, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 4 – “I was driving and my wife looking much more smug than usual pointed at the car in front of us. It had a bumper sticker that said… any woman who wants to be equal to a man has no ambition.”
The retired prelate had his attentive listeners laughing out loud at this anecdote. Other observations he made, however, had them wearing grim faces.
“I hope you can finish the work that you started. The thing is, it’s clear that if you don’t deal with the past it will come back to haunt you,” Desmond Tutu who headed the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission following the fall of apartheid said in reference to Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).
On the other side of the door as Tutu expressed his concern was Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat, the man tasked with chairing the TJRC.
Tutu was speaking at an All Africa Conference of Churches Symposium, where Kiplagat incidentally chairs the Board of Trustees.
When given a chance to respond, Kiplagat said he had not given up all hope on the controversy ridden commission.
“Unfortunately, we were not able to finish on time. We cannot bring it now in the midst of elections so it is better we do it afterwards. But the process of healing is going to be long term. There will be a committee established by Parliament to implement the recommendations that we will make,” said the TJRC chairman.
The commission was to have completed its enquiries and presented its findings and recommendations regarding human rights violations dating back to in 1963 within two years following the signing of the National Accord that ended the post election violence.
This deadline was then extended by six months to May. A deadline the commission failed to meet asking for another extension.
An extension Mutula Kilonzo, who is formerly the justice minister, has gone on record as saying was laughable.
Members of the commission including its Vice-chair Tecla Namachanja had sought to have Kiplagat face a tribunal saying skeletons from his past brought into question his integrity.
A number of the atrocities the commission was investigating were committed during retired President Daniel arap Moi’s regime which Kiplagat served in.
Kiplagat was for instance Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when the unresolved murder of Robert Ouko was committed. Ouko was then the Foreign Affairs Minister.
Other accusations made against Kiplagat include allegedly being party to and/or turning a blind eye to land grabbing and the Wagalla Massacre in which residents of the area are said to have been brutally killed by security forces in 1984.
The doubts surrounding his moral standing led to Kiplagat to resign as chair of the TJRC in 2010 before returning to the commission.