Kenya's churches hope new commission will shed truth on past abuses

February 11, 2003

At the urging of Kenya's churches, the government is establishing a truth commission to deal with alleged corruption and human rights abuses committed under the previous government, voted out of office in December last year. Church leaders said the commission, prompted by a similar commission in South Africa, was long overdue.

'Kenyans ... are anxious to know the truth,' said Canon Peter Machira of St Mark's Anglican Church, Nairobi. Church leaders want the commission to address past tribal clashes, illegal land allocations, unresolved deaths of clergy and politicians, and general corruption, which a government report last week said had cost the country US$1.6 billion between 1990 and 1999.

The setting-up of the commission was announced by Kiraitu Murungi, the new justice and constitutional affairs minister, at the swearing-in of the new cabinet after the elections in December. 'We have learned a lot from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa and other commissions in Latin America,' Murungi said in announcing the commission.

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, spent almost three years examining gross human rights violations committed in the apartheid era. It was empowered to grant amnesty to those who admitted their crimes.

Murungi said last week that Kenya's commission would hear testimony from victims of abuse and perpetrators.

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