, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 24 – The Panel of Eminent African Personalities has hailed Kenya on the appointment of members of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).
In a statement on Friday, the Panel expressed hope that the early operationalisation of the TJRC will help promote peace, justice, national unity, healing and reconciliation among the people of Kenya.
“The Panel is of the view that, for the Commission to achieve its objectives, it will require the sustained engagement and full cooperation of a broad cross-section of Kenyan society, including civil society, political and religious leaders, the private sector, the media and other key stakeholders,” the mediators charged.
The panel further called on the international community to extend its support to the work of the TJRC, which they said is a key component of the reform agenda agreed on during the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR) talks.
“We trust that the six Kenyan members, who were selected through a consultative process, and the three international members, who were nominated by the Panel, will work assiduously to accomplish the Commission’s onerous responsibilities.”
In Nairobi, the Commission held its first statutory meeting and formally picked Nairobi lawyer Betty Murungi as Vice Chairperson.
Making his first address Chairman Bethuel Kiplagat reiterated that the success of the enormous task of uniting the country will be hinged on the ability of Kenyans to come out and express themselves.
“Ours will be to listen faithfully and take what has been given to us. For this process to succeed it has to be owned by Kenyans,” he reiterated.
The renowned peacemaker said that the commission would work hard and educate Kenyans and create an atmosphere of trust.
“We will go out of our way and listen to everyone including the criticisms. We will go as far as we can to seek the truth as we have been mandated,” said Amb Kiplagat and added that before starting formal hearings the team would be welcoming proposals from stakeholders which are ‘uniquely Kenyan ideas’ on how to handle the process.
On her part Ms Murungi called on the country to be ready to address the differences that exist.
“We will only succeed if we as Kenyans put the cynicism aside and listen to others,” she said.
Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister who attended the first meeting acknowledged the enormous task of the commission but said that Kenyans should be at the centre of the healing process.
“Don’t hide your feelings, speak to these people freely tell them your fears, doubts and expectations because only that way shall we be able to open up for the future,” he said in his challenge to the citizens.
President Mwai Kibaki on Wednesday appointed six commissioners from nine names proposed by Parliament. The team will be sworn in after the arrival of the three international experts expected in a few days.
Other Commissioners include former Law Society of Kenya chairman Tom Ojienda, Tecla Namachanja, Margaret Wambui Ngugi and Maj Gen (Rtd) Ahmed Sheikh Farah. Three International experts appointed to the Commission are Gertrude Chawatama from Zambia, Berhanu Dinka from Ethiopia and Ronald Siye from the United States of America.
The Commission will have an operation mandate of two years and will explore the historical injustices for the period starting from independence in 1963 to the end of post election violence in February last year. The team’s findings and recommendations are meant to advise the government on measures to be taken to unite the evidently divided country.
The TJRC’s main functions are to investigate gross violations and abuses of human rights, including abductions, disappearances, detentions, torture, sexual violations, murder, extrajudicial killings, ill-treatment and expropriation of property suffered by any person.
The team will be expected to identify and specify the victims of the violations and abuses and make appropriate recommendations for redress. It will also investigate economic crimes and provide redress in respect to crimes of sexual nature against female victims. No amnesty will be provided to anyone found guilty.