For a long time Kenyans will ask these enduring questions: who approved the ungraspable Wagalla massacre in Wajir in 1984, how many people exactly died there or were injured and why? Today the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) is just doing that, endeavoring to unmask the mystery of this historical atrocity committed against hapless ordinary citizens who had not done anything criminal against the Republic.
It is being reported frequently with authoritative sense of finality that ’57 people from the Degodia community were killed at Wajir airstrip in the 1984 incident’ (DN June 12, 2011). This creates the wrong impression that what happened then was a mere incident and the casualties involved were ‘only 57’. The outrage and shock of the victims of Wagalla mass killings is not so much due to only of the atrocities visited on them on those days and nights of February 14-19, as it is the attitude of those responsible of ‘hiding in plain sight’ what transpired and the lack of outrage, remorse and empathy on the part of those were in positions of authority then and now. Are we not left with any humanity at all?
There are different versions of the causes and effects Wagalla killings which the PC then, Benson Kaaria, just like Bosnian Serb commander, Ratko Mladic, termed “was a big success” without defining the measure of that success, save the scale of its horror. Some matters are known with certainty nevertheless. That following common, low intensity inter-clan rivalry that was supposed to exist between the communities of Degodia and Ajuran, who live in Wajir,as result of routine competition for resources and political representation, a strange, yet very elaborate scheme based on governmental and political process was designed much earlier than 1984 targeting the victims of Wagalla. Given the centralized nature of our public administration, the highest authority in the land must have stealthily approved the Kenya intelligent community the way it did as hinted by the former PS J. Mathenge.
Consequently ethnic settlement mappings was done and some 5,000 men from the Degodia community were rounded up and herded into disused, barbed wired airstrip at Wagalla, a small settlement about 11 Kms west of Wajir County Headquarters, leaving behind death and destruction. At the end of four long days of horror, according to the minister for internal security then, Justus Ole Tipis, “only 57 were killed in crossfire”. There was no crossfire and that was the beginning of an iceberg of deceptions, disinformation and cover up. The residents since then have been crying that over 3,000 of their men are unaccounted for.
One blessed soul, Anna Lena Tonelli, an Italian Catholic volunteer who worked in Wajir as a medic then but who was later deported to Somalia and cruelly assassinated there wrote “ over 1,000 people were eliminated in the Wagalla atrocity” and prayed “ one day goodness will shine forth and the Envelope of Wagalla will be opened.”
The late minister Ahmed Khalif compiled and published in the local newspapers, including the Daily Nation, the names of 365 people whose bodies and their sub-clans were identified and properly buried.
Therefore while the TJRC continues with its demanding task, it would be highly gratifying if the press were to acknowledge that “hundreds of Degodia community members perished at Wagalla massacre in 1984”. This will correct the erroneous basis of history being created before our very eyes.