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TJRC told of gross human injustices in Wagalla

WAJIR, Kenya, Apr 19 – The Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) on Tuesday heard from witnesses who recounted the events of the February 1984 massacre at the Wagalla airstrip.

Former government official Bishar Ibrahim Ishmael told the public hearings that he identified the government and security officials who were at the airstrip between February 8 and 16, 1984.

Mr Ishmael said that by February 8, about 2,000 people had been rounded up at the airstrip and a week later, he estimated that 5,000 people had been ferried from as far as Mandera. 

He later saw two truckloads of dead people, being driven out of the airstrip.

“I can identify the actual government official and army personnel, who were here during that period, and I also can identify the vehicles they drove and the number plates of these vehicles,” he said.

TJRC began its initial public hearings in North Eastern Province. It has summoned some former government officials who include its embattled former chairman Bethuel Kiplagat, ex Minister David Mwiraria and former military boss General (rtd) Joseph Kibwana.

In the Tuesday hearings, the Commission heard that the NARC government in 2003 had promised the construction of a Wagalla Memorial and public library which have not been fulfilled.

“All we want from the government is a formal apology for us to be able to move on’’ said Mr Ishmael who added that the people of Wagalla need compensation according to the Somali tradition of five camels for each man killed.

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The commission also heard about social economic injustices as each witness highlighted the poor state of health and educational facilities in the whole of Wajir and greater North Eastern region. This has translated to poor education standards and heath challenges.

Wajir has a total of 34 witnesses identified and the hearings continue until Wednesday.

The mandate of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission is to inquire into human rights violations including those committed by the state, groups or individuals. It includes but is not limited to politically motivated violence, assassinations, community displacements, settlements and evictions.

It will also inquire into major economic crimes, in particular grand corruption, historical land injustices and the illegal and irregular acquisition of land especially as these relate to conflict or violence, between December 12, 1963 and February 2008.

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