, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 15 – The civil society has been put on the spot yet again over the credibility crisis facing the Truth Justice and Reconciliation (TJRC).
Former Justice Minister Martha Karua said blame for the fiasco surrounding the appointment of Bethuel Kiplagat and a spill-over that had led to calls for disbandment of the entire commission, lay squarely with the civil society.
“The TJRC Act takes the process of appointing the commissioners out of the government. Just before I left the Ministry, I inaugurated the selection committee fully made up of Non Governmental Organisations, so the same NGOs hounding Mr Kiplagat appointed him,” the Gichugu MP said.
Ms Karua said she did not understand why the civil society was now leveling allegations against Mr Kiplagat yet they are the ones who selected him from a wide list of applicants.
She also wondered why the issues were not raised during the selection period but also queried the manner in which inspection of candidates was done.
“They should be apologising to us if at all they have any information that they didn’t do a thorough background check, but let’s now not cry about that. What do we do now that we are in this situation?” she asked.
Ms Karua also said there was no point for the rest of the TJRC commissioners to continue holding their positions yet there was no work being done.
She said the integrity of the entire commission was in question and it was important that they all vacate the office.
“The integrity of the entire body is now affected, whether the allegations are now true or not is no longer the issue. The body has lost integrity, send the entire lot packing!” she emphasised.
Looking for a solution to end the TJRC impasse was the best way Ms Karua believed should be done to spare the country from wasting more time.
She said procedurally, since the TJRC law could not allow the government to disband the commission, it should be returned to Parliament for MPs to change it to have it disbanded.
She said it was unfortunate that when the law was made, hitches like the one being experienced were not foreseen and advised that it was important to have the law changed to end the challenges as well as prevent similar mistakes in future.
“When the law was made, we didn’t expect squabbles among the commissioners, it is now not only among Kenyans, but amongst themselves, we have to change the law and have them all go home and we start afresh,” she said.
On Wednesday Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo announced that he had consulted the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs to work on modalities of disbanding the entire commission since the TJRC Act did not allow the government to disband it.
He said only Parliament could amend the law to allow for its dissolution.
It was unclear which direction the commissioners would take since they had written a letter to Mr Kilonzo asking him to form a tribunal to investigate Mr Kiplagat.
In his response, he said the law did not allow the government to intervene, instead suggesting the options of having Parliament amend the law or a citizen petitioning Mr Kiplagat but with proper evidence on the allegations made against him.
The establishment of the TJRC was one of the recommendations made during the post-election violence mediation talks. It is supposed to lead the country in the healing and reconciliation process by uncovering historical injustices.