The Wagalla massacre took place on 10 February 1984 at the Wagalla Airstrip. The facility is situated approximately 15 km (9 mi) west of the county capital of Wajir in the North Eastern Province, a region primarily inhabited by ethnic Somalis. Kenyan troops had descended on the area to reportedly help defuse clan-related conflict. However, according to eye-witness testimony, about 5,000 Somali men were then taken to an airstrip and prevented from accessing water and food for five days before being executed by Kenyan soldiers.
According to a commissioner with The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission of Kenya, a government oversight body that had been formed in response to the 2008 Kenyan post-election violence, the Wagalla massacre represents the worst human rights violation in Kenya's history.
For years the Kenyan government denied that a massacre had taken place and insisted that "only 57 people were killed in a security operation to disarm the [area's] residents". It was not until October 2000 that the government publicly acknowledged wrongdoing on the part of its security forces.
In 2010, Bethuel Kiplagat stepped aside as chairman of the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission because of his alleged involvement in authorising the action that led to the massacre. Reports of the number of men from the Somali Degodia sub-clan, in particular, that were detained by security forces and brought to the airstrip range from 381 to upward of ten thousand.
In April 2012, Kiplagat was reinstated as TJRC chairman after the Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa brokered a truce between him and the other commissioners.
The same year, the former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga ordered an official probe into the atrocities and indicated that the national attorney general should bring to justice those responsible for the killings. Odinga also ordered a museum to be constructed in honour of the victims.
In February 2015, the Wajir County governor Ahmed Abdullahi said his government would partner with local and international human rights organisations in seeking justice for the victims of the massacre, saying that the Truth Commission report offered such an opportunity which remained squandered. "Those mentioned by the TJRC report and witnesses must be prosecuted. The people who afflicted the pain to our people remain unpunished and are still with us," Abdullahi said.
The film/documentary Scarred: The Anatomy of a Massacre, directed by Judy Kibinge, is the first independent visual attempt to chronicle the history of the massacre as experienced by both the victims and survivors – some of whom were government officials themselves. The documentary was launched at the National Museum in Nairobi in February 2015.
- Wagalla massacre: Raila Odinga orders Kenya probe
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- Kiplagat, TJRC foes call a truce
- See: Kenya: Wajir Governor to Sue State Over Wagalla Massacre, AllAfrica/The Star, 15 February 2015. Accessed on 25 June 2015.
- See: In new documentary, Wagalla Massacre victims recount horror of dark days, Sahan Journal, 16 February 2015. Accessed on 26 June 2015.
- Salah Abdi Sheik, Blood on the Runway: The Wagalla Massacre of 1984, (Northern Pub. House: 2007)