, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 21 – Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo on Thursday asked the Chief Justice to fast track his decision whether to establish a tribunal to investigate the conduct of Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) Chairman Bethuel Kiplagat.
This follows an application made by the TJRC Commissioners in April seeking to have an independent body set up to probe the chairman.
Mr Kilonzo who accused the Chief Justice of dilly-dallying in making a verdict since a letter was sent to him six months ago, argued that it risked destabilising the purpose and agenda of the reconciliation commission.
"Ideally that letter should have been responded to within two days to say \’Yes I am appointing a tribunal or No I am not.\’ But people are again transferring the blame to me; yet the Chief Justice is independent and Amb Kiplagat is independent. What do you want me to do?" he quipped.
He also asked the Finance Ministry to deal with the budgetary deficit that is threatening to halt the TJRC activities. During the 2010/2011 budgetary allocation, the TJRC asked for Sh1.2 billion but only got Sh190 million which was to be paid in quarterly installments of Sh47 million.
The commission has however exhausted monies received for this quarter and will be running at a deficit from November 1. The next quarterly allocation is scheduled for January.
"Their fire escape I hear has been locked up, their toilets locked up so I don\’t know and you will remember that even as I challenge the Treasury to release Sh480 million for the TJRC, I am also looking for nearly Sh4 billion for the Constitution," said the Justice Minister.
Mr Kilonzo who spoke after meeting the TJRC Commissioners at his office also promised to take up the financial issue with Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta within the next two weeks.
He further reassured Kenyans of the government\’s commitment in securing the future of the reconciliation commission saying it was the only way through which Kenyans would sort out historical injustices.
"So tell those who are scheming in order to hijack the truth, justice and reconciliation agenda that they will in the end lose. I am not a prophet but you can quote me; this country will at some point have a TJRC that meets the requirements of the Kenyan people," he said.
The Justice Minister further rubbished claims that the TJRC faced disbandment saying those who held such arguments were deluding themselves.
He also downplayed the resignation of Ron Slye (one of the foreign commissioners serving in the TJRC) saying he was not privy to the goings-on at the commission.
Prof Slye, who also served as the commissioner in charge of finance, quit on Thursday (see separate story) citing monetary restraints as well as the integrity of the TJRC Chairman which has been in question since its inception.
"I have no role to play when it comes to resignations of the TJRC commissioners. They write to the President who gazettes the vacancy then new people are selected from a selection panel at which Mutula cannot set foot," he said.
He further reiterated his past views on the independence of the commission saying it could not serve its purpose well if the government kept poking its hands.
"Nowhere in the world does a country set up a truth commission and at the same time control it because the primary focus of any such commission is how government organs and individuals may have treated their people," he explained.