Transitional Justice in Kenya : How Far Should we go in Defining the Past?

A key dilemma is highlighted in this policy paper which addresses those societies seeking to redress the past through transitional justice measures in determining how to define that past: how far back into history is enough and not too far to truly ‘do justice’ in Kenya? This paper also examined the way in which post independence governments have either extended or completely ignored the way the colonial regime violated the Kenyans. This has impacted negatively on the current social, economic and political situation in Kenya and has been a basis for more recent forms of violence. The paper begins by extrapolating the historical background of colonialism in Kenya from late nineteenth-century land alienation, to the reaction of the Kikuyu to the land question, political agitation through the nationalist movement and the Mau Mau resistance, to the declaration of a state of emergency and suppression of resistance. Further, it analyses the independence transition in Kenya in 1963 and examines the authoritarian nature of the Kenyatta and Moi’s regimes and their competing interpretations.