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Kenyan President Linked to 2007-2008 Violence


Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta


Hello, and welcome once again to As It Is, VOA’s daily magazine show for people learning American English.

I’m Christopher Cruise.

Today, we tell about a reported link between human rights abuses in Kenya and several of the country’s leaders, including the current president…

“The whole purpose of (the) Truth, Justice, Reconciliation Commission is to find a closure.”

Also in our show, hope for Kenyans who suffered abuse in the 1950s under British colonial rule…

“Our desire has always been to bring this to a speedy conclusion because of the age and the infirmity of the old men and women involved.”

Then, we go back to June 3rd, 1965 -- when an astronaut climbed out of his Gemini space vehicle and became the first American to walk in space…

“The flight director says ‘Get back in!’”

You probably do not know the name of that astronaut. Later in our show, we will tell you about him.

Report Links Kenya’s President to Violence
In Kenya, the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission has linked several Kenyan leaders to abuses in the country’s history. The commission identified current President Uhuru Kenyatta as one of those leaders in its long-awaited report.

VOA Correspondent Gabe Joselow says the group has called for further investigation of those whom it claims are responsible for the abuses.

In the past five years, the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission held 600 meetings across the country. The commission collected over 40,000 statements. It gave its final report to President Kenyatta late last month.

The Commission was formed after the violence that followed the Kenyan elections in 2007. It investigated human rights abuses committed by Kenyan officials since the country became independent in 1963.

President Kenyatta and his top aide -- William Ruto -- are both named in the report. They are accused of inciting and providing financial support for the violence five years ago. But the Commission did not call for action against the two men. They are already facing trial at the International Criminal Court for the same crimes.

Bethuel Kiplagat is the head of the Commission. He says he hopes the report helps the country look to the future.

“The whole purpose of (the) Truth, Justice, Reconciliation Commission is to find a closure -- a closure to issues related to violations, gross violations of human rights, murders, rape, abduction, marginalization, whatever.”

The report names hundreds of people accused of involvement in abuses including economic crimes and political assassinations.

Bethuel Kiplagat is named in the report. He is accused of taking part in the “Wagalla Massacre” in 1984. Hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of ethnic Somalis were killed by government forces at an air field in northeast Kenya.

At the time of the killings, Mr. Kiplagat was serving in the government of then-President Daniel arap Moi. The commission chairman says he will cooperate with an investigation into the attack.

The report says Kenya has made progress on many of the issues examined by the commission since it began its work. These include the enactment of a new constitution and the formation of an anti-corruption commission.

The Commission is calling for additional action, including an apology from the current government for the abuses. It has also proposed creation of a program for making payments to those who suffered abuse.

I’m Gabe Joselow.

Justice for Kenyans Abused by Britain in the 1950s
Thousands of Kenyans are waiting for payments from Britain to make up for abuses they suffered in the 1950s under colonial rule. Their lawyers have begun final negotiations with the British Foreign Office on a settlement.

During the Kenyan struggle for independence, the Mau Mau resistance movement launched a guerrilla war against British colonial rule. British forces detained hundreds of thousands of Kenyans they suspected of taking part in the movement. Some suspects were tortured, while others were executed.

Last October, the British High Court said the Foreign Office must be put on trial for the crimes committed during the 1950s in colonial Kenya.

The British government announced plans to appeal the decision. But Foreign Office lawyers have been negotiating with representatives of the surviving Mau Mau rebels. The negotiations could soon result in a settlement.

Gitu wa Kahengeri is the spokesman for the Mau Mau War Veterans Association.

“They have offered to negotiate out of court. We have agreed. Then, it all depends what offer they are going to give.”

George Morara is working on the case for the Kenyan Human Rights Commission.

“Our desire has always been to bring this to a speedy conclusion because of the age and infirmity of the old men and women involved. So the sooner it’s done, the better.”

After Kenya’s independence in 1963, the Mau Mau movement was listed as a terrorist group by the new government. It was not until 2003 that the government finally cancelled the ban on the movement.

Soon after that, historians researching the Mau Mau rebellion discovered secret colonial records. Those documents showed how much the British colonial government used torture to suppress members of the group. More people started to believe the stories that older Kenyans had been telling for years about abuse by the British.

George Morara believes thousands of Kenyans will receive money from any settlement.

“We hope that any negotiations or discussions then will take into account men and women who fall within the broad outline that was set out by the three test cases in, in London.”

Any settlement in the Mau Mau case would set a legal precedent. Throughout the former British Empire, Indians, Malaysians, Cypriots and Guyanese have sought payments to make up for abuses that took place during colonial rule.

I’m Onka Dekker.

Get back in! The first American spacewalk goes on for too long
Forty-eight years ago, on June 3rd, 1965, astronaut Edward White became the first American to walk in space. White climbed out of his Gemini space vehicle 216 kilometers above the earth. But he remained connected to the two-man spacecraft by a seven-meter-long lifeline that gave him oxygen. It also let him communicate with space flight controllers on the ground. He used a special hand-held propulsion device to move around in space.

White was having so much fun that he stayed outside the spacecraft for 20 minutes -- 8 minutes longer than planned. The flight director in Houston had to order him to get back inside.

HOUSTON: “Gemini Four (this is) Houston. Gemini Four (this is) Houston.”
GEMINI: “Let’s see what the flight director has got to say.”
HOUSTON: “The flight director says ‘Get back in!’”
GEMINI: “This is Jim. You got any message for us?”
HOUSTON: “Gemini Four! Get back in!”
GEMINI: “OK”

White was not the first human to walk in space. A few months earlier -- on March 18th, 1963, Soviet cosmonaut Alexi Leonov floated in space for ten minutes while connected to his Voskhod II spacecraft.

The two spacewalks showed that human beings could work outside their spacecraft. Less than two years after his historic spacewalk, Edward White died in a fire while training for another space mission.

I’m Christopher Cruise, and that’s As It Is from VOA Learning English on the Voice of America.

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