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Towards healing historical wounds

By | May 20th 2009

By Pravin Bowry

The wide-ranging statutory mandates of the envisaged court like Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) will give thousands of Kenyans a fair forum to resurrect historically dead incidents of violence, human rights abuses and other injustices.

Those who have wronged, the big and mighty, hitherto said to be untouchables, will be given an opportunity to repent and seek amnesty or face the law.

Unresolved murders

What is likely to be on the commission’s tearful and tragic journey into our country’s past?

As one who has lived through most of the historical happenings of the years in question and having been involved professionally in some of the historical events, I consider myself well qualified to gaze into the possible agenda of TJRC.

Unresolved murders most foul will first have to be investigated afresh. The list will be long, chilling and politically sensitive. To mention only a few, the murders of politicians Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya, J M Kariuki, Robert Ouko, tourist Julie Ward and rally driver Karanja inevitably will be on the list.

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There have been some unfair and farcical trials and families of famous Kenyans, for example George Anyona, Kihika Kimani, Francis Lotodo among others, will have reason to revisit their trials as will people like Mark Mwithaga and Koigi wa Wamwere.

Dark clouds surrounding the 1982 coup and Mwakenya trials will need to be cleared.

Detainees without trial will no doubt give evidence of the atrocities and Prime Minister Raila Odinga and other prominent Kenyans like Kenneth Matiba, Kamau Kuria, John Khaminwa and Rumba Kinuthia among others will seek redress.

Trial of the system

The amazing underlying reality to be looked into will be the conduct of lawyers all around the spectrum.

Over the last 45 years, the manner in which the justice machinery was and has been run by various Attorney Generals, prosecutors, magistrates and judges will put the whole legal system on trial. Was Justice of yesteryears a shield or a spear of high handed and convenient vengeance?

Then will come hundreds of multi-million financial scandals. Will there be truth about the Goldenberg and the Anglo- Leasing scandals at long last?

Land allocation processes through which the high and mighty now flourish, too, will be raised and this would include arbitrary allocations of prime lands on the best beaches in the country and fertile shambas of the wazungus in the Rift Valley.

Was Settlement Fund Trustees a scam of the highest magnitude? Forced acquisitions of properties of foreigners will also be discussed.

Rewriting history

Concerned Kenyans and their families will no doubt bring to light a litany of massacres under the tag of clashes, rigging of elections, post-election violence, police torture tactics such as Nyayo dungeons and extra-judicial killings.

Any realistic likelihood of history being re-written with truth and perpetrators of wrong doings brought to book will depend on the culprits — given the carrot of amnesty — and the victims washing their consciousness once and for all.

Assuming that there will be honest and upright commissioners, enough financial resources, diligent, hard working, able and impartial assisting counsels and defence lawyers prepared to bring the truth out, there is a ray of hope that through the commission’s work a better Kenya will emerge.

-The author {[email protected]} is a lawyer in Nairobi

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