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Kenyan lawyers tell Kiplagat time is up

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 14 – The Law Society of Kenya has now broken ranks with embattled Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC)  Chairman Bethuel Kiplagat saying he should heed calls for his resignation.

Newly appointed LSK Chairman Kenneth Akide said on Wednesday that the truth commission could not adequately play its role given that the integrity of the chairman was in question.

Mr Akide acknowledged that LSK was part of the selection panel that picked Mr Kiplagat, but said he should step down in good faith to save the commission from public scorn. 

“Mr Kiplagat is too central to some of the issues that he is called upon to investigate and technicalities as to the removal of Mr Kiplagat or any other commissioner will not do; that the spirit of the act should guide him and he should question his conscience,” he said.

In an interview with Capital News, Mr Akide said there was no need for the dissolution of the entire TJRC team as it would cast the country in negative light. He added that the LSK supported the creation of TJRC as it would help the country deal with past social injustices.

“I don’t think disbanding the whole team reflects positively on us as a country in this region and in the world. The Act is good; it sets out the framework and the debate that is now going on really involves an individual,” he said.

The lawyers’ society which was represented at the TJR selection panel by former Council member Evans Monari also said the selection process did not fully analyse Mr Kiplagat’s background. Mr Akide said the TJRC chair was adversely mentioned by the Ndung’u land report; the Wagalla massacre, the Ouko murder probe and the alleged irregular acquisition of land in various parts of the country.

The LSK Chairman who had earlier met Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo to discuss the issue also faulted him for ignoring a letter sent by the TJRC commissioners. The letter asked him (Mr Kilonzo) to form a tribunal to investigate the commission’s chair. Instead the LSK asked the two principals to advise Mr Kiplagat to resign.

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“The Justice Minister refused to act on the letter and asked them (the commissioners) to seek advice from their lawyers and direct the letter to the relevant authority. The TJRC was formed to seek truth and not for litigation matters,” he said.

A cross section of Kenyans meanwhile expressed mixed views on the proposal to disband the commission. Some were of the view that dissolving the commission was the best way forward while others thought it was not a solution.

“It should be broken up because the selection process of the chair was fundamentally flawed. In addition grey hairs do not only show wisdom they are also an indication of the early signs of dementia. The chair is curiously detached by what his team is thinking,” said one. 

“I do not think that it should be disbanded because the checks and balances that were in place while choosing the commission should have acted as a way of sifting out those who should have been there and those who were not. I just think it’s a witch hunt,” another concerned citizen said.

According to the TJRC Act a person who wishes to have a Commissioner removed from the Commission may apply for the removal to the Minister for Justice with a copy to the chairperson.

Where the affected person is the chairperson, the application shall be made to the Minister of justice with a copy to the vice chairperson.

Where the removal from office of the chairperson or a commissioner arises under subsection (2), the Minister shall within seven days of receipt of the application convene the Selection Panel, to inquire into the matter and report on the facts to the Minister and recommend whether the chairperson or the Commissioner ought to be removed from office and the Minister shall communicate the recommendations of the Selection Panel to the President.

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