Campaigning for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, Democracy, the Rule of Law and International Justice
Kenya: investigating post-electoral violence
No Peace Without Justice, which has provided similar conflict-mapping expertise in Sierra Leone and Kosovo, assisted from January to March 2008 the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) - an independent National Human Rights Institution established by an Act of Parliament in 2002 - in the documentation and investigations into the post-election violence that has resulted in the death of more than 1,000 people, the displacement of about half a million people and a critical humanitarian situation.
Kenya has suffered its worst setback on its path towards democratisation with the fallout that has taken place in the country following declaration of the 2007 presidential elections results.
While the apparent immediate trigger for the violence appears to be contestation as to who between the two leading presidential candidates—Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga-- actually won the presidential elections, and accusations that the final outcome was rigged, the conflict has now moved to another phase, namely ethnic conflict primarily between communities perceived to be pro-Kibaki, such as the Kikuyu and Kisii, and communities perceived to be pro-Raila, such as the Luo, Kalenjin, and Luyha. One thousand Kenyans, and possibly more, have been killed. Up to six hundred thousand Kenyans cutting across various ethnic communities—and the numbers keep rising—have been displaced from their homes and work places when they are perceived as ‘foreigners’. Many have died and others injured in circumstances that suggest excessive use of force by security forces apparently responding to the violence.
It is clear that serious human rights violations have taken place – murder, arson, destruction of property, rapes and many others. Early analysis of the violence suggests that it has taken several shapes: first, apparently spontaneous and random violence by those angered by the results announced, violence by apparently organised groups (organised before or after the elections results were announced), seemingly organised revenge violence, and violence allegedly perpetrated by security forces. Whatever the trigger or underlying causes of this violence there can be no justification for it. Violations of human rights remain violations, irrespective of the motivations for their perpetration.
NPWJ’s assistance consisted in providing support with all practical aspects of the investigative operations, including training and expert assistance to the teams of investigators that the KNCHR planned to dispatch in the whole of the conflict areas—Rift Valley, Nairobi, Central, Coast, Nyanza, and Western Kenya and other regions. Teams of investigators gathered information in the field from victims, witnesses, local leaders, security officers, and those in positions of command or control in order to reconstruct the chronological and geographical chain of events during the post-elections violence.
Information gathered has been electronically organized using a database. It was collated, categorised and stored in such a way as to enable easy search and retrieval by analysts. International experts assisted KNCHR in designing and programming a data base for purposes of factual and legal analysis.
The data base contains statements from witnesses to and victims of acts across the country broken down according to what crimes were allegedly committed, who allegedly committed them, what weapons they allegedly used and other pertinent information. To ensure accuracy and consistency, data entry persons received training on the basics of international criminal law and a manual has been prepared outlining how different factual scenarios should be classified. To ensure accuracy of the data base, each entry went through a thorough process of checking and cross-checking to ensure that it is consistent, complete and correct.
The objective of the investigations was to determine which elements of the violence were pre-planned and which may have been spontaneous, what crimes under international law may have been committed and who bears the greatest responsibility for inciting, planning, funding and directing the violations. The investigations conducted by the KNCHR and NPWJ – whose initial results were made public on March in a Progress Report – will establish the basis for seeking national criminal prosecutions or action by other national or international accountability mechanisms.
Removing the Shield of Impunity
KNCHR Progress Report on Investigating and Documenting Post-Election Violence
27 March 2008