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Victims of state atrocities hopeful as TJRC prepares report

Written by Hussein Dido
86-year old Habiba Raqo, a survivor of the Daaba massacre displays her injured arm. 86-year old Habiba Raqo, a survivor of the Daaba massacre displays her injured arm. Picture: Hussein Dido

Residents of North Eastern Province and Isiolo County in particular have been crying out for justice 50 years after independence.

However, when the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission was set up after the 2007-2008 post-election violence their hopes were raised. Today, they believe their tears and pleas have not been in vain because as survivors of Daaba massacre in Garba- Tulla and Merti districts in Isiolo County they will know what fate has in store for them on May 5.

This is the time that the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission has announced it will release its final report and recommendations.

According to a TJRC director, Elijah Letangule, the Commission chaired by Bethwell Kiplagat, which has been probing the complaints of charges against humanity will release its final report and recommendation on some of the injustices committed by state and non-state actors during the famous Daaba massacre in 1960s.

Letangule assured the victims that the Commission will facilitate speedy and full implementation of the recommendations to ensure justice for the victims and those whose families were killed.

He was speaking when he addressed civil society organisations, victims and peace elders during a reconciliation consultative forum at Isiolo Bomen. He noted that justice will be done according to their wishes.


Elder Hussein Mursal shocked the Commission he told them of the excessive force used by the soldiers during the attacks. He also said the bombs blasted were to blame for induced abortions, mental illness and impotence in Northern parts of the country since the 1960s.

Some of the victims who presented a memorandum to TJRC during the hearing in Isiolo, dubbed ‘Dying an Invisible Death and Living an Invisible Life’ also confessed that women who were affected by the bomb blasts miscarried and that houses caved while some men were unable to sire children.

The participants were moved to tears during one of the public forums when Godana Doyo, a lawyer and Yusuf Halake of Pastoralists Reform Programme narrated the story of untold suffering that led to killings and later destruction by the soldiers.

Halake accused the soldiers of high handedness, indiscriminate rape of women before their children and husbands and massacring of villagers at the height of the Shifta War of 1963-1967.


They said the irate soldiers committed  massive atrocities and buried victims in a mass grave after the then Provincial Commissioner Eliud Mahihu sanctioned the killings in 1965, when Somalia wanted to annex part of Kenya.

The survivors further claimed that although the attacks were aimed at the Somalis, those from the Borana and Sakuye communities also became victims of the massacre since the army could not distinguish between them.

The Commission led by Tecla Namachanja, were told that hundreds of the Sakuye and Borana community members fled to Somalia to avert the atrocities by the Kenya security forces. He said most of the returnees who occupied part of Gafarsa and Dabale have not been issued with national identification cards 14 years after they were re-united with their relatives in Kenya.

“Some of our relatives who returned to Kenya as late as 1999 have never been issued with identity cards because the Government branded them foreigners,” notes Halake.

Another survivor Boru Wako, 69, said the communities lost over 300,000 camels, 500,000 cattle and 3,000 donkeys worth millions of shillings leading to high poverty levels in the region. However, they thanked the Catholic and the Methodist church for assisting them to resettle after the Shifta War but regretted that the Government had since neglected the area and treated them as marginalised groups and at the mercy of bandits and security personnel who took away their livestock.

Nursing wounds

Decades after the massacre, Wako  says, the communities in the region area still nursing their wounds. Fear and suspicion between them and security forces still exists. Wako blames the increased cases of insecurity and banditry to high levels of illiteracy and unemployment to idle youth some of whom engage in acts of lawlessness.

The witnesses who testified during the TJRC session used the opportunity to petition the Government to compensate and issue them with national identity cards as a means to woo Kenyans who were still living in Somali back into the country.

Daaba, which literally means ‘when everything stopped’, refers to the period (1965-1967) when the Waso Boran of Isiolo District and their livestock were forcefully placed into three concentration camps.

Meanwhile, 78-year old Habiba Raqa recalls how women were gangraped and their properties destroyed. “The army killed camels and cattle in order to deprive us of our living,” she says.


Daaba constitutes, perhaps, one of the greatest single transformation of people from prosperity to poverty that is recorded in the post-colonial Kenya.

As the clamour for Kenya’s independence was rising in the 1950s and 1960s, new political parties cropped up in the south of Kenya. The northern frontier district of Kenya was not left out. Political parties representing the interests of the pastoralists emerged just like others mushroomed throughout the country. The two major parties from the north were the Northern Province Peoples Progressive Party (NPPPP), and the Northern People Union Association (NPUA).

While the NPPPP, predominantly supported by the four districts of Garissa, Isiolo, Mandera and Wajir wanted the northern frontier district to secede to the Republic of Somalia, the NPUA predominantly supported by Marsabit and Moyale districts, agitated for it to remain in Kenya. There seemed to be a split in the opinions of the people of the Cushitic part of the region.

In a bid to determine the future of the northern frontier district, the British Government, through the office of the Secretary of State for the colonies, formed the Northern Frontier District Commission, late in 1962 (Report of NFD Commission, 1962).

To satisfy the terms of reference, a referendum was commissioned between October and December of 1962.

The report of the Northern Frontier District Commission showed that the people of the area overwhelmingly voted for secession to Somalia. However, the British Government did not grant them their wish. On March 17th, 1963 Sir Duncan Sandy announced that part of the northern frontier district would become the seventh province of Kenya, and thus the NFD remained part of Kenya.

Those who were frustrated by the decision opted to wage a guerrilla war against the Kenya Government. This was the beginning of the infamous “Shifta War”.

The Government of the newly independent Kenya under President Jomo Kenyatta used excessive military force to quell the uprising in most parts of the NFD.

Though the civilians in NFD generally suffered from the retributive measures taken by the Kenyan authorities, the Waso Boran was collectively condemned to bear the brunt of the war.

The TJRC was told that the security forces and military unleashed terror on the Waso Boran in what became known as “Gaaf Daaba” or the period of Stoppage.


This article was originally published in the Reject Online Issue 80


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