Six years since the report of the defunct Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) was tabled in Parliament, MPs have yet to consider it.
For a report that MPs ought to have considered in 21 days after it was tabled in July 2013, the hope of it ever being discussed has flickered out.
The failure of the National Assembly to bring up for debate the TJRC report also means that the thousands of victims who gave their testimonies were just reduced to statistics, with no reparations coming their way.
But an MP now wants to go around Parliament’s inaction on the report and force her colleagues’ hands to pass a reparations legislation to provide for a mechanism through which the State can compensate victims of human rights abuses.
Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Boss Shollei is sponsoring the Kenya Reparations Bill 2019, which aims “to provide for the recognition and reparation of victims of human rights violations in Kenya arising from, but not limited to, the period covered by the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Report.”
According to the legislative proposal, “the Act shall apply to all victims during the period of December 12, 1963 to October 2, 2014.”
In the 2015 and 2019 State of the Nation addresses, President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke on reparations and promised to take action.
In 2015, President Kenyatta offered a government apology for all past wrongs and directed the establishment of a Sh10 billion fund to be used for restorative justice. “This will provide a measure of relief and will underscore my government’s goodwill,” said the President.
On April 4 this year, he reiterated the establishment of the fund “to heal the wounds of historical grievances, which have long poisoned our politics and strained communal relations.”
However, steps towards realising the President’s promises have not been put in place and there is no way of confirming if indeed the Sh10 billion has been allocated.
In the proposed legislation, the Uasin Gishu woman rep is proposing the establishment of a time-bound Reparation Claims Commission (RCC) to lead in investigating reparation claims and compensation of victims.
“This commission is to achieve its objectives within two years but there is an option of extending its term by a year,” Ms Shollei says in the Memorandum of Objects and Reasons of the Bill.
If this proposal becomes law, any person who has a human rights violation claim will be free to approach the RCC with an application accompanied by a sworn affidavit.
Upon concluding the commission’s hearings on the claims received, RCC will have 30 days to publish in the Kenya Gazette and two daily newspapers with countrywide circulation, the names of victims with legitimate claims and the amount to be awarded to each.
“The commission shall thereafter compensate the victims within a period of 90 days from the date of publication,” the Bill states.
The Bill also proposes the establishment of a Human Rights Violations Memorial Committee comprising the chairperson of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), chairperson of Kenya National Museums of Kenya, chairperson of the Kenya National Library and two other members of the RCC.
The committee will be charged with establishing and preserving memorial museums in honour of the victims.
Ms Shollei’s proposal has been welcomed by human rights activists, among them Ms Agnes Odhiambo, a senior researcher, Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, who called on Parliament to “move with speed to finalise the reparations Bill.”
“Despite a commitment by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2015 to establish a fund of Sh10 billion to help victims of past injustices, including victims of the 2007 political violence, survivors of rape have not received any compensation,” said Ms Odhiambo.
But enacting the proposed legislation will not be a walk in the park.
This is the second time Ms Shollei is bringing up this Bill after it flopped in 2017, with the main stumbling block being the National Treasury, which had opposed the Bill on grounds that the proposed RCC was taking the powers of KNCHR.
In a letter to the National Assembly Budget Appropriation Committee chairperson Kimani Ichung’wa, Ms Shollei argues there already exists a Reparation Fund as ordered by the President.
“The proposed Reparations Bill is providing a legal framework for the monitoring and application of already existing funds. In this case, these funds will be utilised by both the committee and the commission,” she says.