Kenya’s truth commission, a dead letter?

25 June 2014 by Abdullahi Boru, Nairobi (Kenya)

One year after its publication in May 2013, Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) recommendations remain dead letters. A combination of leadership struggles, political inertia and procedural issues has led many Kenyans to view the commission’s extensive report as yet another exercise in avoidance, designed to lower the political temperature. 

Since independence in 1963, Kenya has witnessed gross repressions of dissent and theft of public funds. Both the Kenyatta (1963-1978) and Moi (1978-2002) administrations oversaw violations. After being in power since independence, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) lost the 2002 elections, to a coalition of opposition parties the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). The new administration decided to form a commission to inquire into historical injustices, massive or systemic human rights violations, economic crimes and the irregular acquisition of land by the previous party.

On 17 April 2003, the government appointed a Task Force on the establishment of a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission. Victims, their families, the political elite and the human rights community, all welcomed its formation. Many hoped it could provide real answers and that perpetrators of killings and disappearances would speak the truth or ask for pardon. This gold standard, set by the South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was always going to be difficult to achieve.

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