Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commissions, the world over may not necessarily provide justice but they often serve the public interest and as such their credibility is of paramount importance. It is imperative for victims, witnesses and relatives of those who have faced abuses to have the confidence to appear before the commissions and tell their story; for oppressors to own up and seek forgiveness and for the communities in those nations to learn from those wrongs and avoid future atrocities.
Despite the short lifespan and the vast scope of their investigations, it is expected that the Bethuel Kiplagat-led TJRC will reveal the full and complicated truth about the past. It is regarded as one of the tools in the fight against impunity that has scarred this country.
Considering its mandate, its importance cannot be gainsaid. To have independent and credible commissioners; strong civil society engagement and support is required. The other thing of significance is adequate financial and human resources.
Since his appointment to the helm of the commission, ambassador Kiplagat has been under fire from a cross section of Kenyans including the civil society and other activists in the realm of human rights.
After watching the past debates by the civil society and others I didn’t think their arguments held water, and I also suspected that they were out to malign the name of the good old envoy. Get me right; I am under no illusion to say that all their claims are codswallop, spurious and illegitimate. There maybe some truth in them. Neither am I a devil’s advocate nor do I hold brief for Ambassador Kiplagat.
My trouble with this entire hullabaloo is the manner in which we are expressing our disapproval. My reasoning is that Ambassador Kiplagat was not just picked from nowhere. He applied like any other Kenyan. Kiplagat emerged the winner after going through a rigorous recruitment process and as such I have no doubt that he is qualified. The other thing is that I do not think there is a man in Kenya who would today stand up and say he is as clean or as white as snow.
The good old ambassador may have his own shortcomings and we need to give him support to see him through this process. What his team needs is our support. Walkouts like we saw in the Coast Province are not healthy.
We cannot just put blanket accusations on him by claiming that he was part of the oppressive regime and as such he would not bring justice to the those whom he or his co-rulers had oppressed (valid as this argument may be) my take is let’s not sacrifice the man.
There are many checks and balances under the Act under which he was appointed and of course he is not alone in the commission. There are other credible people who not will sit and watch the chair flout their mandate.
Let Kenyans get justice through at least this mechanism since getting a local tribunal is a mirage. And Mr Ocampo may not give all Kenyans the justice, the truth and the reconciliation they may want to have.