Tutu commends Kenyans for confronting ‘painful’ past

Published October 1, 2003

Former South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu has commended Kenya’s attempt to confront its “painful” past through a truth commission, following the ousting of a decades-long government in elections last December. “ You have made a wonderful beginning. There is no question that with your will, commitment, and prayer, you will succeed,” said Archbishop Tutu, who chaired the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission that investigated the apartheid era and who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. “ But you should tread carefully and sensitively given the ethnic differences in your country,” cautioned the archbishop in his inaugural address at an international conference in Nairobi on truth commissions that took place in August. The conference, attended by world renowned professors, judges, members from other truth and reconciliation commissions, and human rights activists, was convened by a task force looking into the establishment in Kenya of a truth, justice and reconciliation commission. The task force was set up following last December’s elections that defeated the ruling Kenya African National Union party, which had been in power for 40 years and had faced allegations of corruption and human rights abuses. “ We need to establish a commission to reconcile with each other so that we can find a way forward,” Gideon Ireri, Anglican bishop of Mbeere told ENI. Speakers insisted such a commission would not be a witch hunt, but would seek fairness. Kenya’s minister for constitutional affairs, Kiraitu Murungi, told the conference that mechanisms such as truth commissions, known as transitional justice, were inescapable for countries emerging from decades of misrule. “ We must develop an agenda for transitional justice in Kenya, in which corruption and human rights abuses are ended,” Mr. Murungi told the conference. “The past must be confronted and impunity banished. The truth must be known, perpetrators must be called to account, and victims must be recognized and provided with redress.”


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