Kenya truth commission head stays put

February 26, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, KENYA FEB 26- The chairman of Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat has brushed off calls for his resignation and maintains that he sees no reason to quit.

Ambassador Kiplagat who met members of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs insisted that he was fit for the job despite mounting pressure locally and internationally for him to step aside.

“In view of these fundamental beliefs and more so as the chairman of a commission whose mandate is to address past injustices, I cannot merely step aside. Doing so would amount to condoning and encouraging the abuse of human rights, mine included,” he told the parliamentary committee sitting held on Friday.

The former envoy told the committee that he believed any alleged wrongdoing levelled against him should be proven through due process and he would now seek to be enjoined in a case questioning his integrity to defend himself.

“Since no one has brought any case against me and in order to clear my name, I am enjoining myself in a case already filed against the TJRC so that allegations leveled against me are determined in a court of law once and for all,” he said.

On Thursday, 10 eminent past members of African truth commissions among them former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu urged Ambassador Kiplagat to bow out of the chairmanship of the TJRC.

Archbishop Tutu led the personalities in calling on Ambassador Kiplagat to step down on the basis of findings by two government bodies that he allegedly committed improper or illegal acts.

In a statement sent from New York, they said there would be a conflict of interest with Ambassador Kiplagat’s role as TJRC chairperson and put the commission’s work and reputation at risk.

Their statement read in part: “We are deeply troubled by serious allegations of bias and misconduct that have been made against Chairperson Kiplagat. The allegations about his role in the former Moi government have generated a widely held perception that he labours under an unavoidable conflict of interest and that he is unable to bring an impartial mind to bear on his important duties as TJRC Chairperson.”

But, Ambassador Kiplagat says although opponents of the TJRC have a right to express their opinion, they were not aware of personal and professional sacrifices he had made in his quest for peace and democracy.

Despite doubts on his impartiality, Ambassador Kiplagat said his record spoke for itself. He said he had the capacity to get to the root causes of problems in this country, and find long lasting solutions.

He said: “From tomorrow, and while awaiting the determination by the court, I will redirect every ounce of my energy and commitment to the people of Kenya. They have been waiting for far too long for a chance to be heard.”

The TJRC was established to assess the history of human rights abuses in Kenya from independence and would inquire into events that took place between December 12, 1963 and February 28, 2008.

Ambassador Kiplagat was accompanied to Friday\’s sitting by fellow commissioners including Betty Murungi, Tom Ojienda and commission secretary Patricia Nyaundi.


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