BY SALIL SHETTY
Having lived and worked in Kenya, I have seen and experienced first-hand the strength and potential of its people and the country’s leadership role in East Africa.
The post-Moi years, in particular, highlighted the country’s resilience and ability to grow, despite its difficult past.
But the post-election violence of 2007 and 2008 shocked everybody.
It tore apart the nation.
When a power-sharing agreement was finally reached, the government was able to restore hope by publicly committing to the need for thorough investigations in the aftermath of the violence.
Only by establishing the truth, and delivering justice and reparations to the victims, could Kenya begin to heal and turn the page.
In the six years that have passed since then, the extent of the violence has been widely discussed, not just in Kenya, but around the world.
The world’s attention has fixed squarely on the government’s political manoeuvrings at the African Union and elsewhere in an attempt to avoid the prosecution by the International Criminal Court of President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto and journalist, Joshua arap Sang.
This attention has, sadly, done little to help victims of the violence.
More than 1,100 people were killed, 660,000 were displaced and thousands more were injured in beatings, machete attacks, rapes and police shootings. But beyond these headline-grabbing numbers, the world knows little about the victims and their current needs.
The victims of the violence are still waiting their turn to be heard.
At Amnesty International, we have just released a report highlighting testimonies of victims of the violence.
The report analyzes the many challenges they have faced in trying to obtain justice and reparations for the crimes committed against them.
It makes for grim reading.
One woman we spoke to from Nairobi’s Mathare settlement, told Amnesty International how she and her husband had been attacked by men wielding machetes.
She was fleeing them when a police officer on patrol offered to take her to his home to get assistance from his wife. When they arrived to an empty house, the police officer raped her. She is now living with HIV.
This woman knew the police officer who had raped her-he is still working in a nearby police station. But she gave up on reporting the crime to the police because, whenever she tried, she was asked to pay bribes or provide original documents as evidence.
As the other testimonies in our briefing show, this woman is far from alone.
Many victims are in desperate need of support to help them recover from injuries sustained, property burned and livelihoods lost. They have told us they fear they will die before they see justice for the crimes committed against them.
They feel disillusioned and shut out from the justice system for a wide range of reasons: some have been told that they do not have the right papers, while others have been ‘turned away’ by the police and many more fear repercussions if they talk.
While it is important to recognize that the government has provided support to some internally displaced people, this has been limited and has reached too few.
Kenya’s justice system has categorically failed to address the needs of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the post-election violence.
Amnesty International is now urgently calling on the Government of Kenya to fulfil its obligations to provide truth, justice and reparation, and ensure that all victims of the violence have their voices heard.
As a first step, the government must conduct further investigations into the 4,000 cases that the Director of Public Prosecutions has stated lack sufficient evidence to precede to trial; prioritising investigations into crimes committed by the police and other security services. This would at least help send a signal to Kenyans that there is a genuine political will for justice.
Secondly, the government should act now to set up the Committee for the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) and implement a national framework for ensuring victims of the violence get the reparations they are entitled to. It is a travesty that the approach to reparations has been so piecemeal to date.
Thirdly, we are calling on the government to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court. Nearly all of the 49 victims interviewed by Amnesty International supported the ICC’s efforts to investigate and prosecute the crimes committed in the post-election violence. Their chance to receive justice must not be obstructed.
Finally, the government must do everything it can to ensure the protection of victims, witnesses and human rights defenders working on cases of post-election violence and international justice. It is unacceptable that people are feeling increasingly afraid of reprisals in today’s politicized environment. Kenya’s thriving human rights community must no longer face these threats.
It is still within the government’s power to address the wrongs committed between 2007 and 2008 and lead Kenya towards a strong recovery. Listening to the victims is a crucial step in that journey.
(Salil Shetty is the Secretary General of Amnesty International. Twitter; @SalilShetty)