, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 22 – Renowned peace maker Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat has been selected to chair the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.
Nairobi lawyer Betty Murungi was appointed the vice chairperson of the nine-member Commission in the appointments made by President Mwai Kibaki on Wednesday.
Other Commissioners include former Law Society of Kenya chairman Tom Ojienda, Tecla Namachanja, Margaret Wambui Ngugi and Maj Gen (Rtd) Ahmed Sheikh Farah.
Welcoming his appointment Amb Kiplagat said the Commission was an opportunity for aggrieved Kenyans to seek justice. He promised that the commission would dig deeper into the historical disputes and the alleged injustices.
“We will not be trying to re-invent the wheel because others have done it. We will rely heavily on experts who have worked in other areas such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and South Africa and other resourceful Kenyans. We will consult widely and come up with the best formula for Kenya,” he said.
The President selected the six from a list of nine nominees approved by Parliament in July. Those who were in the initial list included Retired Presbyterian cleric, Timothy Njoya, Lawyer Thomas Letangule and Abubakar Zein Abubakar.
Three International experts appointed to the Commission are Gertrude Chawatama from Zambia, Berhanu Dinka from Ethiopia and Ronald Siye from the United States of America.
However the timing of the appointment is raising eyebrows given the current debate over the best way to try perpetrators of post election violence. Law lecturer Kithure Kindiki says the establishment of the commission is likely to influence the direction the debate takes.
“Of course the delay in the appointment and the prevailing debate where one voice is vouching for the TJRC can be of concern. However this may help shape up the positions being taken,” he said.
Dr Kindiki however maintains that if handled well the commission could bring healing to the country.
“Many people who have been commenting on it think it’s a cover up but it has truth in it, justice and reconciliation,” he said.
The Commission will have an operation mandate of two years and will explore the historical injustices for the period starting from independence in 1963 to the end of post election violence in February last year. The team’s findings and recommendations are meant to advise the government on measures to be taken to unite the evidently divided country.
The TJRC’s main functions are to investigate gross violations and abuses of human rights, including abductions, disappearances, detentions, torture, sexual violations, murder, extrajudicial killings, ill-treatment and expropriation of property suffered by any person.
The team will be expected to identify and specify the victims of the violations and abuses and make appropriate recommendations for redress. It will also investigate economic crimes and provide redress in respect to crimes of sexual nature against female victims. No amnesty will be provided to anyone found guilty.
Ambassador Kiplagat is remembered for his work in both the Sudan and Somalia peace processes. He is a career diplomat, and a former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Ms Murungi is a former executive director of Urgent Action Fund and has been affiliated with a special court of Sierra Leone. Ms Ngugi, also a lawyer, is the chairperson of Women in Law and Development in Africa.
Prof Siye served as a legal consultant to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 1996 to 2000 while Mr Dinka served as a former United Nations Secretary General’s special representative for Burundi, Sierra Leone and the Great Lakes Region.
The TJRC has been gaining momentum as an alternative to both the International Criminal Court at The Hague and the local tribunal to try suspected perpetrators of post election violence.