Filmed over three years, The Last Battle traces the story of a small group of elderly Kenyans in their successful fight to win acknowledgement of the abuses suffered at the hands of the British colonial authorities at the height of the 1950s Mau Mau emergency.
With intimate and disturbing interviews, observational footage, photographs and archive, this revelatory and compelling documentary follows the developing legal case and lays bare a history that was deliberately hidden, allowing the central protagonists to tell the world, for the first time, their stories and what happened to them.
This film was first broadcast on Al Jazeera English in May 2013.
By Jemma Gander
As a British filmmaker I first learnt of the independence struggle in Kenya after reading an article in an African magazine. I was both shocked yet eager to find out more about these freedom fighters who were tortured by British soldiers in the 1950s.
Britain is often seen as the paternalistic colonial power in comparison to other European powers and I was keen to reveal the truth about the British, their often brutal suppression, of a people who were fighting for self-rule.
I began making the film in 2009 when four elderly Kenyan men and women travelled to London to seek justice and recognition over the British government’s role in the torture of suspected Mau Mau members.
I then flew to Kenya a year later to speak to the claimants about their experiences during the Mau Mau uprising and the physical and emotional scars they have been living with over the last 50 years.
Paulo Nzili and Ndiku Mutua told me about how they were castrated with pliers when they were arrested for being part of the Mau Mau. Jane Muthoni and Naomi Nziula spoke about the brutal sexual torture they experienced when they were arrested on suspicion of being involved with the movement.
The attacks were so horrific that pregnant Naomi miscarried after being sexually assaulted with a glass bottle, and her three other children have been missing ever since.
On a personal level, I feel privileged to have spent time with these brave and inspiring people who, despite their age, will not give up the final battle – the battle they see as their last chance to regain dignity and pride.
John Nottinghamm, an ex-British District Officer with the British colonial government, who has tirelessly fought for justice for the Mau Mau veterans, told me, “It nearly destroys me that you can keep on and on without creating a closure. It really is time for closure”.
The film airs as the British government decides to postpone the appeal of the October 2012 verdict, which could see the claimants take the British government to a full trial.
Fifty years after these people suffered torture – and at least ten years of fighting for justice – the elderly claimants’ representatives are sitting down with the British government’s legal team to discuss a possible resolution that could finally see the last battle won.