, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 29 – The confidence crisis at the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) took a dramatic turn on Monday after its Vice Chairperson Betty Murungi resigned from her post.
TJRC’s Communications Consultant Kathleen Openda-Mvati confirmed the resignation but said Ms Murungi will remain as a commissioner.
In her communication addressed to the Chairman Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat and fellow Commissioners on Sunday, Ms Murungi regretted that “she was unable to continue given the public position I have expressed with regards to matters facing the Commission’s Chair.”
A statement from TJCR said Ms Murungi is out of the country but had written to the chairman Amb Bethuel Kiplagat to notify him of the resignation.
Mrs Openda-Mvati said in a statement that Ms Murungi who is out of the country, had asked the Commission to elect another Commissioner to serve as Vice Chair but stated she would continue to serve “in my role as Commissioner until we have resolved or concluded our internal processes regarding these matters.”
TJRC’s CEO and Secretary Patricia Nyaundi said the Commission will await Ms Murungi’s return to discuss these issues in her presence and elect her replacement later in the week, adding that no other Commissioners were contemplating resignation.
The resignation comes just a day after Ms Murungi and a foreign TJRC Commissioner Ronald Slye published an opinion in a local newspaper where they called for the resignation of their Chairperson Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat.
Amb Kiplagat has been under intense pressure to resign, with members of the civil society and a section of politicians terming him as being ‘unfit to hold such an office due to his past record as a senior government official.”
Amb Kiplagat has however, maintained he will not resign and even moved to court over the same.
Ms Murungi who had earlier on threatened to resign if the TJRC chairman failed to quit made good her threats on Monday.
In the opinion published in a local daily on Sunday, Ms Murungi and commissioner Slye stated: “we are seriously and profoundly concerned about the allegations that have been raised against our chairman.”
“Our most important concern must be our ability to fulfill our mandate to the people of Kenya including the thousands of victims of human rights abuses who have waited so long for such process.”
The two commissioners said in the opinion article that they were particularly concerned that their chairperson was listed as one of the recipients of land and government houses in what is characterised as an “illegal or irregular” manner in the Ndung’u report.
“This is one of the 35 reports we are required to examine and opine upon,” they said.
“Our chairman has admitted to these transactions, but challenges their characterisation as illegal or irregular. The circumstances surrounding illegal and irregular land transactions are a proper, indeed crucial, part of our mandate. There is no question that we will be faced with other situations like Mr Kiplagat’s: individuals for whom there is evidence of illegal or irregular land transactions but who challenge the characterisation of the transactions in question,” they stated.
“The fact that our chairman is in a similar position raises reasonable concerns about his impartiality.”
Their opinion also singled out Dr Robert Ouko’s assassination as another hurdle they will be faced with because “there is no question that Mr Kiplagat will be a crucial witness in our inquiry into the assassination of Dr Ouko.”
“He was a witness before all three commissions of inquiry into that assassination. Unfortunately, none of the reports of those commissions has been made public. What is not in doubt is that he is an important witness with respect to some unanswered questions.
“His appearance before us places us in an awkward and at worst untenable position of sitting in judgment on our chairman.”
The two commissioners said their demand to have Mr Kiplagat resign had been occasioned by concerns raised over the Wagalla massacre, which the commission is investigating.
TJRC Commissioners are Amb. Bethuel Kiplagat (Chairperson Kenya ), Kaari Betty Murungi ( Kenya), Gertrude Chawatama (Commissioner Zambia), Amb Berhanu Dinka (Commissioner Ethiopia), Ahmed Sheikh Farah (Commissioner Kenya), Tom Ojienda (Commissioner Kenya), Margaret Shava (Commissioner Kenya), Prof. Ronald Slye (Commissioner USA), Tecla Namachanja Wanjala ( Commissioner Kenya).