TJRC Report and the Burden of History: Prospects for healing and nation buidling

  1. What are the conditions necessary for successful reconciliation and national healing?
  2. How can the state effectively and satisfactorily compensate victims of historical injustices in Kenya


1.     The Wagalla Massacre, that took place between 10th and 14th February 1984 in Wajir District, is among one of Kenya’s greatest historical injustices.  

2.     Unlike other community level conflicts in Kenya that have often involved inter-community violence, Wagalla was a case of direct state violence against its citizens.

3.     The violence was perpetrated by security forces, said to have been acting on information that members of the Degodia clan had accumulated weapons to attack members of the Ajuran clan.

4.     Men of the Degodia clan were rounded up in Wagalla Airstrip, detained without food or water in the sun-baked airstrip.  Some of the men died from heat exhaustion and a number of those that tried to escape were shot dead.

5.     In the town, women of the Degodia community were tortured and raped,  their homes burnt as security forces ‘searched’ for hidden weapons.

6.     The exact number of fatalities of the Massacre remains unknown. Official government reports indicate that 57 people died from the Wagalla Massacre.  The Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commision (TJRC) states that this is a gross under-estimation, saying that the deaths could have been more than 1,000. Eye witness reports on the other hand indicate that up to 5,000 people died.

7.     After Wagalla, there have been at least 12 other massacres.  Collectively and based on official records the total number of deaths be over 3,000.  These massacres include:








Wagalla Massacre

February 10, 1984

Wajir District, North Eastern Kenya

Conflict between the Ajuran and Degodia communities in Wajir resulted in approximately 1,000 deaths.


Lotirir Massacre

between 22 February and 22 May 1984

West Pokot

A security operation conducted in West Pokot District by the Kenyan security agents (mainly the Kenya Army) resulted in civilian deaths, more than 20,000 animals died, and gross violations of human rights, including torture, and sexual violence.


Loiteteliet Massacre

April 28, 1988


290 people killed after raiders believed to be from the Toposa community of South Sudan and the Nyangatom of Ethiopia staged a raid on the Turkana


Murkutwa Massacre

March 12, 2001

Marakwet District, Rift Valley

51 people killed after armed bandits from Pokot raided the area.


Turbi and Bubisa Massacre

July 12, 2005

Near Marsabit

95 deaths (including 12 children).  Preceding the Turbi and Bubisa Massacres were numerous resource-based conflicts between the Borana and Gabbra communities.


2008 Post-election violence

January 2008

Rift Valley, Nakuru, Kisumu and Nairobi

1133 people killed following disputed election results


Mathira Massacre

April 21, 2009

Mathari District, Central Kenya

29 people were killed following attacks by Mungiki.


Tana River District Clashes

August 22, 2012

Tana River District

52 people were killed during ethnic clashes between the Orma and Pokomo people.


Baragoi Clashes

November 2012

Samburu County, Nothern Kenya

46 people including 40 police officers killed as a result of ethnic clashes between Samburu and Turkana communities.


Westgate terrorist attack

September 2013


67 people killed in a terrorist attack linked to Alshabab


Mpeketoni attack

June to July 2014

Lamu, Coastal Kenya

More than 100 people killed between June and July 2014


Kapedo attack

November 2014

Turkana County

21 administration police officers killed


Mandera attack

November 2014

Mandera County

64 people killed


8.     The main communities that have been affected by these massacres include: Somali, Pokot, Gabbra, Oromo, Pokomo, Ajuran, Degodia, Turkana, Samburu, Luo, Kalenjin, Kikuyu, Sakuye and Borana.

9.     The recommendation to establish a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) no later than June 2004 was made by the Makau Mutua Taskforce in August 2003.  The TJRC would investigate political assassinations and killings; massacres and possible genocides; political violence and murder of democracy advocates; torture, exile, disappearances, detention and persecution of opponents; politically instigated ethnic clashes; and violations of economic, social and cultural rights.  The Task Force also recommended the formation of a committee of eminent Kenyans to investigate colonial era violations and seek redress from the British government.  Collectively, these were referred to as historical injustices.

10.  The TJRC was not set up in 2004 as recommended, and the debate resumed in 2008 after the post-election violence.  The objective of the TJRC as established by the TJRC Act (2009) was to promote peace, national unity, healing, and reconciliation among the people of Kenya by:

i.               Establishing an accurate, complete and historical record of violations and abuses of human rights and economic rights inflicted on persons by the state, public institutions and holders of office, both serving and retired, between December 12, 1963 and February 2008, including the antecedents, circumstances, factors and context of such violations.

ii.             Establish a complete picture as possible of the causes, nature and extent of the gross violations.

iii.           Investigate gross human rights violations and violations of international human rights laws and abuses which occurred.

iv.            Recommend the prosecution of perpetrators of human rights violations.

v.              Determine ways and means of redress for victims

vi.            Facilitate the granting of conditional amnesty to persons who make full disclosure.

vii.          Provide victims, perpetrators and the general public with a platform for non-retributive truth-telling.

viii.        Provide victims with a forum to be heard and restore their dignity.

ix.            Provide repentant perpetrators or participants with a forum to confess their actions as a way of bringing reconciliation and

x.              Compile a report providing as comprehensive as possible of the activities and findings of the commission. 

11.  By the end of 2012, the TJRC had collected 40,098 statements and 1,529 memoranda from individuals and communities across the country.  This is the highest number of statements and memoranda collected by any truth commission anywhere in the world.  The TJRC had also held public or private hearings with 696 witnesses from across the country.

12.  While the TJRC was viewed as a promising approach to help Kenya to face and deal with its troubled past, and move forward, the timing and politicisation of the process posed as a hindrance to this realisation.  One of the effects of forming the TJRC after the 2007/2008 post-election violence is that it shifted focus from the broader human rights violations committed between 1963 and 2002, to human rights violations linked to PEV.

13.  In order to move from the burden of historical injustices and liberate Kenya to a new state as a nation, both the Government and citizens must: 1) Proactively develop strategies for community and national healing; 2) Actively ensure non-occurrence of similar events, and; 3) Compensate individuals and communities that have been directly affected.

14.  In the words of our national anthem “Let all with one accord, in common bond united, build this nation together”.


Conditions necessary for successful reconciliation and national healing?

1.     Legislative Reform: Given that the TJRC report now lies at the mercy of parliament, its important that parliamentarians don’t interfere with the contents of the report. Instead call Parliament should adopt the report as it is and implement all its recommendations.

2.     Political will: Reconciliation and national healing is a sensitive exercise that if badly managed could further widen the chasm in a already politically-fractured nation. Lack of political will erodes a ‘just’ reconciliation process where victims feel a genuine sense of satisfaction over the claimed entitlements. Political will is essential in the quest for a genuine reconciliation process.

3.     Transformative and restorative justice: The fundamental principle here is justice requires that different categories of people work together to restore those who have been injured and those who have been directly involved and affected. In light of this, the Government should create and secure a just public order where communities can build, nurture and maintain a just peace. Such collaborative encounters would create opportunities for victims/survivors , offenders and community members to discuss their personal experiences of atrocities and their impact and opportunities for meaningful contribution in their lives.

4.     Civil society engagement: Empirical evidence shows that where reconciliation agreements are exclusively negotiated by political elites, human rights issues tend to be drafted in general terms. The Government should take advantage of the civil society’s access to communities at the grass root level and use this advantage in collecting public opinion on how best reconciliation should be implemented at the community level. In addition civil society organisations can paly a vital role in monitoring the implementation of the reconciliation and healing process.

5.     Consensus building: The Government, human rights organisations and other interest groups should work together in addressing tensions between worrying groups or in addressing security challenges. The process must be devoid of partisanship or side-lining and instead involve all parties to the dispute. Reconciliation should exhibit political tolerance.

6.     Education for national healing and reconciliation: There’s need to educate the mass particularly kids at the primary and secondary school level about the experiences of trauma and grief as well as their extent and effect on women, men, children, the elderly and the disabled. There’s also need for re-education on how communities that have experienced violent conflicts can coexist in peace and harmony. Education programmes should be linked to trauma healing and reconciliation.

7.     Counselling for trauma and grief: There should be availability of counselling services to help people deal with their experiences of trauma and grief.

8.     Memorialisation and ritualization: Memorialisation of the past is important. This would require physical reminders in the form of monuments, ceremonies, memorials or other ritual occasions aimed at contributing to the acknowledgement of previous wrong doings. Museums can be used as sites for community gathering, commemoration, cultural celebration as well as educational activities


How the state best compensate victims of historical injustices

1.     Restitution of land including conversion of public land into community land when feasible and appropriate.

2.     Resettlement and or access to alternative community land

3.     Compensation, monetary where feasible

4.     Benefit sharing schemes related to land on which development has taken place

5.     Enactment of policies that target the socio-economic development of historically marginalised areas in Kenya

6.     The Government can consider building efficient road networks, boreholes, water-catchment systems, hospitals, schools and to ensure all government facilities are within reach of all communities.


1.     TJRC Report Vol 4

2.     TJRC Extract on the Wagalla Massacre



Wachira G., with P. Kamungi & K. Sillah (2014), Stretching the Truth: The uncertain promise of TRCs in Africa’s Transitional Justice, Nairobi Peace Initiative – Africa and West African Network for Peace Building.

Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (2013), Report of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, Kenya: Nairobi.

Kenya Transitional Justice Network (2013), Summary: Report of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, Kenya: Nairobi.