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Probe military over torture, truth body told

BUSIA
By | July 14th 2011

By Lucas Ng’asike

The military operation to flush out members of the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) in Mt Elgon came under scrutiny as the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) wound up its sessions in Bungoma County, Wednesday.

Majority of the victims who appeared before the commission called for a probe into military activities in the area. Emotions ran high as victims displayed scars allegedly inflicted by military officers during torture ordeals at the infamous Kapkoto military camp near Cheptais.

Mr Moses Okoit moved the commissioners sitting at Christ the King Cathedral Hall in Bungoma town to tears as he narrated how he was arrested and taken to the military camp where he was tortured for days.

"I was ordered to remove my clothes before the officers beat me to force me to accept that I was a member of SLDF. I still suffer health complications as a result of the injuries and scars I received during the ordeal," said Okoit, as he removed his shirt to show the clearly visible scars on his back.

Salted wounds

"After beating us for hours and opening deep wounds on our bodies, blood would gush out only for military officers to rub salt into the same wounds. I can’t explain the amount of pain I felt during the period I was in the hands of the army men at Kapkoto," a sobbing Okoit said.

Another victim, Mary Nekesa Murakwa, emotionally recalled how, at the height of the Government crackdown against members of the outlawed February Eighteen Revolutionary Army in the mid-1990s, security officers raided her home in Lwandanyi in Sirisia constituency and killed all her children by hurling a grenade into their house.

"They came demanding to know where my husband was but he had already got wind of the impending arrest and fled. The security officers then threw a grenade into a house where my children were asleep and killed them," said a teary Nekesa as several commissioners broke down.

The victims said there wasn’t much they could do about the aggressors, most of who they knew well, but appealed to the commission to find ways of ensuring justice was done as well as compelling the Government to compensate them for the atrocities committed against them and their families.

Recommend prosecution

Commission chairperson Tecla Namachanja said although some victims had called for forgiveness and reconciliation, the commission would look into all cases independently and recommend fresh prosecutions in some cases.

She said the sessions had provided a much-needed forum for traumatised victims to open up and frankly talk about what transpired.

She, however, urged the Government and other stakeholders to initiate grassroots counselling sessions for the victims, saying that majority of them — especially women — were still traumatised by their experiences at the hands of both the security officers and SLDF militiamen.

The commissioners also received a memorandum from the Ogiek community complaining about the Government’s decision to resettle post-election violence victims at their expense, adding that their plight dated back to 1964 and should have been given first priority.

During the public hearings, the 1982 coup attempt was also revisited with former Kenya Air Force officers narrating how they saved the country from a bloodbath only for the Government to turn against them by instituting arrests and mass sackings.

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