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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ruto wrong, TJRC report is the key to peace not chaos

TJRC
TJRC

Deputy President William Ruto’s claim that implementing the recommendations of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission Report would breed “chaos” is an open insult to thousands of victims of gross human rights violations in this country.

His statement is not only shocking and disappointing but also untrue — in fact, it is the failure to implement the TJRC Report that is a sure recipe for “chaos”.

Victims and survivors of gross human rights violations committed by the colonial and post-Independence governments have struggled to secure implementation of the TJRC recommendations since May 2013. Among these are victims of massacres, extrajudicial killings, assassinations, unlawful detention, torture, sexual violence, land injustices and state-sanctioned systematic discrimination based on gender, region or ethnicity.

The TJRC Report, for the first time in Kenyan history, offered the most comprehensive and accurate account of historical injustices, recognised affected victims and communities, and publicly named and denounced perpetrators, calling for their prosecution.

It also recommended rehabilitation, compensation, and memorialisation for victims, and a raft of reforms to guarantee similar violations don’t recur. This, the commission said, was the only way to ensure we can firmly move toward cohesive nation-building.

Victims and survivors keep hoping that, despite political setbacks in kick-starting the implementation of this report, it will come to pass. Ruto’s statement sheds light on the difficulties victims and survivors have faced in pressing for implementation. Parliament failed to adopt this report over four years since its completion, mainly because individuals linked to various violations are politically influential.

A petition by the National Victims and Survivors’ Network to Parliament in December 2015, calling for the urgent adoption of the report, was relegated to a departmental committee, and had not been debated by the time Parliament adjourned in June.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s March 2015 apology for historical injustices has counted for little. Although he asked Parliament to urgently adopt the report, and announced the establishment of a Sh10 billion Reparations Fund, these have not yet translated into concrete assistance for victims. The NVSN and the Kenya Transitional Justice Network have engaged with the Office of the Attorney General to develop a legal framework to operationalise the fund. Draft regulations for implementation of the fund submitted to the AG in March are yet to be gazetted.

Ruto’s remarks have left many victims wondering about government’s genuineness of its professed commitment to implementing the TJRC report, and providing comprehensive reparations.

Does his statement mean the Jubilee administration considers historical injustices to be finished business with an apology and payments to a select number of IDPs? Failure to implement this report could have dire consequences for nascent nation-building efforts and reform processes outlined by the Constitution.

Kenyans have overwhelmingly demanded truth, justice, and reconciliation since the 2003 Makau Mutua-led Task Force. Last week, survivors of past human rights violations presented a Victims’ Manifesto to presidential candidates. Kenya is legally obligated under its Constitution, as well as regional and international law, to provide effective remedies to victims of gross human rights violations.

Deep-seated ethnic, regional, and gender inequalities and divisions, which the TJRC process sought to address, still remain unresolved, leaving our society vulnerable to continued cycles of violence that have resulted in gross human rights violations in the past. This lesson is too well-known to us from our very experiences of the 2007-08 post-election violence. We must not continue to ignore, suppress, or sweep under the carpet this reality.

The history of impunity for past gross human rights violations continues to re-emerge as we witness renewed spates of violence in various parts of the country and abuses of power, including rampant extrajudicial killings and other violations under the guise of security operations.

Failure to implement these recommendations denies the country the opportunity to understand and address root causes of historical injustices and gross human rights violations, and it forecloses on the opportunity to forge national healing and cohesion.

More importantly, the lives of our fellow citizens lie at the heart of this controversy. Victims and survivors of gross human rights violations continue to endure physical, psychological, and socioeconomic suffering. For the sake of the victims we have lost and for the sake of those who remain, the government must uphold its constitutional obligation to protect their dignity and give them an opportunity to close a dark chapter in their lives.

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