NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 11 – Bethuel Kiplagat is finally back as chairman of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) after Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa brokered a truce with warring commissioners.
Kiplagat quit in November 2010 after the then Chief Justice Evan Gicheru appointed a tribunal to investigate his conduct.
He was faced with public pressure to resign from fellow commissioners, the civil society and the public after questions were raised about his ability to lead the TJRC since he was in government when a number of atrocities that the commission is supposed to investigate were committed.
Among the issues that the public want cleared include the Wagalla massacre of 1984, and the circumstances surrounding the death of one-time Cabinet Minister Robert Ouko.
Kiplagat was the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when Dr Ouko was killed.
The term of a tribunal appointed by Gicheru to probe Kiplagat’s conduct expired before it could achieve its mandate. Its life was never extended despite the fact that it did not complete its work.
After the tribunal was appointed Kiplagat moved to court challenging it and sought for orders to block it from inquiring into his past. He got the orders and while the case was pending in court the term of the tribunal expired.
In March 2012 he declined to honor summonses issued by the commission to appear as a witness on land grabbing allegations.
Kiplagat early this year went back to the TJRC claiming to have been cleared as there was no tribunal in place and the court case had wound up after the tribunal’s time lapsed prompting the stand-off with fellow commissioners.
TJRC commissioners led by acting Chair Tecla Namachanja vowed not to cooperate with him until he was cleared by a tribunal.
She argued that his return to office was retrogressive as it would undermine the progress that the commission had achieved.
Wamalwa’s predecessor Mutula kilonzo had championed for the disbandment of the current commission after it hands over its report.
The TJRC was expected to complete its report and hand over the findings and recommendations in May.
The commission was set up by legislation approved by Parliament to investigate unlawful killings, human rights violations, historical injustices, corruption and ethnic clashes since 1963.
The TJRC was mandated to make specific recommendations to the Attorney General on what crimes to bring to court.