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Besieged TJRC chair now faces two options

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 30- The onus to suspend besieged Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) Chairman Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat now rests with President Mwai Kibaki following Chief Justice Evan Gicheru\’s decision on Friday to set up a tribunal to investigate integrity and credibility questions raised against him.

The commission which welcomed the establishment of the five-man tribunal claimed on Saturday that it had not received any formal communication from the CJ on the matter.

"The TJRC Act of 2008 as amended is very clear on when the Chief Justice sets up a tribunal on the chairperson or any other commissioner serving in this commission. Therefore it\’s upon the President to suspend the chairperson of this commission for as long as this tribunal is in place,"
Legal Affairs Director Tom Chavangi explained.

He added that Ambassador Kiplagat could also resign on his own volition until the probe surrounding his integrity was concluded.

The truth Commission also urged those with concerns about the Chairman\’s integrity to present them to the tribunal so that a fair conclusion could be reached.

TJRC Vice Chairperson Tecla Namachanja claimed that the commission had already collected 6000 petitions from Kenyans regarding the Chairman.

"We are therefore asking those Kenyans who have not done so to engage with our 424 statement takers across the country. This tribunal will help move the truth process forward," she said.

The reconciliation commission which has one year to complete its works before handing over its recommendations also asked Justice Gicheru to gazette the notification on the establishment of the Tribunal. Ms Namachanja argued that it would save the commission time and help it accomplish its agenda.

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"This team is committed and yes we shall do our best to finish our work on time. But in the event that we don\’t do it, there is the provision for the commission\’s work to be extended for the next six months," she said.

She added that the 72-hour ultimatum issued by the Parliamentary Justice and Legal Affairs committee on Thursday had increased pressure on the CJ to respond to an application filed by the TJRC commissioners with regard to the Chairman\’s integrity.

"The move puts to rest controversies surrounding his integrity. We had filed a judicial review seeking orders to compel the CJ to set up a tribunal," Ms Namachanja explained.

The commission was also optimistic that it would soon have funds to conduct its activities in the country. It is currently running on a monetary deficit after the government allocated Sh190 million against its budget of Sh1.2 billion during this financial year.

In addition, the Sh190 million was to be paid in quarterly installments of Sh47 million. The commission is currently on the second quarter but has already exhausted its monies. The next allocation is scheduled for January.
Donors have also been unwilling to fund the TJRC citing the Chairman\’s integrity woes.

"The justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister promised that he was going to help us find money and we believe that the money is coming. We also hope that the setting up of the tribunal will encourage donors to come in and assist us," said Finance and Administration Director Juliana Mutisya.

The commission to investigate Ambassador Kiplagat is chaired by former Court of Appeal Judge William Deverell.

Other members include State Counsel Edwin Okello and Perpetual Waitere (who will in addition serve as assisting counsel and Secretary respectively) and High Court Judges Onesmus Mutungi and Benjamin Kubo.


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