, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 8 – Lawyers have differed with commissioners at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights over their decision to oust embattled chairperson Florence Jaoko on claims of credibility test.
The Law Society of Kenya, the International Commission of Jurists and the Federation of Women Lawyers FIDA in a joint press conference said the commissioners do not have powers to remove their chairperson.
In their statement the associations challenged the commissioners to justify their actions with a legal provision.
“We have not come across a legal interpretation that would rend itself to what is happening,” said ICJ Executive Director George Kegoro
“You only invoke law based on facts and from what we know is the lack of confidence has developed in the commission.”
Mr Kegoro said being State body commissioners have an obligation to explain their action to Kenyans and safeguard the reputation of the Commission.
“As stakeholders the Kenyan citizens need to know what is happening at the Commission.”
On Monday commissioners met and endorsed a proposal to oust Ms Jaoko and install a three member committee as a caretaker team. They claimed that the Commission has lost its credibility and prominence owing to the wanting leadership of Ms Jaoko.
However on Tuesday Ms Jaoko came out fighting saying that according to the law only a tribunal or the Parliament can remove her from office. She said she will not be moved by the act of the commissioners.
“We don’t want such an important body to be subjected to acts that might be deemed as arbitrary or the normal board room coups of the past,” said Njonjo Mue, an ICJ Council member.
At the onset of the new Constitution KNHCR was transformed into the Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission by incorporating the National Gender Commission. The Chairperson of KNHCR was sworn in as the Chair of the new commission while the Chair of the Gender Commission was sworn in as the Vice Chair.
The rivalry at the State human rights body has been simmering for the better part of the year unabated. In May this year Commissioner Hassan Omar resigned as Vice Chair as conflict between him and Ms Jaoko escalated.
FIDA Executive Director Grace Maingi is subsequently questioning why the KNHCR commissioners acted in the exclusion of those from Gender Commission.
“Any decision regarding the chair would as a matter of law involve the Gender Commission. We want to know whether they are in support of the removal,” said Ms Maingi.