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Former DO explains 1984 Wagalla killings

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 16 – A senior government officer during the infamous Wagalla Massacre of 1984 has revealed how a security operation was planned in Wajir town days prior to the killings.

Former Wajir District Officer (DO) Manasseh Tiema told a sitting of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission on Monday that there was a campaign to disarm communities suspected of causing insecurity in the region.

Mr Tiema, a retired civil servant, gave a detailed report of his role as DO during the Wagalla Massacre.

According to Mr Tiema, the Degodia clan was particularly reluctant to surrender arms, which led to stiff measures taken by district officials, to help speed up the process.

These included denying communities, most of which are pastoralists in the region, access to watering holes for both livestock and domestic use.

The escalating situation then led to interventions by the Kenya Intelligence Security Committee, which planned a joint operation, on February 8, 1984, with the Kenya Army, Kenya Police and Administrative Police to round up and interrogate all Degodia males in the region, according to Mr Tiema.

After several arrests were made, Mr Tiema held a meeting with the public to give details on the operation, at the town stadium. On February 12, 1984 upheavals ensued among detainees demanding release and attempting to escape the Wagalla airstrip.

Mr Tiema, who was present during the unrest, said he retreated shortly after and did not witness the killing of 57 detainees at the airstrip by officers.

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He denied ever receiving any reports on the brutal rapes of three-quarters of the female detainees at the Wagalla airstrip.

On May 4, 1984 Mr Tiema was summarily dismissed from his post as DO of Wajir, subsequently taking a year-long leave from any government work.

He maintained that the operations were not to kill, but disarm suspects and bring peace to the region.

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