It seemed like a sensible way out of a spot of local bother. With a querulous clan of local mystics threatening the social order of Kenya’s tea country back in the 1930s, the colony’s British overlords thought they had hit on the obvious solution: deport the lot of them.
Decades after the end of Empire, that decision is now threatening to unleash Britain’s gravest tea-related crisis since a group of American bootleggers tipped chests of the stuff into Boston Harbour in 1773.
三级成人视频The forced eviction of the Talai people in 1934 lies at the heart of a simmering dispute over colonial-era land grievances that could lead to severe tea shortages in Britain if a powerful regional politician in western Kenya gets his way.
Paul Chepkwony, the governor of Kericho County, has warned that British tea plantations in Kenya face Zimbabwe-style farm invasions unless the Crown pays billions of pounds to atone for alleged imperial abuses.
Backed by a ruling handed down by Kenyan government commission in February, Mr Chepkwony is even attempting to seize control of two-thirds of the farmland on which tea is grown.
三级成人视频Kericho may be unfamiliar to many Britons, yet few regions overseas are as important to the British way of life.
Kenya is by far Britain’s single biggest supplier of tea and most of it is grown on the fertile uplands in and around Kericho.
Few teabags sold in British supermarkets do not have Kenyan leaves in their mix — without its African punch it would be tricky to add milk to the average cuppa.
But as far as Mr Chepkwony is concerned, the land on which the commercial tea estates sit was “stolen” by British settlers from his Kipsigis tribe, into which the Talai were adopted as a sub-clan.
Amid growing public anger, much of it allegedly stoked by the governor himself, he has demanded the return of not just the plantations but all profits “illegally earned” since 1902, which he reckons to stand in the region of £15bn.
Seated in his office, his face inscrutable behind a pair of sunglasses, Mr Chepkwony warns that he will no longer be able to restrain his people from invading the tea plantations if Britain and its tea companies do not comply quickly.
三级成人视频“It is in the interest of the UK government and the multinational companies to settle this matter quickly if they are to live in harmony with the community,” he said.
三级成人视频“The younger generation of locals is becoming more militant and restless. I fear that people will go in [to the plantations] to resolve it for themselves.”
Although a variety of companies, some Kenyan, own plantations on land taken from the Kipsigis, Mr Chepkwony has focused his attention on three big British firms: George Williamson, Finlay’s and the Anglo-Dutch giant Unilever, which mostly produces its PG Tips brand in Kenya.
T三级成人视频he firms once thought they could safely ignore Mr Chepkwony, assuming they would be protected by Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, because of the vital role they play in the Kenyan economy.
三级成人视频Tea is among Kenya's biggest exports and its largest foreign exchange earner. Now some are not so sure.
三级成人视频In February, the government’s National Land Commission lent its weight to Mr Chepkwony, ruling that the land occupied by the big commercial tea companies had been unlawfully seized, paving the way for the governor to begin taking back much of the tea companies’ land.
But to the governor’s fury, British firms have refused his demand to hand over title deeds and have gone to court to appeal the land commission’s ruling.
Such defiance has left people seething, says Mr Chepkwony's legal adviser, Kimutai Bosek. "If the law fails, people will move to extrajudicial methods," he said.
"The people in Zimbabwe did not just wake up and invade farms — it was a last resort.”
Meanwhile, industry officials claim that Mr Chepkwony is hoping to increase pressure on Britain by persuading Britons to boycott Kenyan “blood tea”, a move that could also hurt hundreds of thousands of black smallholder farmers..
三级成人视频He has also filed a complaint with the United Nations and could file a lawsuit in Britain, although lawyers concede a legal case based on land issues alone would probably fail. While there is no denying that the British did force the cattle-herding Kipsigis to give up half their land in order to introduce commercial tea growing, they did so in accordance with colonial law.
Lawyers plan instead to shame the British government into paying up by showing that widespread human rights abuses were also committed.
三级成人视频The Kipsigis hope to replicate the success of 5,000 elderly Kenyans who received compensation from the British government in 2014 over torture claims during the Mau Mau Emergency of the 1950s.
三级成人视频The Talai case is key. Although the Talai, who numbered 700 at the time, lost little land to the British themselves, they hope their forced eviction to a barren stretch of snake-infested territory on the shores of Lake Victoria will be regarded as illegal collective punishment.
三级成人视频Mr Chepkwony says the eviction was accompanied by alleged incidents of rape and beatings, carried out by black Kenyan guardsmen, known as askaris, employed by loyalist chiefs.
“The askaris beat up those who refused to leave,” said Kibore Cheruiyot, 95, one of the star witnesses in Mr Chekpwony’s legal campaign.
三级成人视频“After we were rounded up, they came into the camp where we were held. The whites then came and demanded that the chiefs arrest those responsible but no-one owned up.” The removal of the Talai was controversial even at the time.
Mistakenly believing them to be an aristocratic caste, the colonial authorities made Mr Cheruiyot’s grandfather, Kipchomber arap Koilegen, chief of the Kipsigis.
In fact the Talai were feared outsiders, whose role in society was to foretell the future and bless cattle raids. With the Talai in charge, crime — particularly stock theft — soared. For years, British officials resisted pleas from the Kipsigis to remove them, doing so only after they were linked to a spate of attacks on white farms, culminating in a settler’s murder.
三级成人视频If the Talai, who mostly lost their land to the Kipsigis not the British, find Mr Chepkwony’s recent embrace of their cause a little rich, they are not saying so.
三级成人视频Meanwhile, the governor is also hoping to show that others Kipsigis suffered too. Testimony has been gathered from thousands of witnesses, among them Joshua Kipsoi, 103, who recalls how his hut was burnt down and his friends arrested after they resisted a British eviction order.
Samuel Kilel says he was slapped by the white farmer he worked for in the Fifties, after knocking over a pail of milk. As he tried to flee he tripped and fell into a fire, leaving him with permanent injuries to his foot and shoulder.
“I hope I will get back a portion of my ancestral land and that farmer will compensate me,” he said.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the past, representatives of British tea companies say they hope an amicable settlement can be reached to protect an industry vital to Kenyan economy. “Tea is the only surviving profitable agricultural sector that is self-sustaining and the largest agricultural employer,” says Linda Oluoch, legal manager for the Kenya TeaGrowers Association.
“But that is only because it has not had too much political involvement. We are scared that with more political involvement we will go the same way as other failing agricultural sectors.”
Others are even blunter about the consequences of what could happen if Mr Chepkwony takes control of the tea plantations.
“If the governor gets hold of the land, I can guarantee the people won’t get an inch of it,” says one tea industry official. “The politicians will take it all.”