, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 29 – The Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) has been challenged to distinguish itself as an independent entity separate from the Executive to win public trust.
National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) says that with a dwindling public faith in institutions and concerns over the secrecy that shrouded the appointment of TJRC commissioners, the team faces an enormous task of showing that they can stand on their own.
“One hopes that the commission will maintain their independence, remain neutral on the content they deal with and be driven by a passion and love for Kenya desiring to create space for every Kenyan. Let’s hope that we will all come out saying we are happy that their issue was dealt with,” NCCK Secretary General Canon Peter Karanja told Capital News in an interview.
The commission was appointed last week and is expected to probe historical injustices that have continuously divided the country between independence and last year February when the post election violence broke out. A section of politicians have in the last few weeks opposed a local tribunal or trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) claiming that it would lead to more violence.
However, the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTR) challenged the commission to de-link itself from perception that it’s a third option to deal with post election violence suspects.
ICTR head of Kenyan office Njonjo Mue cautioned that the confusion created by the political class could jeopardise the success of the commission. Mr Mue said that the TJRC should make it clear that it will not be used as an escape route for those unwilling to appear before judicial systems such as a Special Tribunal or the ICC.
“If the commission allows itself to be used to white-wash the post election crimes, that is the easiest route to it shattering its own credibility,” he said adding that the Chairman should clearly set out his team’s mandate to the public.
Mr Mue said that this is the only way aggrieved Kenyans could have faith in the TJRC as a reconciliation tool.
On his part Canon Karanja warned that the reconciliation efforts were bound to fail if the government abandons trial of the suspects.
“We presume the acknowledgement of right and wrong and the value of the rule of law as the basis of people confessing and asking for forgiveness. Failure to judicially punish crime in the TJRC will be a waste of time,” he reiterated.
The two experts are of the opinion that the success of the commission is also hinged on favorable political will, assistance from the civil society and faith based organisations and its ability to identify priority issues it will address within its vast time jurisdiction from independence to February last year.