BY NETO AGOSTINHO
The shocking revelations that some witnesses to the goings-on during the Post Election Violence, who have been under the protection of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, have sworn affidavits retracting their testimony are most disturbing.
Whichever way we slice this story, it is criminal and those involved must be held criminally liable without further delay. This matter must with immediate effect be thoroughly and independently investigated to bring out the truth.
If William Ruto has manipulated the gentlemen to retract their incriminating accusations against him then he has committed a grave crime and he must also be exposed and punished according to the law. And the two men, too, must be punished for collaborating in the crime.
But the bigger crime would be if their allegations are true that indeed they were false witnesses hired by none other than the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, a watchdog State organ financed by taxpayers and charged with the responsibility to protect our rights.
Such a development would demand the severest of sanctions to be taken against the KNCHR, and anybody involved in undermining both the credibility and mandate of the Commission, and abusing the human rights of Kenyans, including suspects of the Post Election Violence.
We take great exception to the casual business-as-usual manner in which the Commission dismissed earlier allegations made by Mr Ruto that Commissioner Omar Hassan had lined up witnesses to nail him.
Instead of the flat denial they collectively issued via a categorical press statement, the commissioners should have asked for an independent and credible third-party verification of the criminal allegations against Commissioner Hassan, whose right to a good reputation must be protected.
Instead, they ganged up as a team to dismiss the allegations offhand and have now put the entire Kenya National Commission on Human Rights in the objectionable position where it must collectively answer to the claims of witness bribery and coaching.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to take the confessed guns for hire at face value. If it is true, as they confess, that they stooped so low as to tell lies under oath in exchange for material gain in this grave matter that nearly destroyed the republic, then they are totally unreliable.
There is no guarantee that they are reformed and won’t again say and do what the highest bidder will ask them to.
That is why, whereas we appreciate Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo’s instructions to the police to arrest and charge the false witnesses with perjury, we find it an inappropriate course of action. Undue pressure may be applied to have them change their story while they are in police custody.
To protect them and the truth, they must be processed in a transparent process where the public can have no doubts that justice has been done and the truth is out.
We therefore demand that President Mwai Kibaki constitutes a judicial commission of inquiry to thoroughly and professionally interrogate the matter.
Afterwards, appropriate legal action should then be taken to nail the culprits and restore the credibility of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission and the reputations of any individuals adversely mentioned.
The judicial commission of inquiry should also investigate other credibility issues bedevilling the KNCHR so that this most important State organ can be restored to its past glory.
Among these are the recent infighting among commissioners and allegations emanating from the same Commission that one Commissioner had leaked important information about PEV witnesses.
(Neto Agostinho is the National Convener, Kenyans for Justice and Development)