Indifference to the truth bogs down TJRC

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BY PAUL AMINA

The truth is always bitter, goes the old adage, but that bitterness sets the teller free, adds a biblical verse that seems to disturb culprits and hypocrites. Even notorious liars in the witness stand – as a matter of formality – are made to swear by the holy books that the evidence they give in law courts will be the truth nothing but the truth.

It was a sigh of relief to victims of injustices when President Mwai Kibaki whose election was on a reform platform assumed office in the dying days of 2002. He has, at least, demonstrated that he is not a petty leader by closing down the Nyayo House torture chambers where critics underwent demeaning interrogation before court appearance or being detained. No person has been detained during President Kibaki\’s seven year reign.

It  was  also  during his  tenure that as a follow  up on cries  for  justice that  a task force was hastily  formed under the  chair of  US-based law  Professor Makau Mutua to establish from victims whether a  truth commission  was necessary.

His recommendation merely complimented an earlier call for the establishment of such a body.  A private member’s motion on the same tabled by former MP Peter Oloo Aringo was unanimously approved by Parliament but hardly took off.  

Notwithstanding nasty incidents, the Kenyan political class seems to be still allergic to truth and the rule of law is certainly not music to their ears. Like their colonial predecessors, the country\’s rulers criminalise the truth under the guise of protection of Official Secrets and preservation of national security.

The meager funds allocation and the ongoing frustrations in  the  operations of the Truth, Justice  and  Reconciliation Commission  (TJRC) are  just  few of  the many glaring examples of a  cover-up of  past national  sins  committed  by  state operatives under different leaders.

The Truth Commission is one of  the items in the  Agenda  IV  proposed  by leaders  across the political  divide as part  of the healing process of the nation wounded  in the 2008 post -election  violence in which more than 1,000 perished, more than  500,000 uprooted  from their homes  and property of unknown value  destroyed.

The negotiators concurred that the country badly needed reconciliation and that could not be possible without investigating historical injustices including post election violence. They settled for the establishment of a truth commission to probe crimes against humanity.

The  former UN  Secretary General Kofi Annan  presided over  the noisy "peace"  negotiations  whose membership included  none other than the Minister  for Justice and Constitutional Affairs,  Senior Counsel, Mutula Kilonzo.

If the recent statements by Mutula are anything to go by, then one would question his support for the TJRC operations.

The appointing authority, the civil society and unsuccessful applicants for Commissioner posts are rooting for the dissolution of the commission because its chair is a man of questionable integrity. 

The  Commission as constituted, is not a witch-hunt outfit as some culprits would like others to believe, nor is it a  trial chamber but a body entrusted with the authority to unearth  the truth behind crimes against humanity and providing room for  reconciliation.

Many of the victims wonder why some of their colleagues in the struggle –  since elected and elevated to ministerial ranks  – have abandoned them  in the quest  for  compensation. 

One such  victim of  state  cruelty is  none  other than the Prime  Minister  Raila Amolo Odinga, the last  political prisoner under Moi\’s reign.

On  June  1, 1991 prison gates  swung open and immediately  closed  behind  the then political outcast,  the  son of  former Vice  President and  opposition leader Jaramogi Oginga  Odinga. Thrice detained without trial for a total of eight years,   Raila like his father and  many unsung heroes in the second liberation bear the scars of state brutality under President Daniel arap Moi and his predecessor, Jomo Kenyatta.

Understandably, Raila is not pursuing for justice or compensation  in the  courts after being detained under  the  Preservation of  Public Security Act , a colonial  legislation  reintroduced  in   1966 in  the  newly  independent country  to  contain  growing dissent and criticism.

Academics, journalists, politicians, business people, hawkers amongst others were rounded up in routine and selective crackdown on vocal opposition and baptised subversive elements. The captives in  their dozens were compelled  to  make confessions  for imaginary crimes  amongst them plots to overthrow the government  through unlawful means for which they were convicted  and imprisoned  for years.

Victims  of injustices including this writer believe that the time to know the truth is now not tomorrow under the TJRC  that may absolve many including remorseful culprits of blame  and recommend adequate  compensation for the offended.

(Paul Amina is a freelance Journalist and former political prisoner. Email: [email protected] yahoo.com)

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