Recent remarks by Deputy President William Ruto on the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission Report have confirmed our worst fears that the Uhuru Kenyatta Administration has, in fact, rejected it and will not bother addressing historical injustices.
Mr Ruto, speaking at a rally in Mariakani, Kilifi County, said that the Jubilee government would not implement the TJRC Report because it will divide Kenyans.
He said implementing the report would re-open old wounds.
He was responding to Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s statement that he would implement the report if elected.
Mr Odinga made the pledge at The Stanley Hotel, Nairobi, on July 13, when he addressed victims of historical injustices who had urged him to adopt their demands for reparations in his manifesto.
The DP’s comments are problematic for three reasons.
Firstly, they are a complete departure from the aspirations of the thousands of the victims who participated in the TJRC process.
The TJRC received more than 40,000 statements from Kenyans wanting to be heard.
To quote the TJRC, their report was “written with the blood, sweat and tears of the stories that were told to us [the TJRC] as we [they] travelled the country.
"The written word, no matter how poetic, cannot convey accurately the passion with which people demanded to tell their stories and the integrity and dignity with which they related their experiences.
It [the report] cannot convey the silence, the tears, and the emotions…the stories in these pages are horrid but they did happen, here in our land.
"In a nutshell, there has been, there is, suffering in the land”.
Mr Ruto spoke at the Coast; a region that has borne the brunt of violations and massacres, including the Likoni clashes where hundreds died, sexual violence, grabbing the land of indigenous people such as the Mijikenda by pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial regimes, marginalisation, and the extrajudicial killing of young Muslim men.
Many had yearned for the day the report would be adopted by Parliament and its recommendations implemented.
His comments obliterate this hope.
Thirdly, the remarks come hot on the heels of the death of the former chairman of the TJRC, Bethuel Kiplagat.
It is quite remarkable coming as the country mourns the peace maker, who hailed from the Rift Valley, a region that has borne the brunt of inequity in land distribution, ethnic violence, resulting in the deaths of thousands (1992, 1997 and 2007), sexual violence and massive forcible displacement of people.
Mr Kiplagat, albeit with difficulty, called on the State to implement the report’s recommendations.
Mr Ruto has trashed his life’s work – the TJRC Report.
The DP’s views are not entirely surprising.
The Jubilee Party Manifesto argues that the administration “closed the painful chapter in our history through the President’s apology for historical injustices and the resettlement of the internally displaced persons”.
Thousands continue to bear the impact of violations such as disability, HIV/Aids, post-traumatic stress disorder and poverty.
Mr Ruto is telling Kenyans that on matters of historical injustices – accept and move on.
Mr Ruto would do well to heed the advice of South African Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu that opening old wounds is vital to allow cleaning with potent medicine to enable healing and preventing infection.
At the seventh victims’ convention held on July 12 and 13, delegates from the northeast to the Coast, to western, central and the Rift Valley said they were not ready to “accept this callous proposition”.
They demanded the President acknowledge violations through implementation of the TJRC Report and setting up of a restorative justice fund.
Kenyans are demanding courageous leadership to deal with historical injustices so as to secure lasting peace.
Mr Gitari, who works at Head of Office, the International Centre For Transitional Justice (ICTJ), is advocate of the High Court. [email protected] The views of the author are not necessarily those of ICTJ.