Afraid of the truth? Why TJRC report is a political hot potato

Former Kenya Air Force servicemen display their discharge certificates in Kisumu on June 22, 2017. They were dismissed from the service because of the attempted 1982 coup and are calling on the government to implement the TJRC report's recommendation that they be compensated. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Some politicians, mainly from the National Super Alliance, say the best way to honour former Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Chairman Bethuel Kiplagat is by executing its recommendations.
  • The debate has in recent days been stirred by Deputy President William Ruto after he said they will not be implemented.

Only on Saturday he was laid to rest in peace. However, some politicians and human rights crusaders will not let findings of the Bethuel Kiplagatled Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to similarly be “laid to rest”.

In fact, some, mainly from the National Super Alliance, now hold that the best way of honouring the late top Kenyan diplomat is by executing recommendations of the TJRC — one of Kiplagat’s last major assignments.

“It is unfair, even to the former TJRC boss, who has joined his Maker before witnessing execution of his product, which has been gathering dust over the last four years since being handed over to President Uhuru (Kenyatta),” says ODM Director of Elections Junet Mohamed.

The debate has in recent days been stirred by Deputy President William Ruto after he said the recommendations of the report will not be implemented.


Mr Aden Duale, the Majority Leader in the National Assembly, told the Nation the renewed interest in the TJRC report is a mere campaign gimmick to gain political mileage among the traditionally marginalised communities.

Indeed, Dr Adams Oloo, a member of Nasa’s think-tank, concurs the TJRC matter is highly politicised. Claiming that Jubilee is Kanu reincarnate, Dr Oloo explains the administration is reluctant to address the issue of historical injustices because its leaders may be beneficiaries of the prejudices and most of the injustices were committed by former political bosses and mentors or relatives of those currently in power.

The political scientist maps out regions in the so-called Jubilee strongholds as main beneficiaries of the injustices, while those in the perceived Nasa strongholds as victims of the historical biases: “For Jubilee, implementing this report therefore amounts to a dog eating its own puppies, while to Nasa failure to execute the TJRC proposals amounts to a dog abandoning its puppies.”

Historian Prof Macharia Munene equally points out that Nasa leaders are pushing through the TJRC case as an election agenda, “courtesy of the assumption the report has nasty details on President Kenyatta and his Jubilee brigade”.


“While the TJRC is a fairly good product that needs to be implemented for the general public good, by openly playing politics on this document while on the campaign trail, it will lose value. In fact people are already seeing through Nasa’s scheme,” says Munene.

ODM presidential candidate Raila Odinga has in particular led opposition colleagues in condemning President Kenyatta’s administration for failing to implement the report, which touches on historical injustices meted out on Kenyans – individually or as communities – by successive governments since 1963.

The move has caused considerable unease within Jubilee, with President Kenyatta specifically accusing Mr Odinga of playing divisive politics. And speaking last week while on a campaign trail at the coastal region, Mr Ruto was more plain. He ruled out the possibility of implementing the report, warning that doing so would open old wounds that were in the process of healing.

The TJRC was established in the wake of the bloody 2007/2008 Post-Election Violence, as part of the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR) process, under the stewardship of chief peace negotiator, former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan.


Kenya’s National Assembly accordingly enacted the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Act on October 23, 2008, which came into effect on March 17, 2009. The broad mandate of the Kiplagat-led commission was to inquire into gross violation of human rights and historical injustices that occurred in Kenya from independence on December 12, 1963 to February 28 2008, when the Grand Coalition Government agreement was signed to end the worst political violence in Kenya’s history.

Amid a host of challenges, including a legal suit over the suitability of Kiplagat — who was compelled to stay out of the team’s sittings for 16 months — TJRC eventually succeeded to hand over a watered down document to President Kenyatta in May 2013. However, three out of its eight commissioners — Gertrude Chawatama (Zambia), Prof Ron Slye (United States) and Berhanu Dinka (Ethiopia) — declined to append their signatures to the report, on account that sensitive portions of the document, especially touching on the land issue, were doctored.


Except for making a public apology to Kenyans on behalf of his government and of previous administrations, as recommended by TJRC, the President has apparently not honoured most recommendations. In March last year, however, he announced the government would set aside Sh10 billion as reparations to victims.

“We have no idea where that money is, who is spending it and for what purposes. Yet the deputy president now maintains this report shall not be implemented soon,” says ODM’s Mr Mohammed.

Jubilee Party vice-chairman David Murathe maintains “all is well” and the report will be implemented gradually and appropriately.

“There is absolutely no hurry of doing so now, as this will only raise political temperatures unnecessarily. We are not in the business of settling scores like rivals and we are therefore not about to inflame passions when the political atmosphere is already charged,” Mr Murathe told the Nation.


The ODM elections boss, on his part, attributes the current misunderstanding between Jubilee and Nasa to the government’s attitude of glossing over past injustices.

But it is on this very account — of perceived obsession with the past — that Jubilee finds fault in their opponents. Unlike Jubilee, which Mr Murathe says is focused on taking the country forward, the former Gatanga MP likens Nasa to a dangerous driver, whose focus is on the rear mirror and not the road ahead.

That the TJRC question is now shaping the campaign agenda on its homestretch is not in doubt. In his recent campaign utterances, Mr Odinga has accused the Jubilee administration of failing to act on those behind the Wagalla massacre of ethnic Somalis by security agents in February 1984 as well as those affected by historical injustices in marginalised communities in Turkana, Samburu, Marsabit, Kajiado, Narok counties and the coastal region.


Last Tuesday, DP Ruto also weighed in on the TJRC debate while campaigning in Mombasa. He said the Nasa leadership was taking the country back to the yesteryears with regard to property ownership. Blaming the opposition for its sustained messaging about “my and our land/home”, the DP maintained that Kenyans presently are united and free to reside and own property anywhere.

Nonetheless the bone of contention, argues Dr Oloo, has got to do with “what was previously yours”.

“How was it or has it been taken from you? How did the new property owner acquire it? Through use of state force, coercion or by taking advantage of a people’s ignorance and dead economy — ownership of valueless property thereby forcing them to dispose of it at throw-away prices?”


In the meantime, Wajir South MP Abdulahi Diriye blames failure of the report’s implementation on its politicisation. The current administration, he argues, must be afraid the document will open up a Pandora’s box on a chain of intriguing land cases and other injustices to the disadvantage of the leaders.

However, Mr Murathe defends the Executive from blame over implementation of the report. According to the former legislator, the matter falls squarely in the hands of legislators, both from Jubilee and the opposition, who have failed to table the report and act on it.

Mr Duale, who doubles up as Leader of Government Business in the House, says that the matter is currently being handled by Attorney-General Githu Muigai. According to the Garissa Town MP, the AG, as the chief legal adviser to the Executive, is supposed to create a standing committee that will oversee implementation of the compensation of the individual Kenyans who were affected as per the report of TJRC.

Addressing historical injustices is one of the key pillars of Nasa’s manifestos.