, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 20 – The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission has rejected a Cabinet resolution to expand their mandate and include the trial of post election violence suspects.
Chairman Bethuel Kiplagat told Capital News on Thursday that his team was ready to quit should the Cabinet amend the TJRC Act to expand their mandate. Amb Kiplagat said his team had formally communicated their objection to the Cabinet through the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Mutula Kilonzo.
“That was not our job and bringing it in will totally mess the whole concept of TJRC,” he emphatically stated.
“We are happy the Minister has assured that he was not going to make any amendments and our role would remain as it is,” he added.
Cabinet rejected a proposal by Mr Kilonzo to create a local tribunal to try the suspects and instead vouched for the use of the TJRC and the normal courts but the move attracted heavy condemnation.
The civil society, religious leaders, international community and other interested organisations have threatened that they would not support the TJRC process unless the government showed any will to support the creation of the tribunal.
A lobby group claiming to be victims of atrocities of the past has moved to court to halt the commission’s work questioning the credibility of Amb Kiplagat and some of his fellow commissioners. Another civil society group, the Centre for Multiparty Democracy has written to former UN Chief Kofi Annan urging his to press for the disbandment of the team.
The Chairman, however, said his team will not be cowed by the criticism adding that they would engage the skeptics to raise what they have against the commissioners “then if there is a sin we will ask for forgiveness.”
“If you have to fear because people are critical about you then we will not be able to make a difference in this world.”
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, extra-judicial 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 a sexual nature against female victims.
Amb Kiplagat’s team is currently laying ground for its work and is expected to start public engagement in November.
“If you give me a task it is for me to create that political will and this is not from politicians alone. It is the goodwill and constructive criticism from the media, private sector and all in this country that will work,” he said.