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SPEECH BY THE CHAIRMAN – CHIEF MAINA KIAI - KENYA NATIONAL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Opening remarks

“Pan Africanism is changing the arbitrary and often illogical boundaries set up by the colonial powers in their mad scramble for Africa …. Many students of African Affairs are constantly asking us what sort of societies or governments we hope to set up when our freedom is won …. It will not be a blue-print copy of what is commonly referred to as western. What we shall create should be African, conditioned and related to conditions and circumstances of Africa. It shall be enriched by our ability to borrow or take what is good from other systems, creating a synthesis of this with the best of our own systems and cultures”.

[Africa is] “ … a continent surging with impatient nationalist movements striving to win freedom and independence. Apart from this struggle, there is the struggle against disease, poverty and ignorance. Unless these three evils are defeated, political freedom would become hollow and meaningless… the motive behind various nationalist movements should always be the security for all our people, higher standards of live and social advancement”.

Tom Mboya on July 1, 1958 at Makerere University

“African states will not tolerate interference from outside by any country --- any country, and that means power blocs who have nothing better to do but fight each other ---- let them do it outside of Africa”.

 

“We do not intend to be undermined by those who pay lip service to democracy, but have a long way to go in their own countries”.

 

“We will never, never sell our freedom for capital or technical aid. We stand for freedom at any cost”.

 

Tom Mboya on 8 December, 1959 as he chaired the All African Peoples Conference

 

Who was Tom Mboya?

 

Tom Mboya was one of the most prominent personalities in Kenyan history. He was born Thomas Joseph Mboya on 15th August 1930 and was assassinated at the tender age of 39 on 5th July 1969. It is widely believed that his profile and illustrious career as a brilliant and charismatic leader, which was seen as a challenge to the then political establishment, led to his assassination.

 

As a renowned trade unionist, politician and statesman, Tom Mboya joined active politics in 1957 when he successfully contested and won a seat in the Legislative Council, and later in 1958 when he founded the Nairobi People’s Congress Party. He was later instrumental in forming the Kenya African National union (KANU) that formed the government upon independence, and became its first Secretary General. At the time of his assassination, he held the Cabinet portfolio of Minister of Economic Planning and Development.

 

His brilliance and charisma earned him worldwide recognition and respect and his performance at both the national and continental level was nothing short of remarkable. In 1958, during the All-Africa Peoples Conference, convened by Kwame Nkurumah of Ghana, Mboya was elected the Conference Chairman at the tender age of 28.

 

It is because of these remarkable qualities of the Late Tom Mboya that we proposed this “Evening with Tom Mboya”: to celebrate the man, but also to remind us of whom he was, what he stood for and why he was assassinated.

 

Tom Mboya was a Kenyan. Tom Mboya was a pan-Africanist. Tom Mboya was a true nationalist who reviled ethnic politics and sectarianism. Tom Mboya should be the role model that Kenyan – and especially politicians – should emulate. If they did, many of the tensions within the political class would probably not be as intense as they are today.

 

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has been working with various civil society stakeholders to advocate for the establishment of a truth, justice and reconciliation commission – pursuance of the recommendations of the Government’s own Task Force to look into this matter. The TJRC would conduct investigations into past gross human rights violations including political assassinations such as that of tom Mboya, and make recommendations to the government for appropriate action. The TJRC will be a mechanism for dealing with the past so that similarly grave human rights violations and atrocities are never again committed in the present or future governments.

 

It is a fact: a nation that does not know its past, a nation that does not recognize and deal with its past, is a nation without a future. There is little doubt that many of the problems we have faced in this country – from corruption, negative ethnicity and xenophobia, human rights abuses, poverty and inequality – have partly been a result of the fact that we have not, as a nation, collectively and comprehensively looked at our past, learnt the lessons from it, and made a conscious decision to move away from that past.

 

“An evening with Tom Mboya” forms part of the advocacy and lobbying strategies on the TJRC and will be followed by similar functions relating to the political assassinations of such prominent personalities as J. M. Kariuki, Pio Gama Pinto, Robert Ouko, Father Kaiser and others. Other advocacy activities will target the Shifta war, Kisumu massacres, the 1982 attempted coup, Wagalla massacres, Mwakenya movement and the Nyayo house, IDPs and the clashes, Fera movement, Political harassments and cases of extra judicial killings which all constitute grave human rights violations and have been perpetrated by or with the knowledge of the state.

 

Our expectations from this event today:

 

(a) We hope that the public is educated – for the majority of Kenyans below the age of 35 years – and re-educated – for those older than 35 --- on who Tom Mboya was and why his assassination must not be forgotten.

 

(b) We hope that the country will begin to understand the need to push for TJRC to bring out the truth – or as much of it as possible --- regarding the assassination of Tom Mboya and others, and the naming of the perpetrators highlighted.