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Kenya to Establish Truth and Reconciliation Commission

A senior Kenyan official said today that the government is planning to establish a truth and reconciliation commission to bring justice to those tortured by the previous government.

Raila Odinga, a senior minister in the Kenyan government, says it will soon establish a South African style truth and reconciliation commission to investigate the human rights abuses that took place under the government of former President Daniel arap Moi. "We do not want revenge," he noted. "We want reconciliation. And we are going to set up a truth and reconciliation commission to carry out investigations, to give people an opportunity to forgive each other so that we can move together as the Kenya people in the future."

Mr. Odinga was speaking as he toured the Nyayo House torture chambers, where he was twice detained during the struggle for the restoration of democracy in Kenya in 1988 and 1990.

Nyayo House, a 26-story building in Nairobi city center, is the government's Nairobi provincial headquarters.

Mr. Odinga, accompanied by three former detainees, visited the basement cells where they were once held in dark musty rooms for days on end without food, water or clothing.

They also visited the 26th floor interrogation room and described how they were beaten there.

One of the former detainees, Israel Agina, was held in Nyayo House for 96 days for protesting against the government. He described how his prison guards treated him. "They told me they had the express authority of the then President Moi that anybody who resists can be killed," he said. "And they said you either accept or you get killed. But I told them that I stand by what I want. We want change. We want Kenyans to speak freely and we want political prisoners to be freed. They said if that was the case they are going to hold me here and if possible kill me."

When the government first revealed the cells in Nyayo House to the public on Tuesday, it said it planned to turn them into a national monument of shame.

An estimated 2,000 people were tortured in Nyayo House during President Daniel arap Moi's rule. Human rights officials estimate that at a least quarter of them were killed.