International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Kenyatta apologizes to Kenyan public for past wrongs

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya delivered an official apology to the Kenyan public during a state of the nation address this past Thursday. He apologized for the wrongs committed by his own government and of governments past, mentioning the post-election violence of 2007-2008, as well as the 1984 massacre of hundreds of Kenayan-Somalis.

The International Criminal Court just recently dropped charges against President Kenyatta for warcrimes committed during the period of post-election violence because of a lack of evidence and cooperation by the Kenyan government. But, the report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Kenya “recommended that the president apologize to the public within six month after receiving it. Kenyatta received the report on May 2013”.

During his speech, Kenyatta announced that he had requested that the Ministry of Finance set up a fund of $110 million to be used throughout the next three years for “restorative justice”. President Kenyatta has yet to announce what exactly he plans for the fund to do or accomplish, but it is his first public apology for the crimes committed following his election.

The apology earned Kenyatta a standing ovation from the members of Kenyan parliament, although the reactions of the public have been mixed. Some do not accept the apology at all, while the majority tend to feel that it is “better late than never”. Apologies can provide the acknowledgement of past atrocities that is important for rehabilitation of a society and victims, but it will be interesting to see the true impact of Kenyatta’s statements, if any at all.

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3 responses to “Kenyatta apologizes to Kenyan public for past wrongs

  1. ckoos March 29, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    It is curious that Kenyatta would delay his apology for two years, and then publicly denounce his own actions while announcing his request for reparation funds from the Ministry of Finance.

    It is ultimately up to the citizens of Kenya to decide whether or not they will accept this apology and the potential monetary reparation funds as a step towards ‘restorative justice.’ However, I believe that Erin Daly’s arguments in our reading, “Truth Skepticism: An Inquiry into the Value of Truth in Times of Transition” pose some important points in Kenyatta’s admission of accountability.

    How endearing can an apology be if it comes from a sitting president who has been able to remain in power even after publicly acknowledging the role of his government and governments past in mass violence? As Daly contends, accepting accountability for wrongdoings is actually detrimental to the civilian population if “former perpetrators… remain in positions of power” (Daly 35).

    For these reasons, Kenyatta’s apology may actually cause more psychological harm than good for the people of Kenya.

  2. daniel2533 March 29, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    As with all forms of justice other than retributive, the important question that must be asked in the case of Kenyatta’s apology to the citizens of Kenya is whether, as Daly succinctly notes, the rules that apply in interpersonal relationships can be extrapolated to political crimes.

    With this question in mind, it quickly becomes clear that something so inconsequential as an apology from a perpetrator (who is also still in a position of power) accomplishes absolutely nothing for the cause of reconciliation or the process of restorative justice.

    Additionally, it is of the utmost importance that we realize that just as with most forms of truth-telling, no one truth can realistically “expect to produce a single accounting of events” (Daly, 25). This notion is inherently tied to the question of truth in interpersonal relationships vs. truth in political crimes. In offering an apology from his government to all victims, Kenyatta demotes all individual experiences into a singularity that is framed and colored by his wording and his perspective — that is to say, his position of power and his apology to all of Kenya’s citizens work to silence the experiences of the very victims he is supposedly apologizing to.

    Furthermore, it will be necessary to monitor the utilization of funds that Kenyatta has requested for the sake of “restorative” justice. As Olsen notes, truth-telling can only help to provide an improvement in human rights when used in concert with trials and amnesties. Whether or not Kenyatta pursues such a justice balance will be a deciding factor in how human rights advocates and, ultimately, history decide to color his apology.

  3. mcurle15 March 30, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    While it is strange that Kenyatta has postponed his apology for two years, it is even more strange that the apology has come right after the charges against him have been dropped earlier this month by the ICC. Would denouncing his behavior and actions be too risky to launch a formal apology while he was being tried for crimes against humanity by the ICC? Would the apology prior to the dropped charges give the Kenyan government more incentive to comply with the ICC to hand over evidence?

    I agree with daniel2533 in the fact that the money funded to be used in the next three years for restorative justice would need to be closely monitored. What will constitute for the amount of money each victim gets? Will victims find restorative justice out of these reparations after the amount of time that has passed from the initial crimes? I think that Kenyatta’s apology is an attempt to shut the door on a tumultuous past in Kenya and the funded reparations are a way to boost Kenyatta’s popularity among the Kenyan people.

    The apology given by Kenyatta simply lacks legitimacy due to the fact that it is a long time overdue and because Kenyatta is still in power with no notion to step down. His political clout and power still remains supreme in Kenya, which makes me wonder if there will be any deterrence for post-election violence in future elections? If Kenyatta could get away with it, other political officials in the future may be apt to provoke unrest after elections.

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