A Comparative Study of Truth and Justice Commissions Within the Commonwealth: Lessons that Can Inform the Kenyan Process

43 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2011

Date Written: March 15, 2011


Generally understood to be "bodies set up to investigate a past history of violations of human rights in a particular country and which violations can include those by the military, other government forces or armed opposition forces, Truth Justice and reconciliation commissions a fast becoming a favorite in the world over in countries seeking to address past human rights violations and promote healing and reconciliation among their people. The period between 1974 and 2009 for example saw the establishment of 35 truth commissions in different countries around the world with quite a number of them being setup in African countries.

In Kenya, the journey leading to the establishment of a Truth Justice and Reconciliation commission gained full momentum after the coming to power of the NARC administration because it was felt that there was a need to address serious human rights violations that were blamed on the moi and Kenyatta regimes. The clamor led to the establishment of the Taskforce on the establishment of a Truth Justice and reconciliation commission on April 17th 2003.

This paper will begin with an examination of whether a Truth, Justice and reconciliation commission is really necessary and how it contributes to justice and accountability in a state. The paper will make a compare and establish the merits or otherwise of having a Truth Commission as opposed to just having ordinary prosecution of suspected perpetrators of human rights violations.

After examining whether there is a need for a truth commission, the paper will undertake a comparative study of truth commissions within the commonwealth while highlighting lessons from them that can inform the Kenya process. In doing this the paper will first enumerate the main features of the Kenyan Truth, Justice and reconciliation commission as provided for under the TJRC Act before proceeding to examine various other commissions such as the South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Sierra Leone Commission, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe.

Having looked at various Truth, Justice and Reconciliation commissions within the commonwealth, the paper will draw attention to key features of the commissions and compare them with the provisions in our TJRC Act and this will be followed by recommendations of how the Kenyan process can be improved to meet the standards of the best of the commissions and to avoid the pitfalls of the inadequately performing commissions.

Keywords: Kenya, TJRC, Truth, Justice, Reconcilliation, Commission, Commonwealth

Suggested Citation

Mbaaro, Stephen Thuku, A Comparative Study of Truth and Justice Commissions Within the Commonwealth: Lessons that Can Inform the Kenyan Process (March 15, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1786471 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1786471

Stephen Thuku Mbaaro (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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