The rule followed by British governments in the colonial era was always to
let the politicians out of jail first so the negotiations could take place.
In India both Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were put in jail
by the British in August 1942. Nehru was finally released in May 1944
and two years later the British were negotiating Indian independence
with Gandhi and Nehru, who became the first Prime Minister of an
independent India in 1947.
In Kenya Jomo Kenyatta was put in prison by the British in 1952 and
was released in 1961. One year later the British were negotiating Kenya’s
independence with Kenyatta and in 1963 he became Prime Minister and
later President of an independent Kenya.
In South Africa Nelson Mandela was put in prison in 1962 – he was
leader of the armed wing of the African National Congress – and he
stayed in prison 27 years till 1990. Within months of his release he was
negotiating with his captors and in 1994 he became president.
In each case it took less than four years for the leader of a national
liberation struggle to move from prisoner’s cell to president’s palace.
Closer to home, in Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness moved in a
few short years from H-block to Stormont Castle.