No idyll

The Kenyan Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission has finally reported on its five-year effort.  While some of its findings will be contested, the overall picture is all to clear.  Anyone still thinking of Kenya as idyllic should peruse the executive summary:

The Commission finds that between 1895 and 1963, the British Colonial administration in Kenya was responsible for unspeakable and horrific gross violations of human rights. In order to establish its authority in Kenya, the colonial government employed violence on the population on an unprecedented scale. Such violence included massacres, torture and ill-treatment and various forms of sexual violence. The Commission also finds that the British Colonial administration adopted a divide and rule approach to the local population that created a negative dynamic of ethnicity, the consequences of which are still being felt today. At the same time the Colonial administration stole large amounts of highly productive land from the local population, and removed communities from their ancestral lands.

The Commission finds that between 1963 and 1978, President Jomo Kenyatta presided over a government that was responsible for numerous gross violations of human rights. These violations included:

  • in the context of Shifta War, killings, torture, collective punishment and denial of basic needs (food, water and health care);
  • political assassinations of Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya and J.M. Kariuki;
  • arbitrary detention of political opponents and activists; and
  • illegal and irregular acquisition of land by the highest government officials and their political allies

The Commission finds that between 1978 and 2002, President Daniel Arap Moi presided over a government that was responsible for numerous gross violations of human rights. These violations include:

  • Massacres;
  • unlawful detentions, and systematic and widespread torture and ill-treatment of political and human rights activists;
  • Assassinations, including of Dr. Robert Ouko;
  • Illegal and irregular allocations of land; and
  • economic crimes and grand corruption.

The Commission finds that between 2002 and 2008, President Mwai Kibaki presided over a government that was responsible for numerous gross violations of human rights:

  • unlawful detentions, torture and ill-treatment;
  • assassinations and extra judicial killings; and
  • economic crimes and grand corruption

The Commission finds that state security agencies, particularly the Kenya Police and the Kenya Army, have been the main perpetrators of bodily integrity violations of human rights in Kenya including massacres, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, and sexual violence.

The Commission finds that Northern Kenya (comprising formerly of North Eastern Province, Upper Eastern and North Rift) has been the epicenter of gross violations of human rights by state security agencies. Almost without exception, security operations in Northern Kenya has [sic] been accompanied by massacres of largely innocent citizens, systematic and widespread torture, rape and sexual violence of girls and women, looting and burning of property and the killing and confiscation of cattle.

The Commission finds that state security agencies have as a matter of course in dealing with banditry and maintaining peace and order employed collective punishment against communities regardless of the guilt or innocence of individual members of such communities.

The Commission finds that during the mandate period the state adopted economic and other policies that resulted in the economic marginalization of five key regions in the country: North Eastern and Upper Eastern; Coast; Nyanza; Western; and North Rift.

The Commission finds that historical grievances over land constitute the single most important driver of conflicts and ethnic tension in Kenya. Close to 50 percent of statements and memorandum received by the Commission related to or touched on claims over land.

The Commission finds that women and girls have been the subject of state sanctioned systematic discrimination in all spheres of their life. Although discrimination against women and girls is rooted in patriarchal cultural practices, the state has traditionally failed to curb harmful traditional practices that affect women’s enjoyment of human rights.

The Commission finds that despite the special status accorded to children in Kenyan society, they have been subjected to untold and unspeakable atrocities including killings, physical assault and sexual violence.

The Commission finds that minority groups and indigenous people suffered state sanctioned systematic discrimination during the mandate period (1963-2008). In particular, minority groups have suffered discrimination in relation to political participation and access to national identity cards. Other violations that minority groups and indigenous people have suffered include: collective punishment; and violation of land rights and the right to development.

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