, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 28 – The Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) on Thursday dismissed a 72-hour ultimatum issued by Members of Parliament to resolve its credibility crisis or face disbandment.
The Commission argued that the conditions set by MPs were unreasonable as the credibility and funding crises it faced required the government’s intervention.
Commissioner Margaret Shava further 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.
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 the chairman, Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat in April.
“This lack of the formation of a tribunal hampers our work and it denies the chairman the opportunity to present his side of the story, a situation which is contrary to the rules of natural justice. Nobody should be condemned unheard,” she noted.
After a series of meetings with the parliamentary committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, the TJRC was asked to resolve the problems it was facing within three days, failure to which it would be subsequently disbanded.
Chairman Ababu Namwamba 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.
However, 15 Rift Valley MPs had on Thursday morning 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.
Justice and 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 Ambassador 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.
The Commission has been taking statements from witnesses in selected parts of the country and is expected to finalise its work and hand over its report by November next year.