As Mwiraria’s family mourns the death of their loved one, to many here, anyone who played a role in the killings will never lay to rest, even in death. It’s unfortunate, the soft spoken economist and one time Finance Minister, has died with lots of secrets. Wagalla massacre and the Anglo Leasing scam easily pop up.
As Halima stood up and headed to the kitchen to prepare us a cup of tea, my mind wandered into the oblivion.
Childhood stories of how my grandfather was also tied alongside other men, stripped naked and made to lie down with eyes facing the sun, under the scorching Northern heat at the tiny airstrip, for three consecutive days until they all succumbed to hunger and thirst, seemed fresh in my mind.
It’s unfortunate this atrocity occurred in a very real political setting, and that raises important political questions: Why are decisions to commit ethnic cleansing carried out so precisely and enthusiastically? How could a few men, Mwiraria inclusive, plan the elimination of a segment of a community?
“What happened after you lost your baby and Abdullahi got killed? Did you overcome it? Did u get married again?” I carefully ask Halima, as she served us hot, spiced, typical Somali tea.
“No.” she quips, “I loved him so much, I couldn’t stand living with another man. I took a vow to live with him till eternity. He was brutally killed and the only way I could honor his death was to stick to our vow. They took away my love, my baby and my future. They took everything away. Allah will punish them.”
I bid her and her extended family goodbye, determined to dig deeper and understand whether the late Mwiraria and company are guilty of ruining the lives of Halima and thousands of other women whose sons, brothers, husbands and fathers were brutally killed by the State.
I meet my contact, an individual with immense security background, a former serviceman himself. I seek to understand whether a massacre of Wagalla’s magnitude can be accidental or carefully planned.
“A project of such magnitude,” he explains, “in which a government decides to liquidate a large part of a specific community’s population, requires substantial planning and preparation.”
Wishing to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of this story, with regard to the fact that he is not allowed to speak to the media, my friend informs me that all signals of Wagalla massacre being a well-planned event were clear.
He describes, for example, trucks filled with fully armed soldiers beginning to arrive in the town. Troop movements are not a normal occurrence.
“The soldiers were being distributed in different neighborhoods, and at night they were throwing up roadblocks and checking the identity of anyone passing. They stormed homes and forced people to identify themselves whether they were Degodias or not.” He tells me.
So who planned, ordered and executed the brutal murder of more than 5000 fellow Kenyans in Wajir on that fateful February?
According to reports, the following individuals held a top level meeting in Wajir District Commissioner’s office on February 8th, two days before the massacre.
They were Joseph Kaguthi (Asst. Secretary, Internal Security), James Mathenge (PS, OP in charge of Internal Security), Gen. J. R. Kibwana (former CGS), John Gituma (PS, Information and Broadcasting), Benson Kaaria (PC, North Eastern), Bethuel Kiplagat (PS Foreign Affairs), and David Mwiraria (PS, Internal Security).
Mwiraria had in the past lied to several committees of inquiry that he and others at the meeting had not idea about what was about to happen. How would this be possible? Thousands are killed just two days after Mwiraria and team arrive in town. It was evidently a white lie.
The TJRC report, which unfortunately President Uhuru Kenyatta has failed to implement, is the only hope for justice for the thousands of families affected by this event 33 years ago.
It is clear that this meeting was the nerve center and definitely orchestrated the massacre.
The late Mwiraria, his colleagues at the meeting, the commanders on ground at the time, are all jointly overseers of the “Killing Airfield” — they all have blood on their hands.
As we enter a special elections time, it is time the people of North Eastern region to use our votes to seek justice for our fallen brethren.
We have to ensure the people responsible for the killings are brought to justice (whether dead or still alive) — legally, fairly and without the taint of political bias.
We should not allow our power hungry politicians to gag us around, when indeed 33 years down the road; the Wagalla massacre is still being ignored. We should never allow political bias to poison our determination to seek justice.
Sitting back and allowing the perpetrators of this barbaric event to die one by one, just as Mwiraria did few days ago, without facing justice equates us all to “silent killers.” We too, have blood on our hands, as cries of our fallen brothers drown with injustice.
It is reassuring that the TJRC tribunal’s work has shed light on a dark chapter in our country. But our aim should always be straightforward and unambiguous. Trials will make the victims rest in peace. Convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent. Anything less simply isn’t justice.
As I drive around Wajir town, past posters of politicians vying for different political seats, I realize there is little chance for the victims of Wagalla massacre to have their “day in court.”
This state of affairs is largely due to the apparent ease with which false rhetoric is used to conceal the worst criminal offenses. Majority of these politicians have been in seats of power for long.
It’s unfortunate once elected, majority of them vanish to Nairobi, instantly turning Wajir and its residents into political orphans.Will my people ever get justice? Is there any political will from the national government to resolve this issue once and for all?
As the Kenyan Prime Minister years ago, Raila Odinga ordered the Attorney General at the time to bring to justice all those responsible for the killings. He also ordered a museum to be constructed in honor of the victims. Its unfortunate the current regime never followed it up.
In February 2015, the Wajir County governor Ahmed Abdullahi is reported to have said his government would partner with local and international human rights organizations in seeking justice for the victims of the massacre.
He said the TJRC report offered such an opportunity which remained squandered.
“Those mentioned by the TJRC report by witnesses must be prosecuted. The people who afflicted the pain to our people remain unpunished and are still with us,” Abdullahi was quoted to have said.
Before leaving Halima’s homestead, I asked her my last questions:
“After the killings, did u find your husband’s body? Did you honor his death with a decent burial? Did you get chance to see him one last time?” I asked, not sure what her answers would be.
Her loud silence, teary eyes and the blank stare she offered were enough for me to realize what was going on in her head.
I stood up ready to leave as she picked up a dirty piece of cloth to wipe away the tears on her face, when she suddenly murmured something.
I sat back, and with a low voice I reassured her that all will be well if she speaks her heart out.
“They didn’t kill him only, they killed me too. For 33 years, I have lived with the pain of never knowing how he breathed his last. The horrific fact that his lifeless body was left in the open field for hyenas and wild dogs to feast on. All these years I have been a living-dead. They should have at least allowed us to bury our dead.” Halima tells me, as she struggles to fight tears back.