Kenya’s Attorney-General is set to make history, becoming the first civilian to investigate human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by the military in an operation to flush out suspected rebel insurgents.
Attorney-General Amos Wako said Tuesday his office would commence investigations into alleged human rights abuses in Mount Elgon, in western Kenya, where the military is accused of gross human rights violations in its war against insurgents.
Kenyan military chiefs mounted the ‘operation Okoa Maisha—Kiswahili’, meaning ‘operation save life’ in the Mount Elgon, to flush out suspected insurgents, operating under the name of the Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF).
After the operation, which culminated in the cold blood killing of the SLDF Commander Wycliffe Martakwei in May 2008, the police and the army have been showing television documentaries of villagers lamenting the loss of property and torture by the insurgents.
In one of the documentaries, the rebel commander’s wife was shown appealing to villagers to forgive her and her husband for the crimes against them, which included abduction of males, torture and confiscation of land and other personal property.
The military has been accused of rounding up all male adults above age 15, for ‘screening’ at a military base in Kapkota in the vast northern part of the Rift Valley, where the adults were beaten, with some of them dying in the process.
While the insurgents killed and maimed, the military has been accused of tying the suspected insurgents in its custody and beating them between the legs, using clubs.
In his statement, Wako, who has been accused of loosing the independence of his office by failing to order immediate investigations into the murder claims, said the allegations were of a serious nature and deserved to be investigated.
Kenya’s Chief of General Staff, General Jeremiah Kianga, denied allegations the military has been involved in the torture of the civilians.
“The people (Mount Elgon) are extremely happy about the operation. The villagers were happy about the operation and they actually brought the suspects to us,” General Kianga told journalists here.
Wako said the government will investigate the human rights violations, stressing “the reports must be investigated to verify the truth.”
The state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), whose work is to report all forms of human rights violations and report to Parliament, has compiled a report on the rights violations.
The human rights group said the ‘Okoa Maisha’ operation was serious and had left more people hurt.
Human rights lobbyists have called for an international ban against the Kenyan military, specifically to be barred from United Nations peace-keeping operations as punishment for the violations of human rights.
According to a report compiled by the Human Rights Watch (HRW), the relatives of the maimed or tortured individuals have been forced to sign indemnity oaths, vowing not to pursue the state for the death of their relatives, found in mortuaries.
“I do not think any serious UN body would give credibility to such a report. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights should present evidence of its torture claims. Why would the SLDF be surrendering to us if they would be coming to torture chambers,” Kianga retorted when asked about the torture allegations.
However, the Attorney-General has insisted: “The issues raised are weighty and must be investigated.”
Meanwhile, the Kenyan military is to build a military training camp in Mount Elgon, to prevent future militia activity in the forest and partly to offer the army recruits a better training environment, Kianga disclosed. Panapress .