Kenya's stalled Truth Commission and lack of accountabilityBy L. MUTHONI WANYEKI | Monday, August 13 2012 at 10:40
This past Thursday, David Rudisha won gold for Kenya in the 800 metres — and set a new world record while doing so!
He redeemed Kenya’s less-than-optimal performance at the London Olympics and gave it something to be excited, happy and proud about.
Just as Kenyan athletes did at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 — which went a long way in helping the country pick up the pieces and decide to move forward following the electoral fraud and post-election violence.
The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) was also meant to help Kenya pick up the pieces and move forward.
It was meant to look into gross and systemic human-rights violations from Independence on — including illegal detentions and torture, political assassinations,
massacres as well as grievances over historical land claims.
Many Kenyans came forward at its hearings and made submissions. By parliament’s records, it received 42,000 statements from victims, heard from 1,500
witnesses and received an additional 1,500 submissions.
That is a lot of information to analyse. Which is why the TJRC requested and, in effect, received no less than two extensions to its original two-year mandate
— with the expectation that its report would be finalised and made public by August 3 this year. But that, apparently, was not to be. The TJRC has asked for a
further extension — of at least six months. It argues that it needs to provide due process to accused persons and process applications for both amnesty and
Its latest request has been met with public outcry. The outcry is perfectly understandable. Providing due process to accused persons could — and should — have been a part of its practice all along.
When victims or witnesses alleged that somebody was responsible for a violation, the TJRC could have notified the accused at once and provided for the right to respond. Ditto regarding amnesty and reparations applications.
It is imperative that the TJRC’s report be out before we move to the first general election under the new Constitution. For the outcry about the TJRC’s latest request for an extension has to do with the purposes its report was meant to serve. And at least one of those purposes has to do with vetting electoral candidates.
Kenya’s bugbear is lack of political and legal accountability — impunity, in short.
It’s past and present tells us that there’s nothing those in positions of political leadership cannot do to the people.
They can steal from the public. They can detain and torture individuals. They can rape and kill. And they can get away with doing so scot-free.
But there is a silver lining in the cloud — at least for the victims. Survivors of the Nyayo House torture chambers have filed case after case against the Kenyan state in the courts.
They have been winning those cases. They have been receiving compensation. This is good — for the survivors.
But it is not good for the Kenyan public and the question of impunity. Since those cases are against the Kenyan state — as a faceless entity— the
compensation comes from the taxpayers.
The individual torturers are still out there. As are all those in the chain of command who ordered and enabled them to torture.
Every violator has a face. We want to know them and we want to see them face the consequences because only facing the consequences will stop the
practice of using people as cannon fodder for political ends.
Will the TJRC give us that satisfaction? If it gave us its report — now — we would know.
L. Muthoni Wanyeki is doing her graduate studies at L’Institut d’etudes politiques (Sciences Po) in Paris, France.
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