Kenyan Minister defends truth team

February 10, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 10 – Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo on Wednesday told off activists opposing the appointment of Bethuel Kiplagat as Chairman of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission saying they were part of his recruitment process.

Mr Kilonzo said it was self-defeating for the civil society to lead in calls for Mr Kiplagat’s resignation while its representatives sat in the interviewing panel that recommended his appointment.

“He was not donated by any other organisation but the civil society itself,” he said. “(Amb) Kiplagat was not a product of the government or even a political party.”

Religious organisations had two representatives while the Law Society of Kenya, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Federation of Women Lawyers, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, Kenya Private Sector Alliance, Kenya Medical Association had one representative each in the interviewing panel.

“There is a panel that interviewed TJRC members and nobody has spoken to them. I can not just wake up and fire (Amb) Kiplagat without a legal justification.”

The panel which was established by the TJRC Act advertised the job and interviewed applicants before submitting three names to the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs. Amb Kiplagat’s name was flouted among former Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi and Rev Timothy Njoya. The committee settled on Amb Kiplagat.

The civil society has sustained pressure for the Amb Kiplagat’s resignation saying he was of a questionable credibility since he served in the KANU regime that has been accused for perpetuating numerous gross human rights abuses.

A section of civil society has threatened to desert the Commission’s hearings. Mr Kilonzo however challenged those opposed to the Chairman to provide their justification in a “written memoranda.”

“I will be consulting within the government and will soon address the country on the best way forward for this process,” he promised.

The Commission is currently conducting a nationwide familiarisation tour.

There has also been concern that the Indemnity law could be used by offenders to escape justice. The Minister however assured that he is willing to take up the review of the Indemnity Act to ensure it does not block the search for justice and reconciliation. 

“If you feel that the indemnity law has been used against you please write and I will make proposals to have it reviewed,” he said.

The Minister spoke after meeting representatives of the Law Society of Kenya who had paid him a courtesy call to voice their opinion on the draft Constitution produced by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution Review. Led by Chairman Okong’o Omogeni the lawyers gave their nod to the proposed pure Presidential system of government.

Mr Omogeni however said the Council was opposed to the deletion of a clause requiring for fresh vetting of judges in a bid to regain public trust of the justice system. Mr Kilonzo however stood by PSC’s resolution saying ‘this could bring more problems to the system.’


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