, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 11 – The Association of Professional Societies in East Africa (APSEA) has rushed to the defence of the Chairman of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission Bethuel Kiplagat, saying he has the ability to lead the country’s healing process.
APSEA which was one of the nine organisations that nominated the TJRC Commissioners, said that it was concerned by incessant campaigns maligning the name and character of the TJRC chairman over criticism that he served in a regime characterised by human rights abuses.
The association’s chairman Dr Daniel Ichang’i who also led the TJRC selection panel said politicians were tarnishing Amb Kiplagat’s name in order to derail the commission’s work.
“It is dangerous to pigeonhole people. But there are those who say that because you worked in the Moi government you cannot be a good person. Well, the current President and the Prime Minister also worked in the same government and it is going to be very difficult to find a person who is totally acceptable everywhere,” he said and added that they were confident in Amb Kiplagat’s chairmanship.
“He enjoys our confidence and the last time we checked we are also Kenyans,” he said.
Dr Ichang’i also added that the establishment of the TJRC had heralded a new dawn for Kenyans and that there was need for the country to give it a chance and avert a repeat of the 2007/08 violence.
“Kenyans are not sheep and these processes are meant to help us exit from a very dangerous cliff. It’s either you jump over the cliff or keep struggling to find ways out of what we think is a society in peril. The fact that we are seated here can end in a week. Let this process begin,” he said.
The APSEA chairman also called on the Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo to protect the reputation of the TJRC and ensure that it fulfilled the purpose for which it was created.
“We are asking Hon Mutula Kilonzo to kindly ensure that all facilitation needed for the TJR process is provided in a timely manner and we also wish to request the same minister under whose docket this commission lies to carefully investigate the source of this well planned, orchestrated, executed disinformation campaign meant to deny Kenyans their right to fully engage with the TJRC,” he said.
He further challenged anyone with tangible proof against the credibility of the selection process in which Amb Kiplagat and the other commissioners were appointed to bring it forward saying that Kenyans had the right to air their opinions and question the integrity of people appointed to influential positions.
“Every Kenyan has a right to think whatever he thinks and they want to be presented with reason. We are here to set our case to Kenyans and with your assistance we hope we will be able to communicate with everyone,” he said.
Dr Ichang’i also explained that the selection panel of the TJRC was done through a transparent vetting process and said that the appointment of the chair person was done by the President. He also said the selection committee had fulfilled its mandate and said that it had received 254 applications from Kenyans out of which 47 were short listed and interviewed. Of the 47 names, 15 were pre-qualified and ranked before being presented to the National Assembly. The 15 were further shortlisted to nine.
“The names of nine commissioners together with three others who were nominated by the Panel of Eminent African Personalities were forwarded to the Justice Minister for onward transmission to the President who then appointed six commissioners together with three from the Panel of Eminent African Personalities,” he said.
Dr Ichang’i also challenged Kenyans to confront other injustices currently facing the country: “Children are dying of malaria everyday because those among us who have the responsibility of ensuring that drugs are available are not doing their job but you see they assume ‘ah!…they are babies. Mama atapata wengine’. Those are injustices.”
On the TJR selection panel, religious organisations were represented by Latiff Shaban from the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) and by Rashmin Chitnis from the Hindu Council of Kenya. The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) was represented by Council Member Evans Monari while the Federation of Kenya Women Lawyers (FIDA) was represented by Nancy Ikinu.
The Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) and the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) were jointly represented by Isaiah Kubai. The Association of Professional Societies in East Africa was represented by Mr Ichang’i while the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) was represented by the chairperson Florence Simbiri-Jaoko.
The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) were jointly represented by Keli Kiilu and the Kenya Medical Association was represented by the Chairman Andrew Suleh.