Kenya TRUTH, JUSTICE AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION (KTJRC) FINDINGS: NORTHERN KENYA PART 1

Kenya TRUTH, JUSTICE AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION (KTJRC) FINDINGS: NORTHERN KENYA PART 1

About 6 years ago and after the civil war in Kenya following the 2007 electoral violence, a Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) was constituted. The Commission submitted a report to the president in 2013 and ”the text documents extensive human rights violations and other injustices committed in Kenya during the British colonial period (1895-1963) and under the administrations of Presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Arap Moi, and Mwai Kibaki – including during the 2007-2008 Post-election Violence”. From claims of intimidation to serious watering down of the final document, the report has seen its fair share of controversy and upheavals but despite its many imperfections, it has many merits. Some of the commissioners faced threats and have allegedly been denied employment as a result of their commission work. I have met one who was verbally threatened and told they will not be employed by the government in any capacity. According to Christopher Gitari Ndungu, head of ICTJ’s Kenya office, the ”Final Report is an official record of the state’s complicity in serial human rights abuses, it shows Kenya as a state whose institutions are frequently exposed as corrupt and in callous disregard of the fundamental human rights of citizens.” After the report submission, a book written by one of the commissioners, Prof Ronald Slye, the report We bring you a section of that report beginning today. The Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission of Kenya had the ability to investigate, analyze, and report on what happened between 1963 and 2008 in regards to gross violations of human rights, economic crimes, illegal acquisition of public land, marginalization of communities, ethnic violence, the context in which the crimes occurred, and educate the public about its work. The TJRC does not, however, have the power to prosecute. They can recommend prosecutions, reparations for victims, institutional changes, and amnesty in exchange for truth for perpetrators who did not commit gross human rights violations.
The TJRC investigates, analyses, and reports on human rights abuses, economic crimes, illegal acquisition of land, marginalization of communities, and ethnic violence. In terms of justice, lack of retributive justice has been a source of concern for many Kenyans. Though the commission can recommend prosecutions, there has been a long-standing culture of impunity in the country, which threatens to keep political leaders safe from prosecution. However, the commission has focused on justice in terms of recognition and distribution. The commission has sought to give victims and perpetrators equal voice in hearings, and have included hearings where children may share their stories, with guidance from counselors. Recommendations for redistribution of power and resources has been a focus of the mandate, as major conflicts have arisen due to imbalances in power, land, and resources between ethnic groups. Additionally, the commission has focused on educating the country about the history of violence and emphasizes promoting reconciliation through revealing of truth.

Shifta War

In this first part of the report, The TJRC finds that the Kenyan military inflicted violations and atrocities on innocent civilians during the conflict. In particular, the Commission finds that the Kenyan Army committed mass killings of civilians during the Shifta War and that the number of people who were killed during the War is possibly much higher than the official figure of 2000. Most of the killings took place in villages but the Commission also received evidence showing that killings took place in places of worship. The Commission finds that violations against women were widespread and systematic. These violations included rape and other forms of sexual violence. The Commission received evidence that women were held as sexual slaves by members of the Kenyan Army. The Commission rejects the prevailing official view that sexual violence during the Shifta War was infrequent and isolated.
The Commission finds that the Kenyan Army was responsible for the killings and large-scale confiscation of livestock belonging to civilians. The shooting of especially camels was a particular strategy employed by the Army as it was believed that camels were used by the Shifta to transport guns and other supplies.
The Army was responsible for the poisoning of livestock. Testimony received by 13 Volume IV Chapter ONE REPORT OF THE TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION the Commission reveals that it was common for soldiers and government officers to invade villages and confiscate cattle, sheep, camels, and goats. The owners of such livestock were never told what happened to their livestock. Nor were they ever compensated for their losses. The Commission finds that as part of the Shifta War, the Kenyan government established restricted or protected villages or camps in which residents of Northern Kenya were essentially detained and their movement severely restricted. This villagisation programme was eerily reminiscent of the detention camps created during the colonial period. The conditions in the restricted villages in Northern Kenya were squalid. Accounts received by the Commission indicate that diseases such as dysentery, pneumonia, malaria, and tuberculosis were common in the villages.
The Commission finds that the Shifta War had a particularly devastating impact on minority groups living in Northern Kenya such as the Sakuye.
The Commission finds that while those fighting against the Kenyan government committed violations against the local civilian population, the vast majority of violations were committed by the Kenyan government through its military and police officers and provincial administrators.
The Commission finds that military and political leaders conducted the conflict with little if any regard to the basic rights of the Kenyan citizens in the region. This inattention to the rights and welfare of the local population continued after the end of the conflict and to some extent EVEN CONTINUES TODAY.
Economic marginalization and continued violations of the rights of those living in the former Northern Frontier District have their origins in the actions and attitudes of the colonial government and the newly independent Kenyan government.
The Commission finds that the Kenyan government made a deliberate and concerted effort to cover up abuses committed in connection with the conflict, and enacted the Indemnity Act in order to protect government officials for accountability for wrongful acts committed in the conflict. The Commission finds that the Indemnity Act not only covered up human rights abuses and other violations of both Kenyan and International Law, but itself is a violation of international law as it denies the victims of the conflict access to truth, We appeal for the revealing of the content of Arusha Declaration between Kenya and Somali governments about the Northern Frontier District, which could have led to the atrocities and marginalization of the people of NFD by successive Kenya regimes.