Kenya: Future truth commission could face controversy over Moi

NAIROBI, 16 May (IRIN) - A government-appointed Task Force on a possible Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Kenya is likely to face controversy over former president Daniel arap Moi, says Task Force chairman Professor Makau Mutua.
"I think there are strong currents in the country that suggest perhaps that the former president Mr Daniel arap Moi, if he is implicated, should be treated somewhat differently as a former head of state," said Makau, a lawyer and head of the Kenya Human Rights Commission.

"Kenyans do not want to set a precedent in which the former president is, as it were, undressed in public," he told IRIN. "But there are equally strong feelings on the other side that the violations of the last 24 years could not have been committed without his knowledge and perhaps even his participation."

Kenyan Justice Minister Kiraitu Murungi launched the Task Force last weekend, to seek views on whether Kenya should have a Truth Commission and, if so, how it should work. The Task Force has 18 members, including men, women, lawyers, academics, religious leaders, Moslems, Christians, members of the former KANU regime and victims of alleged human rights abuses. It is due to submit its recommendations to the government by the end of August.

Makau believes Kenyans want such a commission. He says the question therefore is how it should work.

The anti-corruption NGO, Transparency International, has been active in seeking redress for economic crimes in Kenya. It has also been facilitating the debate on a possible Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

"We conducted a survey in October last year which we never published because we found the results fairly explosive," says TI Kenya's Deputy Director Mwalimu Mati.

"We found that Kenyans speak very eloquently about political assassinations, land clashes, economic crimes, grand corruption. And Kenyans certainly do not want any blanket amnesty or policies of forgive-and-move-on. What they want is some new institutions to be created, and I think a Truth Commission would be one of those."

Makau added that another controversial issue facing the Task Force would be the composition of any future commission. He said the commission should be careful not to be perceived as either a "witch hunt" or a "whitewash".

He also said the Task Force must also look carefully at the historical period to be covered.

"There are those who feel that we should include the Mau Mau period of the independence struggle and the atrocities committed by the British," he said. "That issue may not divide the Task Force. I think that probably we will arrive at the conclusion that we should look at the post-colonial period."


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