, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 17 – Civil societies on Friday threatened mass action against the Chief Justice (CJ) claiming he had refused to act on a petition that sought to have a tribunal formed to investigate the conduct of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) Chairman, Bethuel Kiplagat.
The lobby groups allied to the Transitional Justice Network also accused the Chief Justice of violating Article 47 of the Constitution of Kenya which gives every Kenyan the right to reasonable administrative action.
Activist Okiya Omtatah said the civil societies would hold demonstrations next week, if the Chief Justice fails to act on their petition by the close of business on Friday.
“We have no time for exchanging papers with the CJ. We want the institution of the Judiciary to come in and rescue the people of Kenya from a flawed truth and justice process. Right now we are still in the diplomatic mode but we are ready to engage in a very determined and ruthless manner,” he said.
The civil societies presented a public petition to the CJ on September 9. Their application was premised on Article 37 of the Constitution of Kenya. In April, the TJRC commissioners also wrote to the CJ asking him to establish a tribunal to investigate their chairman’s conduct but he has not yet responded.
Further, Mr Omtatah rubbished the appointment process of the TJRC Chair saying it was not transparent.
“The fact that Kiplagat was appointed through some process does not validate evidence that comes up against him later because he swore an affidavit distancing himself from the allegations being made. The process of nominating him was rushed,” he said.
However, civil societies were represented at the TJRC selection panel last April. They short listed 15 Kenyans whom they thought ought to serve in the truth commission; among the names was Amb Kiplagat who had the highest ratings. The questions and concerns about his (Amb Kiplagat) character came up after he had been appointed.
According to the Ministry of Justice the selection committee was fully made of Non Governmental Organisations which included: the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM), the Hindu Council of Kenya, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU), the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), the Association of Professional Studies in East Africa (APSEA), the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) and the Kenya Medical Association (KMA)
Mr Omtatah also said that the appointment and subsequent leadership of the TJRC Chairman was a violation of the new laws.
“The truth commission has committed itself to investigate cases in which Amb Kiplagat is alleged to have been involved. Therefore his continued chairmanship violates the principles of natural justice particularly that ‘one cannot be a judge in his won case’,” he said.
He further argued that Amb Kiplagat’s continued stay at the commission had directly and significantly contributed to the commission’s operational challenges.
“These matters are of grave concern and have led to a majority of victims and stakeholders disengaging from the TJRC process,” he held.