Scars of memory and scales of justice: Kenya's history of political murder

Political killings have silently become bureaucratised and legitimised as an effective political tool in Kenya, according to Dr Babere Kerata Chacha, a leading expert on African history, and political assassinations and human rights in Africa.

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Dr Babere Kerata Chacha says Kenya's Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission came under political pressure.

Dr Chacha, a Visiting Global South Scholar at UNSW Sydney, will examine the history of political assassinations within the context of how such acts are remembered, represented and imagined in contemporary Kenya, in an address at UNSW on Thursday, 19 October.

Dr Chacha is Senior Lecturer in African History in the Department of Public Affairs and Environmental Studies at Laikipia University in Kenya. He has worked closely with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nairobi to introduce Human Rights as a core course at Laikipia University, and spearheaded the launch of the police science programme at Laikipia.

In 2013, Dr Chacha also headed a task force of historians advising the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on past political assassinations in Kenya. 

Kenya’s Supreme Court recently annulled the result of the country’s 8 August presidential poll, when current President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared winner, after finding irregularities and illegalities. A repeat of the election was set for 26 October but last week, opposition leader Raila Odinga pulled out of the vote, alleging a failure to improve the oversight of the election.

On Wednesday, Kenya's election commission said it could not guarantee next week's presidential election will be free and fair, citing interference from politicians and threats of violence.

In his UNSW Globalisation and Governance Research Network seminar, hosted by the School of Social Sciences, Dr Chacha will discuss how, since independence, Kenya has witnessed an extensive and disturbing history of politically motivated killings and assassinations.

“The Kenyatta, Moi, Kibaki and Uhuru regimes have all presided over shocking and brutally effective records of inhumane laws, harassment, imprisonment, torture and other forms of oppression to terrorise, silence or otherwise neutralise those in opposition to the establishment,” Dr Chacha says.

“Sadly, while such state-perpetrated atrocities have been committed against citizens, there has never been any form of official acknowledgement or even apology.

“A Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission was formed but it failed to implement its report to the public mainly because of political pressure from the state.”

What: Scars of memory and scales of justice: A history of political assassinations in Kenya, 1963-2017

When: Thursday, 19 October 2017, 3.00pm-4.30pm

Where: Room 310, Level 3, Morven Brown Building, UNSW Kensington 

RSVP: c.vanham@unsw.edu.au

Media contact: Wendy Frew, UNSW Media Office, 02 9385 8944, w.frew@unsw.edu.au