Ethnic violence, often over conflicts of land, has plagued Kenya since before independence from Britain in 1963. Gross human rights violations have resulted in thousands of deaths and the displacement of over a million people. Kenya considered a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) in 2002, but did not pass legislation to establish a commission until after 2008, after repeated ethnic violence and the formation of the National Peace Accord.
This presentation explores truth and reconciliation commissions as a means of lessening ethnic tension, preventing future outbreaks of violence, and beginning the complex reconciliation and peace-building process in Kenya. I compare Kenya’s TRC with the TRCs in Guatemala, Argentina, and South Africa to argue that the Kenyan model as passed lacks public involvement in the process, includes vague and imprecise terminology, lacks witness and victim protection, and supports an insufficient implementation of recommendations following the conclusion of the commission.
Ultimately, I conclude that, without changes, the truth commission model as it stands in Kenya will not cultivate peace or reconciliation. I contend that a truth commission can be a viable first step toward peace in Kenya only if it is accompanied by the implementation of a process of dialogue. The conclusion of an effective truth commission and the development of long-term dialogue and healing groups between ethnic groups, the state, and non-state actors, I argue, will ultimately reduce ethnic tension, prevent future violence, and start to build a more peaceful society in Kenya.
Brittany Atchison, ’10 Northfield, MN
Majors: Politics, Ethnic Studies
Sponsor: David Yamanishi