, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 20 – There is secrecy in the appointment of Commissioners to the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), according to a civil society group which is warning that such a move could sabotage the Panel even before it begins its work.
The International Centre for Policy and Conflict (ICPC) claims that a team has already began interviewing candidates for the sensitive positions in a worryingly concealed fashion.
“Considering the sensitivity and the significance of the TJRC to the future of Kenya, Kenyans have every right to know the form and content of the selection process of the Commissioners,” said Ndung’u Wainaina, the Executive Director of the lobby group.
It is believed that a 10 member Selection Panel began interviewing a secret list of possible commissioners last week at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.
According to the Act, the Selection Panel is composed of one member appointed by each of the following: the Law Society of Kenya, Federation of Kenya Women Lawyers, Institute of Certified Public Accountant Accountants of Kenya, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Central Organization of Trade Unions, Federation of Kenya Employers, Kenya National Union of Teachers, National Council of Churches of Kenya, Supreme Council of Kenya Muslim, Kenya Private Sector Alliance, and the CJPC.
The Panel is mandated to consider all the applications received and recommend to the National Assembly suitably qualified persons for nomination as commissioners.
The Panel is required to rank and provide comments regarding each of the finalists to the National Assembly.
The Act provides that the National Assembly shall, upon receipt of the recommendations of the Selection Panel nominate six persons for appointment as Commissioners and shall submit the list of nominees to the Minister for onward transmission to the President.
Mr Wainaina on Monday said it is “vital that (the) initial shortlist is published, giving anyone the opportunity to provide the Panel with comment on any of the candidates prior to final shortlist.”
The Truth Justice and Reconciliation process was agreed under Item 4 of the Kofi Annan led national reconciliation process. The process was entrenched in the Constitution under the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Act early this year.
“Kenyans have to guard against a situation where a TJRC would improperly immunise lawbreakers and thus foreclose prosecutions. Thus the correct process of nominating Commissioners has to be followed otherwise the whole exercise would be disastrous,” Mr Wainaina said in a statement.
The lobby group also called on the Justice Ministry and Attorney General to ensure that no laws or provisions of the Constitution would stand on the way of the TJRC process.
The Truth Commission is an officially created, temporary, non judicial investigative body. It is used in societies in transition to offer some form of accounting for the past and reconcile communities.
In Kenya, such a team will probe the events from the 12th December 1963 including the deadly violence which erupted after a disputed 2007 Presidential election until 28th February 2008. Some 1,500 people were killed in violence that took a nasty ethnic turn just after President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced after their homes and businesses were torched by hostile communities.
The TJRC is expected to take statements, conduct investigations and research, hold public hearings, and publish a final public report all in a bid to heal the nation from the past atrocities.
Several examples can be found in Indonesia, Sierra Leone and perhaps the most popular one in South Africa.
Established after the abolition of apartheid, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was the first of the 19 held internationally to stage public hearings. It was seen by many as a crucial component of the transition to full and free democracy in South Africa.
The commission was empowered to grant amnesty to those who committed abuses during the apartheid era, as long as the crimes were politically motivated, proportionate, and there was full disclosure by the person seeking amnesty.
In the book ‘The Effectiveness of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Perceptions of Xhosa, Afrikaner, and English South Africans, (2004)’ and the Wikipedia Encyclopedia the authors conclude the following:
The South African commission brought forth many witnesses giving testimony about the secret and immoral acts committed by the Apartheid Government, the liberation forces including the Africa National Congress party, and other forces for violence that many say would not have come out into the open otherwise.
On October 28, 1998 the Commission presented its report, which condemned both sides for committing atrocities.