government did not believe that this settlement “established a precedent”. This memorial appears to be little more than a silencing tool, indicating that the Government feels it has accounted for its colonial actions; even though these gestures are either sullied, hold little integrity or are simply not enough.

Despite these court cases, much of the British population is unaware of the Mau Mau rebellion and the British Government’s violent colonial oppression.

The connotations of Brexit and immigration policies, alongside ideas to invigorate our national pride with memories of empire and global power, are a dangerous concoction for a society looking to re-invent itself in the world.

What can these Mau Mau court cases tell us? That secrecy, the limitation of knowledge and the proliferation of a preferred, invented history are all attributes of our current British society. This is detrimental to Britain’s progression outside of the EU. Are these attributes imperative to our “strong and stable” government?

Lauren Brown is a Masters/MLitt History student at the University of Dundee