Wagalla massacre

The Wagalla massacre was a massacre of ethnic Somalis by the Kenyan Army on 10 February 1984 in Wajir County, Kenya. Moi[who?] opened barracks near Wagalla, where he brought soldiers to 'discipline the villagers'.

Wagalla Massacre
LocationWagalla Airstrip, North Eastern Province, Kenya
Coordinates01°46′55.92″N 39°56′2.08″E
DateFebruary 10, 1984
Attack type



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.[1]

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.[1]

Death toll

The exact number of people killed in the massacre is unknown.[2] However, eyewitnesses place the figure at around 5,000 deaths.[1][3]


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".[4][failed verification] It was not until October 2000 that the government publicly acknowledged wrongdoing on the part of its security forces.[5]

In 2010, Bethuel Kiplagat stepped aside[citation needed] as chairman of the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission because of his alleged involvement in authorising the action that led to the massacre.[6][failed verification][7][failed verification] 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[8] to upward of ten thousand.[9][failed verification][10][failed verification]

In April 2012, Kiplagat was reinstated as TJRC chairman after the Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa brokered a truce between him and the other commissioners.[11]

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.[1]

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.[12]


The film/documentary Scarred: The Anatomy of a Massacre, directed by Judy Kibinge, founder of the East African Documentary Film Fund, 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. The documentary was launched at the National Museum in Nairobi in February 2015.[13][14]

See also


  1. Wagalla massacre: Raila Odinga orders Kenya probe
  2. Odalo, Bob (26 March 2000). "How Mulinge Saved Kenyatta From Coup". The Nation.
  3. Ongeri, Boniface & Victor Obure (9 December 2004). "Fading images: How province is fighting one-eyed bandit's legacy". The Standard. Archived from the original on 10 October 2007. Retrieved 8 August 2007.
  4. Ngunjiri, Philip (4 November 1998). "Muslim leaders oppose plan to exhume bodies". Inter Press Service. Archived from the original on 16 May 2011. Retrieved 8 August 2007.
  5. "Kenya admits mistakes over 'massacre'". BBC. 18 October 2000. Retrieved 8 August 2007.
  6. US professor quits Kenyan truth commission, citing lack of confidence CS Monitor
  7. "Leaders demand probe into 1994 killings in northeast". The People. 16 June 2002.
  8. Opondo, Owino (19 October 2000). "Wagalla issue causes uproar in the House". The Nation.
  9. "Two-Week Ultimatum to Land Grabbers". East African Standard. 28 February 2003. Retrieved 9 August 2007.
  10. Maliti, Tom (14 September 2003). "Kenyans seek commission to discover truth of '84 mass killing". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. A18. Retrieved 9 August 2007.(alternate link)
  11. Kiplagat, TJRC foes call a truce
  12. See: Kenya: Wajir Governor to Sue State Over Wagalla Massacre, AllAfrica/The Star, 15 February 2015. Accessed on 25 June 2015.
  13. See: In new documentary, Wagalla Massacre victims recount horror of dark days, Sahan Journal, 16 February 2015. Accessed on 26 June 2015.
  14. See: A report with detailed testimonies of witnessess, by Judy Kibinge. Accessed on 18 Feb. 2021.

Further reading