, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 29 – Chief Justice Evan Gicheru has finally set up a tribunal to investigate the Chairman of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission Bethuel Kiplagat.
The commission’s secretary Patricia Nyaundi said they had been reliably informed of the development, and were now awaiting formal communication.
‘Yes, I can confirm that we have been told of the appointment, even though the Chief Justice has not named the individuals to sit on the tribunal,” she told Capital News when reached on telephone on Friday evening.
The appointment appears to give a lifeline to the TJRC, which was issued with a 72-hour ultimatum by the parliamentary committee on Justice and Legal Affairs “to sort out its credibility issues or face disbandment.”
The committee’s chairman Ababu Namwamba had said Parliament was unhappy with the never ending hurdles at the critical commission adding that a new team would be announced if the current TJRC was dissolved.
The commission however argued that the conditions set by the MPs were unreasonable as the credibility and funding crises required the government’s intervention.
Commissioner Margaret Shava on Thursday pointed out that the truth commission had already played its part by asking for the Chief Justice and Finance Ministry’s help which had not been forthcoming, so far.
“According to our Act, where the question of the removal from office of the chairperson or a Commissioner arises, the Chief Justice shall appoint a tribunal consisting of a chairperson and two other members selected by the CJ from among persons who hold or have held office as judges of the High Court. So the powers rest with him,” she said.
Mr Kiplagat has been adamant that he would not step aside and instead demanded the appointment of a tribunal to probe his conduct against accusations while serving in the Moi regime.
He has been under siege to resign after his appointment to head the crucial commission with claims that he was involved in a number of atrocities which the commission is required to probe.
Mr Kiplagat was a key official of the Moi regime when death of Dr Robert Ouko occurred and when the Wagalla massacre took place.
He however insists that he is innocent and has been demanding fair and just treatment.
The commission which also blamed the government for the problems it was facing argued that the CJ had ignored an application by the commissioners seeking to have a tribunal formed against Mr Kiplagat in April.
Fifteen Rift Valley MPs earlier this week rallied behind the besieged team and vowed to shoot down any Motion in Parliament that would seek to have the TJRC dissolved.
The MPs who were speaking during a breakfast meeting with the TJRC commissioners expressed their support for the reconciliation process arguing that it would help Kenyans heal from past historical injustices.
Constitutional Affairs Assistant Minister William Cheptumo said his ministry would also continue canvassing for the release of monies promised to the Commission to ensure that its works were not crippled.
“When you hear that the government should disband this commission, we are saying as a ministry, government and as Members of Parliament that that is not a responsible thing to do. And so I would like to assure you that the government will never interfere with the TJRC,” he said.
During the meeting Mr Kiplagat expressed his concern over the imminent disbandment threat facing his commission.
“It is not the best way to go; absolutely not. I am so deeply touched and moved by the problems people face and they want an avenue to express those problems which we have to solve because if we don’t we won’t have a country,” he said.
The credibility woes worsened last week with the resignation of American commissioner Prof Ron Slye who accused the government of ignoring the plight of the commission.