NAIROBI, Kenya – While Kenyans laud the setting up of a body by Parliament to probe historical injustices with a view to reconciling communities torn apart by ethnic hatred and inequalities, doubts surround the success of such an initiative.
Negotiators named by post war leaders to the international mediation group were of the view that signing the National Accord without putting in place mechanisms to heal the war wounds would be an exercise in futility. A raft of proposals towards possible reconciliation and peaceful co-existence were made one being the setting up of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) to probe historical injustices including the eruption of violence after the 2007 general elections.
Nobody in Kenya can claim the cloak of a Saint before the TJRC. In adult life, everybody in this country is an accomplice in meting out injustices of one nature or another. Bearing in mind the argument that execution of violence or political assassinations always has the leaders’ blessings, how will this commission summon such personalities without provoking ethnic animosity?
Only the privileged and the political class can get away with injustices as was evidenced in the 2007 general elections. Kenyans who bear the scars of senseless protests against bungled election results were not the contestants for the top seat but the lesser mortals.
The big question is; what constitutes injustices in the eyes of the commission and the public? The definition is broad and ambiguous. Caution, patience and sobriety should be used as guidelines if the country is to forestall war recurrence.
Some of the heart-rending testimonies by victims and the stone face of the perpetrators could be stressful. The commission could be presiding over the disintegration of the nation or perform a miracle to restore the short lived national unity at independence. The latter is unlikely where ethnicity has deepened in all sectors including the Legislature.
The leaders across the divide should convene a national healing conference in order to portray the commission as a peace broker, not as a witch hunter or a trial court.
Going by the recent inflammatory statements from the leaders after the burial of the Kiambaa church fire victims and the conspicuous absence of some coalition leaders at the ceremony, it is safe to conclude that we have forgotten that the country was engulfed in one of the most vicious wars in living memory.
It is in light of the foregoing that it is incumbent upon the two principals to rise to the occasion and to save the coalition and the country from disintegration.
Given the sensitivity of the TJRC’s terms of reference, the coalition government should move with speed to reinforce the confidence of Kenyans in the healing process.
The destiny of this nation is in the hands of President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga. Their confessions would not rob them the status but would help jump-start the healing process and instill confidence in the perpetrators and victims respectively. President Mwai Kibaki and the Prime Minister, Raila Odinga should live up to the honour by the University of Nairobi that awarded them honorary degrees for their role in stopping the post election violence in 2008.
However, the unease in the coalition government that was crafted out of the ashes of a bloody war should not be a hindrance to the smooth functions of the commission. The TJRC process should not be relegated to another public relations exercise to hoodwink the international community that insisted on reconciliation rather than confrontation.
A symbolic appearance by leaders across the divide would encourage the perpetrators and victims to fearlessly testify at the commission that seeks to reconcile communities and individuals who regard next-door neighbours as arch enemies.
Post war commissions formed elsewhere to probe crimes against humanity are not beds of roses but they are beds of thorns. Take for instance the Commission of Inquiry on Post Election Violence (CIPEV) and another probing the conduct of the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK); potential suspects and their agents in the bungling of the polls whose aftermath will forever remain indelible in the minds of the electorate were not amused that the findings and recommendations did not favour them.
The Commission is tasked to unravel the causes of the post election violence in which more than 1,000 people perished and nearly 500,000 displaced including injustices dating back to 1963.
(The writer is a former member of parliament for Mathioya constituency. Email: email@example.com)