Tag Archives: colonialism

Trudeau’s pal in Rwanda a ruthless dictator

Why is the Trudeau government supporting Africa’s most ruthless dictator?

After amending the constitution to be able to run indefinitely Paul Kagame recently won 98.63 per cent of votes in Rwanda’s presidential election. In response, Canada’s High Commissioner Sara Hradecky tweeted “Congratulations to Rwandans for voting in peaceful presidential election” and “Canada congratulates Paul Kagame on his inauguration today as President of Rwanda.” The latter tweet was picked up by the state propaganda organ New Times in a story titled “Heads of State, diplomats laud Kagame’s ‘visionary leadership’.”

If garnering 99 per cent of the vote wasn’t a clue that Kagame is a dictator, the High Commissioner could’ve taken a look at Canada’s ‘paper of record,’ whose Africa bureau chief has shined a critical light on Rwanda in recent years. At the start of 2016 The Globe and Mail reported on two new books describing the totalitarian nature of the regime.

“Village informers,” wrote South Africa-based Geoffrey York. “Re-education camps. Networks of spies on the streets. Routine surveillance of the entire population. The crushing of the independent media and all political opposition. A ruler who changes the constitution to extend his power after ruling for two decades. It sounds like North Korea, or the totalitarian days of China under Mao. But this is the African nation of Rwanda — a long-time favourite of Western governments and a major beneficiary of millions of dollars in Canadian government support.”

In 2014 York wrote an investigation headlined “Inside the plots to kill Rwanda’s dissidents,” which provided compelling evidence that the regime had extended its assassination program outside of east Africa, killing (or attempting to) a number of its former top officials who were living in South Africa. Since the initial investigation York has also reported on Rwandan dissidents who’ve had to flee Belgium for their safety while the Toronto Star revealed five individuals in Canada fearful of the regime’s killers.

On top of international assassinations and domestic repression, Kagame has unleashed mayhem in the Congo. In 1996 Rwandan forces marched 1,500 km to topple the regime in Kinshasa and then re-invaded after the Congolese government it installed expelled Rwandan troops. This led to an eight-country war between 1998 and 2003, which left millions dead. Rwandan proxies have repeatedly re-invaded the mineral rich eastern Congo. In 2012 The Globe and Maildescribed how “Rwandan sponsored” M23 rebels “hold power by terror and violence” there.

The Rwandan government’s domestic repression and violence in the Congo is well documented. Yet I couldn’t find a single tweet or comment by Hradecky critical of Kagame since she became High Commissioner in January. Yet she found time to retweet Kagame’s International Women’s Day message that “Realizing women’s full aspirations is inextricably linked to achieving whole nation’s potential.”

Re-tweeting a tyrant’s message or applauding spurious elections are clear forms of support for the “butcher of Africa’s Great Lakes.” But, Hradecky has offered less obvious backing to the regime.

On July 4 Hradecky tweeted “From the Canadian High Commission, we wish Rwandans a Happy Liberation Day!,” which was picked up by the New Times in a story titled “Messages of solidarity as Rwanda marks Liberation Day.”

The Ugandan-sponsored Rwandan Patriotic Front officially captured Kigali on July 4, 1994. Trained at a US militarybase in Kansas, Kagame’s forces apparently waited to take the capital so their Liberation Day could coincide with their US backers’ Independence Day, a public relations move that continues to pay dividends as demonstrated by a July NPR story titled “In Rwanda, July 4 Isn’t Independence Day — It’s Liberation Day.”

Four years after 3,000 Ugandan troops “deserted” to invade their smaller neighbour the force of mostly exiled Tutsi took Kigali. Today, Rwanda continues to be ruled by largely English-speaking individuals who often are descended from those who had authority in a monarchy overthrown during the 1959–61 struggle against Belgian rule. The Guardianrecently pointed to “the Tutsi elite who dominate politics and business” and the The Economist detailed the “The Rwandan Patriotic Front’s business empire” in the country.

Underpinning the “liberation” story is a highly simplistic, if not counterfactual, account of the 1994 genocide. Widely hailed as the person who ended the killings, Kagame is probably the individual most responsible for the mass slaughter. His RPF invaded Rwanda from Uganda, engaged in a great deal of killing and blew up the presidential plane, an event that unleashed the genocidal violence.

As Hradecky should know, last year The Globe and Mail described two secret reports documenting Kagame’s “direct involvement in the 1994 missile attack that killed former president Juvénal Habyarimana, leading to the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people died.”

Echoing Kigali’s narrative, Hradecky published a half dozen tweets (or retweets) in April commemorating the Genocide. “Canada stands with Rwanda to commemorate the victims of Genocide,” read one. Hradecky also retweeted a Government of Rwanda statement: “Today marks the beginning of the 23rd Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.”

Promoting simplistic commentary on the subject effectively strengthens a regime that derives much of its legitimacy from purportedly stopping the genocide.

From commemorating Liberation Day to applauding questionable elections, Canada’s High Commissioner has provided various forms of ideological support to Africa’s most ruthless dictator. That should embarrass everyone who wants this country to be a force for good in the world.

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The plunder of Africa: A Canadian connection

As Black History Month draws to an end it is important to reflect on the European conquest of Africa. Is there a connection between colonial rule and the continent’s impoverishment today? Should the beneficiaries of European imperialism pay reparations or at least acknowledge the injustices committed?

When thinking about these questions it’s important to look at Canada’s contribution to this history. For example, few are aware that a Montréaler played a key role in expanding British colonial rule across Africa.

Sir Edouard Percy Girouard rose to fame by helping Britain conquer Sudan. The Royal Military College of Canada graduate and former Canadian Pacific Railway engineer oversaw the construction of two hard-to-build rail lines from southern Egypt towards Khartoum, allowing British forces to bypass 800 km of treacherous boating up the Nile. Able to transport ammunition and guns into Sudan, the British killed 11,000 and wounded 16,000 in the final battle at Omdurman (only forty-eight British/Egyptian soldiers died).

At an 1899 dinner in this city Canadian minister of militia Frederick Borden celebrated Girouard’s contribution to the slaughter in Sudan. “Major Girouard has added luster, not only to his own name, but also to Montréal, to the dominion of Canada.”

During the 1899 – 1902 Boer War Girouard was Director of Imperial Military Railways. Afterwards he became Commissioner of Railways for the Transvaal and Orange River colonies, which are now part of South Africa.

Girouard’s efficiency in the Sudan and South Africa impressed British under-secretary of state Winston Churchill who promoted the rail expert to high commissioner of Northern Nigeria in 1906. Two years later Girouard became governor of the colony, sparking a Toronto Globe headline that read: “Northern Nigeria: the country which a Canadian will rule”.

Girouard enjoyed lording over the 10 to 20 million Africans living in the 400,000 square mile territory. In a letter to his father, Girouard described himself as “a little independent king.”

The Montréal born “king” justified strengthening precolonial authority by stating, “if we allow the tribal authority to be ignored or broken, it will mean that we… shall be obliged to deal with a rabble, with thousands of persons in a savage or semi-savage state, all acting on their own impulses.”

Local chiefs provided forced labour to construct Girouard’s signature project, a 550-km railway stretching from the city of Kano to the port of Baro. Designed to strengthen Britain’s grip over the interior of the colony, the rail line also provided cheap cotton for the textile industry in England.

After Northern Nigeria, Girouard became governor of British East Africa from 1909 to 1912. Girouard’s unchecked zeal for efforts to turn today’s Kenya into a “white man’s country” eventually prompted the Colonial Office to relieve him of his duties. When a prominent British settler confessed to the murder of an African suspected of stealing a sheep, a white jury rejected the judge’s counsel and acquitted the killer after five minutes of deliberation. London wanted the assailant deported, fearing political fallout in the UK from the judicial farce. Girourd not only refused to condemn the murder and the jury’s decision, he attempted to block the deportation.

Girouard’s indifference to this crime caused a rift with London, but it was his underhanded abrogation of the sole treaty the East African protectorate had ever signed with an African tribe that spurred his political demise. Weakened by disease and confronting an ascendant Britain, in 1904 the Masai agreed to give up as much as two thirds of their land. In exchange, the cattle rearing, semi-nomadic people were assured the fertile Laikipia Plateau for “so long as the Masai as a race shall exist.” By Girouard and Britain’s odd calculation, the agreement expired fewer than seven years later. About 10,000 Masai, with 200,000 cattle and 2 million sheep, were forced to march 150 km southward to a semiarid area near German East Africa. An unknown number of Masai and their livestock died on this “trail of tears”.

In Origins of European Settlement in Kenya, M. P. K. Sorensen describes the Montréaler’s effort to sell London on scrapping the agreement. “Girouard had to abrogate the 1904 Masai treaty and pretend to the Colonial Office that the Masai wanted to move south. At the same time he had to disguise the fact that he was acting in the interests of the settlers, some of whom had been promised land on Laikipia.” Girouard’s deception and abrogation of the treaty caused tensions with the Colonial Office, which would be his downfall.

The son of a long serving Member of Parliament and Supreme Court of Canada judge, Girouard remained honorary lieutenant colonel of the Chicoutimi-based 18th (Saguenay) regiment throughout his time in Africa. In 1903, Montreal Herald readers ranked Girouard seventh among “the tengreatest living Canadians.” A mountain in Banff National Park, as well as a plaque and building at the Royal Military College, are named in his honour. In 1985 the Gazette published an article headlined “Maybe Africa needs another Percy Girouard”.

Perhaps it is time to consider Girouard again, but in a less laudatory fashion.

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A shameful episode from Canada’s history in Africa

Few Canadians are familiar with pre-colonial African cities, and even fewer know a Canadian military leader helped sack one of West Africa’s great metropolises.

In the fifth installment of its Story of Cities series, the Guardian recently focused on Benin City, the lost capital of an important precolonial state. At its height in the “Middle Ages,” Benin City and 500 interconnected settlements were the site of the largest earthworks carried out prior to the mechanical era. The walls built in what is now southern Nigeria were “four times longer than the Great Wall of China” — 16,000 km in all.

Before most other cities, Benin City had public lighting. In 1691 Portuguese ship captain Lourenco Pinto wrote that the city was “larger than Lisbon” and “so well governed that theft is unknown.”

Dating to the 11th century, Benin City faced growing pressure from European encroachment and the transatlantic slave trade. Finally, in 1897 a well-armed British force of 1,200 sacked the city, stealing or destroying its wealth. Today one is more likely to find remnants of the Benin City in the British Museum in London than in Nigeria.

And the Canadian connection? A star pupil of the Kingston, Ontario, based Royal Military College played a part in this little-known imperial history. Born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, William Heneker helped London conquer Benin City and surrounding territory. In his 1906 book Bush Warfare, the RMC grad writes: “Savage nations have, as a rule, to be cowed, either by having their warriors severely beaten in action and made to suffer heavy losses, as, in the case of the taking of Benin City.”

During the Benin Expedition of 1897 Captain Heneker guarded an imprisoned chief, Oba. Not long thereafter Heneker helped capture Oba’s son.

In May 1898 Heneker was part of a small force that conquered the town of Ehor and surrounding villages of the decaying Benin Empire. One account notes how British forces “seized the opportunity to utterly destroy it [Ehor], burning it and knocking down the walls.”

The next year Heneker was an intelligence and survey officer in the Benin Territories Expedition, which was the final destructive blow to Benin resistance. In Correspondence Relating to the Benin Territories Expedition, 1899 consul general Sir R. Moor mentioned Heneker leading a force that destroyed the towns of Udo and Idumere and a company under the RMC graduate’s command “burnt and completely destroyed the large town of Ugiami, including the King’s house.”

The invasions of Benin gave the British access to valuable commodities. Author William Geary remarks that “the results of the operations opened up 3000 or more square miles rich in rubber forests and other African produce.” After the expedition British capitalists intensified efforts to exploit the area’s rubber forests and the Royal Niger Company expanded deeper into Benin.

As he rose through the ranks of the Southern Nigeria Regiment, which was part of the West African Frontier Force, Heneker led ever more soldiers. With a force of more than 200 men, he commanded the Ulia and Ishan Expeditions. In Bush Warfare, Heneker described the scorched-earth policy the Ishan Expedition employed: “A fighting column left camp every morning, and one after another each town in the country was attacked and taken. All the juju groves [sacred natural forests] were cut down, and stores of food either destroyed or carried back to camp.”

Heneker and other Canadians’ role in the region steadily grew. “Canadian participation in the pacification of West Africa,” notes Canadian Army Journal editor Andrew Godefroy, “”ppeared to climax in late 1901 when the British launched a substantial civil-military operation against the Aro group of the Ibo tribe.”

At least a dozen Canadians were among the white officer corps who led a force of some 2,000 soldiers and 2,000 porters to open a 193 km wide and 144 km long area of today’s Eastern Nigeria to British directed commerce. Early planning for the Anglo-Aro War was actually initiated by the Royal Niger Company, which wanted a bigger piece of the area’s trade.

Canadian Militia Lieutenant J.L.R. Parry was “Mentioned in Dispatches” for his services during the Aro Expedition. So was Canadian Militia Lieutenant James Wayling. During a major battle at Edimma, wrote overall British commander A. F. Montanaro, “Lieutenant A.E. Rastrick, Canadian Militia … who was in command of the Maxim [gun], used it with great effect, and so good was the fire control and discipline that the enemy was forced to retreat.”

Heneker was the senior Canadian during the Aro campaign. Second in authority to Montanaro, the RMC grad led one of the four columns dispatched in November 1901 towards Arochukwu, the capital of the Aro families. His force consisted of 19 European officers and 700 local rank and file.

The capture of Arochukwu was a brutal, one-sided affair. S. O. Onwukwe describes the “total destruction of the Empire” in The Rise and Fall of the Arochukwu Empire, 1400-1902. “The British invaders did not spare Arochukwu, they were waging a punitive war and had no respect for any shrine. The order to the troops was ‘attack, destroy and burn.’ The field force took this instruction literally.”

Between 1897 and 1906 Heneker fought in a dozen separate campaigns in West Africa. During a decade of working to conquer southern Nigeria Heneker received several “Mentions in Dispatches” and a series of awards including the Distinguished Service Order. “One of the most successful British combat leaders on the West African coast,” Heneker would later be promoted to major general, lieutenant general and, finally, general. Heneker was one of dozens of Canadians trained at RMC, which opened in 1876 partly to train “proper white gentleman” to be officers of British imperialism, who participated in the turn of the 19th century “Scramble for Africa.”

After completing his service in West Africa Heneker published Bush Warfare, which for years was “required reading and a resource for all commanders” and would inform the later War Office manual Notes on Imperial Policing. In a section of his book titled “General Dealings” Heneker writes, “the great thing is to impress savages with the fact that they are the weaker, and that it is intended to occupy the country, enforce the will of the white man, and accomplish the object for which the expedition is organized. No leniency or half measures are of any use until the savage has felt the power of force. Leniency is treated as a sign of weakness.”

Unsettling words from a Canadian who helped destroy one of Africa’s great precolonial cities. And part of our history.

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Nova Scotia’s connection to exploitation in Africa

Little has been written about the Nova Scotian cod industry and a Haligonian’s role in events partly responsible for the stark economic divide that sees most of Africans living on less than $2 a day and without electricity.

Between 1600 and 1850, more than 10 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic. European demand for human chattel abetted violence across Africa, exacerbating ethnic fragmentation and undermining state formation with long-term economic impacts.

Nova Scotia propped up the transatlantic slave trade. Africans were held in bondage in the city for 200 years, and during the 1791-1804 Haitian revolution, Halifax was used as a venue to release pressure on Jamaican slaveholders with over 500 maroons and their families expelled to the city in 1796.

Much of Britain’s Halifax-based squadron was deployed to the West Indies in a bid to crush the Haitian slave rebellion before it swept the region. Concurrently, a dozen Nova Scotia privateers captured at least 57 enemy vessels in the West Indies between 1793 and 1805. Licensed by the state to seize enemy boats during wartime, the privateers were also trying to protect a market decimated by French privateers.

For decades, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland generated great wealth selling cod and other goods to the Caribbean slave colonies. Unwilling to devote valuable sugar planting space to food crops, the plantation owners bought high-protein, salty cod to keep hundreds of thousands of “enslaved people working 16 hours a day.”

After destabilizing large swaths of Africa for three centuries, in the late 1800s, Europeans colonized most of the continent. Over the next seven or eight decades, African politics and economics were directly organized in the interests of European powers.

A number of Nova Scotians participated in British campaigns to conquer various parts of the continent. Most significantly, Halifax’s William Grant Stairs played an important role in two controversial expeditions to expand European influence over Central Africa. In 1887, Stairs joined the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition, which was ostensibly designed to “rescue” the British-backed governor of Equatoria, the southern part of today’s South Sudan.

Read from a humanistic or internationalist perspective, the Royal Military College of Canada graduate’s diary of the three-year expedition is incredibly damning.

Stairs’ extensive diary makes it clear that locals regularly opposed the mission. He repeatedly admits to “ransacking the place” and Stairs led numerous raiding parties to gather “carriers,” which were slaves in all but name.

One diary entry notes: “It was most interesting, lying in the bush and watching the natives quietly at their day’s work; some women were pounding the bark of trees preparatory to making the coarse native cloth used all along this part of the river, others were making banana flower by pounding up dried bananas, men we could see building huts and engaged at other such work, boys and girls running about, singing, crying, others playing on a small instrument common all over Africa, a series of wooden strips, bent over a bridge and twanged with the thumb and forefinger. All was as it was every day until our discharge of bullets, when the usual uproar of screaming of women took place.”

Even with some criticizing the expedition in Britain, Stairs’ efforts were celebrated locally. An honouring committee established by the mayor of Halifax decided to give him a sword made in London of Nova Scotia steel and the city organized a reception attended by the lieutenant-governor with a military band playing “Here the Conquering Hero Comes.”

Within two years of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition, Stairs helped Belgian King Leopold II conquer the resource-rich Katanga region of the Congo. He headed up a heavily armed mission that swelled to 2,000.

The goal of the expedition was to extend Leopold’s authority over the Katanga region and to get a piece of the copper, ivory and gold trade. Stairs’ specific objective was to get Msiri, the ruler of the region, “to submit to the authorities of the Congo Free State, either by persuasion or by force.”

The expedition accomplished its principal objective. Stairs had Msiri killed and threatened Msiri’s brothers with the same fate unless they accepted Leopold as sovereign.

While Stairs died during the expedition, his mission to Katanga added 150,000 square kilometres to Leopold’s massive Congo Free State. In a bid to extract rubber and other commodities from his personal colony, Leopold instituted a brutal system of forced labour that caused millions of deaths from direct violence, as well as starvation and disease, between 1891 in 1908.

While it may be discomforting to admit it, Halifax has contributed to African impoverishment.

This article first appeared in the Halifax Chronicle Herald.

 

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Acknowledging our racist past

Where does anti-black racism come from? Can we trace discrimination today, such as disproportionate police carding, to when this bias developed?

While the most obvious source of this racism is the legacy of justifications for enslaving Africans, Toronto has made a distinct contribution as well. For example, dozens of Torontonians participated in British expeditions to subjugate various parts of Africa. These conquests were generally cloaked in the rhetoric of “superior and inferior races.”

In 1885, nearly 400 Canadians under the command of future Toronto West MP Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Denison travelled halfway across the world to beat back anti-colonial resistance in the Sudan. Arguing in favour of the British-led expedition, the Toronto Daily Mail described “the feeling that exists throughout the civilized world that the Dark Continent is to be the next great theatre upon which the dominant races of man are destined to play a conspicuous and important part.”

The strength of racist, social Darwinist ideas grew as the “scramble for Africa” peaked. In 1899, a Toronto Mail and Empire editorial explained that “partly by the process of natural selection of the fittest, there had devolved upon Britain the task of controlling and administering vast territories.”

At the same time, dozens of Toronto missionaries helped the colonial powers penetrate African society. In 1893, Torontonians founded what later became the largest interdenominational Protestant mission on the continent. Head of the Sudan Interior Mission for four decades, Rowland Victor Bingham described “facing millions of people in the darkness of their heathenism” and “seeing the people in all their savagery and sin.”

In 1905, the Ontario Conference of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ sent Toronto’s Alexander Woods Banfield to proselytize among the Nupe of northwestern Nigeria. Banfield asserted that “people along the banks of the Niger are almost wild… almost entirely untouched by the white man.”

Lecturing widely, Toronto missionaries also published many tracts full of racist rhetoric. The most prolific of these authors, Douglas C. Percy, argued in a 1948 book: “The people of Africa have associations with demonic powers. Behind the face of Africa looms a dark, evil intelligence, the shadow of Satan, the great enemy of God and man.”

For nearly four decades beginning in the early 1920s, University of Toronto graduates were recruited into the British Colonial Service. In 1923 a top Colonial Office official described the initiative as “taking Canada into partnership in the white man’s burden.”

European colonial rule was largely supported in Canada. A January 1959 Toronto Star editorial responding to independence protests in the Congo claimed, “Forces are loose in Africa that even the enlightened Belgians could not control,” adding that the Congo “was to be an example to all other colonial powers on how to civilize a backward, savage people.” Now, of course, it is widely recognized that Belgian rule was brutal.

During the UN mission dispatched to the newly independent Congo the next year, both the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail published an Associated Press article claiming that “human flesh is again being eaten in secret tribal rituals – not as a delicacy or for nourishment but for the magic properties of a dead enemy’s limbs and organs.” Besides citing “witch doctors,” no evidence was presented in press accounts that an Irish UN soldier who went missing was eaten.

But all that was long ago, you might say. What, then, to make of a 2011 Toronto Sun article that described Afrofest as celebrating “the sounds of the Dark Continent”?

This article first appeared in the Toronto Now

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Canada’s contribution to mass murder and torture in Kenya

Over the weekend a memorial was unveiled to victims of British colonial violence in Kenya. Paid for by London, the monument in Nairobi grew out of London’s 2013 apology to the Mau Mau, which included some compensation to 5000 victims of British policy who pursued London court.

Britain’s small step towards atoning for its colonial past is an opportunity to explore Canada’s contribution to this brutal period, which was an offshoot Ottawa’s long-standing endorsement of colonialism Africa.

In 1952, the Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest ethnic group, launched an anti-colonial struggle and over the next eight years the British would employ horrific violence in a bid to suppress what became known as the Mau Mau Uprising. The British detained most of the 1.5 million Kikuyu in camps and fortified villages. Thousands of prisoners were tortured to death or died from malnutrition and disease and in some camps most children perished. Tens of thousands of Kenyans were killed by British forces.

Compared to the vast African loss of life, only 32 European civilians among the 30,000 white settlers were killed by the Mau Mau. More settlers died in car accidents during this period. The British and Canadian press, however, focused their coverage on lurid stories detailing purported Mau Mau violence. On a number of occasions the uprising in Kenya was brought up in the Canadian House of Commons but External Affairs Minister Lester Pearson said little.

As they unleashed terrible violence in Kenya, Ottawa strengthened the British military, which had been weakened during World War II. In 1953, Canada gave the Royal Air Force 370 ‘top-of-the-line’ F-86 Sabre fighter Jets built at Canadair’s plant in Montréal. The planes cost $71 million ($600 million today) with the US footing 30% of the bill.

Several squadrons of Royal Air Force bombers dropped 50,000 pounds of bombs on Mau Mau forest hideouts. It’s almost certain that some of the British pilots were trained in Canada as part of the WWII British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and the post-1949 NATO Air Training Plan, which saw the Royal Canadian Air Force train 5,500 pilots and navigators largely from Britain and France.

Some 55,000 British troops fought in Kenya, along with many battalions of the King’s African Rifles from other parts of East Africa. They employed a great deal of weaponry, some of which originated in Canada. In the last decade of European colonialism in Africa Canada delivered a huge amount of weaponry to the colonial powers through NATO’s Mutual Aid Program. Between 1950 and 1958, Ottawa donated $1.53 billion ($8 billion today) in “aid” to NATO countries. The deliveries included anti-aircraft guns, military transport vehicles, ammunition, minesweepers, communications and electronic equipment, armaments, engines and fighter jets.

Canada also had men on the ground involved in the colonial violence in Kenya. Former RCMP officer John Timmerman served as assistant commissioner of police in Kenya during the Mau Mau insurgency. Between 1951 and 1955, Timmerman helped reorganize the police force and oversaw Nairobi’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID). In October 1952, Timmerman oversaw the arrest of Jomo Kenyatta, who would later become Kenya’s independence leader.

A July 1954 Ottawa Citizen article headlined “Terror Shadows Kenya Beat” reported “a Canadian just back from three years’ police work among the Mau Mau of Kenya says the terrorists are the most savage and bestial killers in the world.” Timmerman’s claim may represent what a Freudian psychologist would call a “projection”. Kenyan historian Bethwell Allan Ogot puts forth a different — and considering what’s been abundantly documented — more plausible account of the RCMP officer’s actions. “Beating of suspects to obtain evidence was rampant especially in Nairobi where Mr. John Timmerman, the notorious C.I.D. Chief (the Himmler of Kenya as he was called) and his henchman G. Heine presided over the torture chambers.” In Imperial Reckoning Caroline Elkins also compares the CID to the secret police in Nazi Germany and German-occupied Europe. “The Criminal Investigation Department… were effectively the colony’s Gestapo, according to one member of the force.”

At CID-operated centres, a favoured interrogation method was to hold a man upside down with his head in a bucket of water and ram sand into his rectum. In a bid to spread fear, men were raped with knives, snakes and scorpions while women were gang-raped or had their breasts mutilated with pliers.

A former white settler who was a member of the Kenya Regiment explained: “We would go and pick up a few of the filthy pigs and bring them to one of the interrogation centers set up by the CID. These were the hard-core scum, the ones who wouldn’t listen to anyone and [were] causing trouble. So we would give them a good thrashing. It would be a bloody awful mess by the time we were done. … never knew that a Kuke [Kikuyu] had so many brains until we cracked open a few heads.”

While Timmerman carried out British policies, his post-Kenya rise through the ranks suggests his actions found support in Ottawa. A Canadian Intelligence Corps officer in Europe prior to Kenya, afterwards Timmerman led the security and intelligence liaison at External Affairs, which included the politically sensitive task of making sure External Affairs officials were not spying or acting on behalf of foreign states. Then Timmerman became the first RCMP officer ever appointed head of a Canadian mission, serving as consul general in Chicago in the 1970s.

Should Canada apologize for its role in these atrocities?

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