Putting the J into the TRC: Kenya's Truth Commission
Forthcoming in Twenty Years On: Other Ways of Being and the South African Truth Reconciliation Commission, Mia Swart and Karin van Marie eds. (Koninklijke Brill Publishing)
33 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2017
Date Written: March 8, 2017
This article explores the influence of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the creation and operation of the Kenyan Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission. Notwithstanding its contested legacy within South Africa, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission has generally been viewed throughout the rest of the world as an unqualified success. Many countries forced to grapple with a history of gross violations of human rights often consider “the South African option” as a positive model for their own efforts to further accountability and national unity. Oftentimes those looking to and recommending “the South African option” have very little understanding of what the South African TRC was, what it did, and, perhaps most importantly, to what extent and why it succeeded or failed. This has resulted in a number of countries adopting what they describe as a South African-style truth commission to address their own conflicted past. Such efforts have invariably been limited in their success. This is a brief summary of the influence of the legacy of the South African Commission on the truth commission that operated in Kenya from 2009 to 2013. Four influences are discussed: the explicit reference to Justice; the inclusion of socio-economic rights; the inclusion of women; and the provisions for amnesty. The legacy is mixed – the creators of the Kenyan commission learned from some of the mistakes of the South African commission and thus made some improvements; but they also adopted (or at least attempted to adopt) some of the more controversial aspects of the South African commission under the mistaken belief that such provisions were crucial to the perceived success of the South African commission, and thus would ensure the success of the Kenyan Commission.
Keywords: Kenya, transitional justice, socio-economic rights, feminist critique (feminism), amnesty, Kenyan TJRC, land
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