, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 23 – Commissioners opposed to the leadership of Florence Jaoko at the Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission (KNHREC) have admitted that they lack the powers to remove her from office, but are now resorting to other tactics to limit her powers.
They have already set up a three-member interim management committee comprising Commissioners Winnie Lichuma, Lawrence Mute and Fatuma Dullo to take up some of the key functions of the chairperson, which include presenting the human rights body’s annual reports to Parliament.
Commissioner Hassan Omar Hassan said the interim committee, which was set up two weeks ago, would also carry out the institutional reorganisation, address causes of high staff turnover within the institution and ensure professionalism in addressing human rights issues.
“There is nowhere in the law where the job descriptions of a chairperson or any other commissioner is stated. So the whole operational element of the commission is grounded on an agreement that we have as peers,” he said.
“Therefore functionally, we can decide to reallocate some of these responsibilities so we do have an interim committee which is like any other committee that this commission usually sets up,” he added.
He explained that the commission had been meeting with other civil society organisations to explore ways of further streamlining its operations.
“We did an evaluation. What are the deliverables that the commission needed to achieve and therefore on account of some of those deliverables, it was thought necessary that we constitute a panel to ensure that some of those functions including those of the chair are executed,” he said.
The trouble at KNHREC started earlier this year when commissioners prevailed upon Ms Jaoko and her then deputy Mr Hassan to resign. Commissioners had voiced their concern over the accountability of the commission to its statutory mandate during regular meetings as well as team-building sessions.
At one such meeting in February, the commissioners presented to Ms Jaoko a memorandum detailing their concerns, with related action points and a date to review progress.
Among their concerns was that some of their statutory obligations had not been met for two years and they further cited failure by the commission to present annual reports to Parliament. They also raised concern that the commission was unable to deliver a new strategic plan, address the causes of high staff turnover and its unresponsiveness to emerging human rights issues.
Mr Hassan resigned as Vice Chairman in May, but Ms Jaoko remained adamant and instead asked for a meeting with the commissioners who insisted that she must step down.
Later on, seven commissioners, with the exception of one, held a meeting on August 30 and September 1, where they passed a vote of no confidence in Ms Jaoko on the basis that she had made it clear she would not resign.