Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya. Photo: EPA

Kenya's truth commission blames new president for violence

Kenyatta and his deputy named among the main suspects for killings and rights violations that wracked the country after the 2007 election


A long-awaited Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission report named the Kenyan president and his deputy as among those suspected of planning and financing the country's 2007-08 post-election violence, in which more than 1,000 people died and 600,000 lost their homes.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto face trial at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity charges related to the violence, but local attempts to prosecute the two have never taken off. The commission didn't recommend local prosecution for the two, and pointed out that they already faced ICC action.

Kenyatta's family members, especially his father, founding president Jomo Kenyatta, are named in the report as having presided over a government responsible for numerous human rights violations and illegal allocation of land.

The government-funded report, years in the making and released late on Tuesday, finds that Kenya's second and third presidents, Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki, headed governments responsible for massacres, economic crimes and grand corruption, among other violations.

Kenyatta, who received the report late on Tuesday, said the government would take the recommendations seriously.

Kenya's state security agencies, particularly the police and army, have been the main perpetrators of rights violations, including massacres, enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence, the report said.

The commission said that during the period it was mandated to investigate - from December 12, 1963 to February 2008 - the state adopted economic and other policies that resulted in the economic marginalisation of five key regions in the country.

Women, girls and minority groups have subjected to state-sanctioned, systematic discrimination in all spheres of their life, it said. And despite the special status accorded to children in Kenyan society, they have been subjected to killings, physical assault and sexual violence.

The report recommended that parliament sets up a legal infrastructure to help victims of historical injustices obtain reparations, including financial compensation, public apologies and memorialisation.

The commission was formed from a wider effort to establish the truth behind violations that are partly blamed for the 2007-08 violence, which was sparked by a dispute over the December 2007 presidential election.

A 2008 government commission found historical injustices such as unequal land distribution were also partly responsible. The new report reinforced those findings, saying that grievances over land constitute the single most important driver of conflicts and ethnic tension in Kenya.

The land issue remains divisive - commissioners were split about changes made in the land chapter of the report before it was presented to the president.

University of Seattle Professor Ronald Slye, one of three international commissioners on the commission, said he declined to sign the chapter because he did not approve of the changes. Another, judge Gertrude Chawatama from Zambia, also did not sign the chapter on land.

Kenyan media reported that the commission had been under pressure from powerful individuals to edit out sections of the report implicating certain people in illegal land allocations.

The report said that between 1964 and 1966 one-sixth of European settlers' lands that were intended for settlement of landless Africans was sold cheaply to Jomo Kenyatta and his wife Ngina, his children, and others.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Panel blames president for havoc