, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 9 – Civil Society Organisations on Thursday petitioned Chief Justice Evan Gicheru to appoint a tribunal to investigate the embattled Chairman of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) Bethuel Kiplagat.
Under the banner of Kenya Transitional Justice Network, the civil society groups want a judicial tribunal formed to investigate Ambassador Kiplagat over allegations of involvement in the cover-ups of the assassination of the late Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Ouko, alleged complicity in the Wagalla massacre by the military in Northern Kenya and grabbing of public property.
“People think it is business as usual. We are not saying that impunity will not thrive but in the new constitutional order, those who do wrong things somehow will get punished,” said Tom Kagwe, Senior Programme Officer at the Kenya Human Rights Commission.
He said that the allegations make Amb Kiplagat morally and legally incompetent to lead a reconciliation process.
“Let’s give each other seven days after which we will be back here (to the Chief Justice) to ask and demand what action is being taken about this petition. I am sure in his wisdom, he will act. Let the elephant get out of the room instead of the Chief Justice,” Mr Kagwe added.
He also said that the allegations had exposed the TJRC to further operational, legal and administrative bottlenecks.
Mr Kagwe accused the selection panel of failing to get detailed insights into the profiles of the candidates during the recruitment process in 2008 instead making them to swear affidavits indicating their compliance with the provisions.
The TJRC Act requires that no person shall be qualified as a commissioner unless they are of good character and integrity, has not been in any way involved, implicated, linked or associated with human rights violations of any kind or in any matter which is to be investigated and shall be impartial in the performance of the functions of the commission.
International Centre for Policy and Conflict Executive Director Ndung’u Wainaina said that Ambassador Kiplagat had a direct interest in the work of the commission as well as its outcome making him incapable of leading the truth commission with diligence.
“By us getting a new Constitution, it meant that we needed to break away from our past. This Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission was going to be a central pillar in the new constitutional dispensation. As it currently stands, this commission can only condone, endorse and enforce impunity; it cannot dismantle impunity at whatever cost,” Mr Wainaina opined.
In April this year, eight commissioners of the TJRC presented a similar petition to the Chief Justice but action is yet to be taken.