November 3, 1994 is a day that may remain etched in my memory for ever perhaps. On that fateful day, a priest colleague of mine, Martin Boyle, left our Nairobi home and set out alone on the journey back to his parish in Nandi. He arrived a week later in a coffin. Boyle was pursued by a chasing vehicle, forced off the Nakuru highway and shot dead in broad daylight on Limuru Road. His car was not stolen, nor were its contents interfered with. His killers drove away unimpeded.
The entire incident was witnessed by a Good Samaritan who stopped and tried to assist him. No real investigations were done and the church did not pursue the matter with any vigour although everyone agreed that it was a targeted killing. Boyle had spent 26 years in Nandi and Elgeyo Marakwet building schools and clinics as well as churches. He was a powerful figure who had infuriated the power barns in both places. I thought of him again recently as the country laid to rest a handful of figures mentioned adversely in the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission report.
Boyle’s murder troubles me because we have had no closure on his assassination. Hundreds of Kenyan families have had no closure either with regard to the slaughter of their loved ones in Wagalla, Kiambaa, Nyayo chambers and elsewhere. The Jubilee administration promised but failed to deliver on the implementation of the TJRC report.
Now Ruto has dismissed calls to implement the report claiming it would create disharmony and divide Kenyans along tribal lines. He wants everyone to “accept and move on”. Dismissing the right of victims to access truth, justice and public acknowledgment displays sheer contempt and poor leadership. If you fear truth and justice then you have something to hide or else you are protecting the perpetrators of heinous crimes. You certainly are not on the side of victims.
We have become used to this false peace that Ruto advocates. It is a strange type of calm, where we dare not disrupt the State narrative that all is well as we march ahead, hand in hand. The Jews wanted a saviour like that who would be peaceful, subdued and not upset the status quo. Instead they got a man who bluntly informed them, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). He also said the truth will set you free, but politicians propose and prefer servitude.
Northern Ireland too attempted to deal with the past by just looking forward. It created a power sharing government, reformed institutions and peace agreements but never dealt with the past. It got solutions without agreeing what the problem was. But families are demanding truth about the “disappeared” and resources and devolved government are in tatters.
There is no avoidance of an ugly past. The TJRC report was flawed but it is a start and very soon we must look back if we are to truly move forward.
Fr Gabriel Dolan is a priest based in Mombasa.