Shifta war survivors tell of military torture ordeal

Thursday May 12 2011

By Nation Correspondent

Emotions ran high in Garbatulla on Thursday as torture survivors recounted the ordeal meted on them by the Army during the Shifta uprising.

The Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) visited mass graves in Garbatulla, where more than 2,700 victims were buried after they were massacred by brutal army officers in Garbatulla in 1967.

Torture victims wept at one of the four mass graves as they recalled the events of September 6, 1967 when the military unleashed terror at a concentration camp.

Mzee Gobo Guyo said his family was uprooted from Kinna settlement and put in concentration camp where his father and other 400 men were killed at Mtaiboto.

“In Garbatulla today there are more people in these mass graves than those living in this town. Most of the graves had between six to eight people,” said Mzee Guyo.

He narrated how officers locked all the four gates of the camp and turned on hungry and weak captives with clubs and metal bars.

He said several women and children, who could not escape to a rocky hill in the camp, died in a stampede.

Responding to the truth team’s inquiry whether setting up the concentration camp in Garbatulla was a government policy or military tactic, Garbatulla DC Joseph Onyango said the information on the 1967 massacre in the district was scanty and the details he gathered were verbal accounts from elders.

The commission heard that poverty in the district was due to the decision to hold residents in concentration camps.

Then area MP Adam Wako Bonaya was detained by the Kenyatta administration when he raised the issue in Parliament.