Victims and survivors of human rights violation demand for immediate justice

Survivors and victims of gross human rights violation listen to testimonies during commemoration of International Day of the Right to the Truth in Nairobi.Picture:Henry Owino
Survivors and victims of gross human rights violation listen to testimonies during commemoration of International Day of the Right to the Truth in Nairobi.Picture:Henry Owino

Thousands of individuals and communities across the nation have suffered numerous human rights violations unleashed to them by government agencies.

Most are still waiting for justice to be done while a few have been compensated.

These victims and survivors across the country suffered cruel inhumane treatment in the hands of government agencies in the past regimes. The sufferings include torture, detention without trial, rape, forceful displacement, massacres, and political assassinations among others.

Relatives and survivors are now seeking for reparation from the current government of these historical political repressions. The survivors narrated harrowing stories to the public of what they have gone through.

The narrations left gatherings with disturbing thoughts and disbelief while some could not hold back tears.  Many of survivors are widows, daughters, sons, husbands and relatives whose families are going through tough times and challenges.

These shocking and disturbing remarks were made during the International Day for the Right to the Truth about Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims marked on March 24.

According to Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), these gross human rights violations were committed in Kenya between Independence Day, December 12, 1963 and February 28, 2008.

The inquiry into the truth concerning gross human rights violations was carried out by TJRC between August 2008 and May 2013. The TJRC looked at the nature, causes and extent of violations in order to determine ways to redress victims and restore their dignity.

Over 40,000 victims across the country recorded statements with the TJRC on varied forms of gross human rights violations committed between the said period. They include political assassinations, massacres, enforced disappearances, unlawful detention, torture, sexual violence, economic marginalisation, discrimination of minority groups, violations of economic and social rights, economic crimes and grand corruption.

The TJRC Report established that these violations were mostly perpetuated under the disguise of protecting state security as well as political, land and resource related conflicts mainly involving state and security agencies. Consequently, it has caused ongoing, long-lasting and devastating physical, psychological, political and socio-economic effects on individuals, their families and communities.

According to Miriam Letemeiyan, a widow and victim of Wagalla massacre from Wajir County, North Eastern region, the Truth Commission report offered an opportunity but it remained squandered. She argued that the Government is not committed to act almost five years after it received the report.

“My husband was killed by security forces in the guise of security operation to disarm the area residents. Before the execution together with other men, they were detained for five days without access to water and food in a cold airstrip,” Letemeiyan recalled in tears.

“To make matters worse, people who afflicted the pain in us and caused the atrocities to the community are unpunished and at large. It is really inhumane that I am languishing in poverty and unable to educate my children because of this government,” Letemeiyan said.

She argued that some victims and survivors had been compensated and their dignity at partially restored. Unfortunately, no one in Wajir County has benefited making residents bitter and linking their exclusion to discrimination based on ethnicity.

Bishar Ismail, chairman of Wagalla Massacre Foundation also blamed the government for taking too long to act on the TJRC report long after its findings were debated and made public.

“Recommendations by TJRC remain a cause for anxiety and concern among victims of gross human rights violations, their families, communities and the nation at large,” Ismail stated. He added: “It must not always wait for electioneering year while it is their right to be compensated.”

Ismail said this has led to lack of national and public trust in political and governance institutions.

He noted that the continued delay by the state in implementing the TJRC report denies the country the opportunity to understand and address root causes of historical injustices and gross human rights violations. HE said: “This situation makes the Kenyan society susceptible to continued cycles of violence and gross human rights violations.”

According to Kagwira Mbogoria, chairperson, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), international law recognises the rights of victims and survivors of serious violations of their human rights.

She noted that unfortunately, those at the forefront of defending human rights have not been spared either with rising cases of human rights defenders being attacked.

Said Mbogoria: “Every time cases of torture and inhumane treatment of people are reported in our country, we all share and carry the pain.”

She noted that the Commission stands for the right to truth because it brings out root causes of problems, generates true reconciliation and healing, restores dignity and informs institutional reforms.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, former South African President and human rights crusader:  ‘Only the truth can put the past to rest’”.

“So as a Commission, we acknowledge the fact that truth precedes justice and that is the best we can do. Consequently societies and individuals are entitled to know the truth about mass human rights violations,” Mbogoria reiterated.

Attorney General Githu Muigai defended the government on the delay claiming President Uhuru Kenyatta received the TJRC report on May 2013 and tabled it in the National Assembly in July 2013. The National Assembly subsequently amended Section 48 of the TJRC Act in December 2013 requiring that the TJRC report be tabled in Parliament “for consideration” and only then can the implementation of the report commence. However, the National Assembly has neither considered nor acted on the report of the TJRC.

“Despite calls by President Kenyatta in March 2015 and petition by National Victims and Survivors Network (NVSN) in November 2015 urging Parliament to prioritize debate on TJRC report, nothing has been done,” he said.

The Attorney General said a KSh10 billion fund was unveiled by the president as he apologized to victims of gross violations committed by the past three regimes in his state of the nation address in March 2015.

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