It was over a week ago that the Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC) published a report entitled ‘Lest We Forget: The Faces of Impunity in Kenya’. It has been not been due to laxness on the part of The Forum that we have not raised the subject before but rather a keenness to think through the implications of the KHRC’s report before commenting.
There is much that is laudable in the spirit behind the report and in much of its content but there is also much to be concerned at, particularly in the context of post-new constitution Kenya. So over the next three or four days The Forum hopes to address some of the issues that arise from its publication.
KENYAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – ‘LEST WE FORGET: THE FACES OF IMPUNITY IN KENYA’
The KHRC, or rather the leading figures involved with it, know a thing or two about publicity so it was no surprise that the newspapers on Thursday, August 25, carried full reports supported by colour photographs of the launch of the NGO’s publication ‘Lest We Forget: The faces of Impunity in Kenya’.
‘10 ministers named on new impunity list’ ran the headline in The Star: ‘Ministers named in list of shame’ was the headline on the back page of The Nation; and ‘KHRC wants inquiry reports implemented’ the offering on page 4 of The Standard, with the sub-headline, ‘Commission wants current and former Cabinet ministers, and MPs probed over alleged violation of human rights’.
Illustrating each report was a photograph of the press conference at which the report was launched, featuring some of the great and the good of civil society, or the usual faces, depending on your point of view. There was KHRC executive director Atsango Chesoni and vice chair Betty Murungi. There too was KHRC programmes’ officer Tom Kagwe, and, almost inevitably, former Constitution of Kenya Review Commission Chairman, Professor Yash Pal Ghai.,
For good measure Yash Pal Ghai authored a near full page article on the same subject and on the same day in The Star (of which more later). In it he described what he called the KHRC’s ‘interesting methodology’ in creating the report, ‘namely by mining existing, official reports’ to pull together ‘a considerable amount of evidence’ against the ‘perpetrators’ of corruption, human rights violations and ‘impunity’.
The ‘previous reports’ that KHRC’s Lest We Forget is based on include reports by The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, the Akiwumi and Kiliku on post-election and tribal violence; Troon’s Final Report and the Gor Sunguh Committee report on the murder of Dr Robert Ouko; the Parliamentary Committee report on the murder of JM Kariuku; the Triton Audit Report on the oil scandal; the Kroll Report on the Anglo-Leasing scandal; and the Ndungu’u Commission Report into the ‘Illegal and Irregular Allocation of Public Land’.
226 individuals are named in Lest We Forget, including 10 cabinet ministers, MPs, senior police officers, military officers, ‘political activists’ and diplomats: some serving, some not, some living and some no longer, and all alleged to have been involved in wrong-doing by the KHRC.
According to The Star the KHRC’s programme officer Tom Kagwe and executive director Atsango Chesoni said (so apparently they both said it) that in keeping with the new constitution “not anyone of the mentioned individuals is supposed to hold public office”. The report recommended “thorough investigations on the culpability of the alleged perpetrators” and that “In addition they should be subjected to the retributive and reparative measures that their violations or crimes demand”. And, according to The Standard, ‘the KHRC warned that it would sue the Government if it fails to make the reports public alleging that some of the reports are being withheld by the Executive or Parliament to protect vested interests’.
The publication of the KHRC’s report Lest We Forget: The Faces of Impunity in Kenya is in many respects to be welcomed. Injustices need to be rectified, the guilty punished and Kenya set on a path that consigns such behaviour to the dustbin of our country’s history. If the Lest We Forget report helps in achieving this then all well and good but The Forum has many concerns about its content, omissions, methodology and the spirit and reasons that in part we fear lie behind it publication. It is these concerns that we will address over the next few days.