Kenya truth body to begin public hearings

August 18, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 18 – The Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) will conduct its first public hearing in November this year.

The sessions will begin in Mount Elgon, where the commission has already taken statements from witnesses.

Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission Patricia Nyaundi on Wednesday said the commission was scheduled to complete its hearings by August 2011 before presenting its final report in November of the same year.

“We already took statements from witnesses in Mount Elgon during the months of May and June. It is our intention to have Kenyans seriously discuss some of the injustices that have occurred since independence because it is a first step towards promoting national dialogue and healing,” she said.

Ms Nyaundi who was speaking at a breakfast meeting with the media added that the commission would conduct hearings that touched on individuals, institutions and as well as events.

“Given the time limitations that we face, we will first start with the individual ones at the regional level followed by the institutional and thematic ones that would be outside of Nairobi. As we progress towards November you will see the commission slowing down and settling in Nairobi,” she pointed out.

She further explained that the institutional hearings would be aimed at promoting institutional reforms: “We will, for instance, have hearings revolving around the prisons department, the judiciary, the police and even the media; in the case of prisons we will use former prisoners to give us an account of violations meted against them while behind bars.”

The commission also announced that it would next week train 300 officials who would be involved in taking statements from key witnesses in the remaining regions of the country.

“Those statements on receipt by the commission, will be processed before the investigation team follows up on them (statements) to confirm their veracity in addition to selecting cases that will proceed for hearings,” she said.

Ms Nyaundi further explained that the commission would give room to communities that had in the past been sidelined to air their grievances. It would also have regional offices in Coast, Nyanza/Western and North Eastern.

The commission also explained that it would organise itself into five committees to help in the process of bringing reconciliation and truth: “The TJRC commissioners have organized themselves into five working committees- we will have the human rights violations committee, the reparations and rehabilitation committee, the reconciliation committee, the amnesty committee and the administrative committee.”

TJRC Chairperson Bethuel Kiplagat, on his part, commended the media for its remarkable effort in supporting the constitution review process and the referendum.

“Your role was instrumental in not only disseminating information but also educating the public on the contents of the draft, providing a platform for the various voices and viewpoints and the successful and peaceful ballot resulting in a close to 80 percent participation,” he said.

He also noted that the delivery of a new constitution was a key milestone in the National Dialogue and Reconciliation process in terms of long term issues and reforms. He added that the new Constitution provided the proper framework for transitional justice.

“Although the new constitution promises that gross violations will not recur, those who suffered violations and historical injustice still need justice. The new constitution provides only a broad framework for institutional reforms. The TJRC will propose more concrete and specific ways to reform our institutions implicated in gross violations,” he said.

Veteran journalist Mitch Odero said the media in Kenya would be tested by the peace and reconciliation process. He observed that it would take deliberate effort by the media to help transform the country.


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