NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 22 – Embattled Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) Chairman Bethuel Kiplagat on Thursday snubbed summons to appear before the commission, sparking fury from his colleagues.
Kiplagat, who had been called to shed more light on land grabbing allegations, instead sent a letter demanding that the commissioners pay him Sh5 million owed to him as ordered by Justice Mohammed Warsame, after he struck out their suit seeking his ouster at the commission.
Presiding chair Margaret Shava and four other commissioners said it was wrong for Kiplagat, whom they accused of “throwing tantrums” to skip the session as the commission embarks on the final leg of its hearings.
“The TJRC issued Kiplagat with a summons to appear on March 22. But on the eve of the hearing, the commission received a letter from his lawyers stating that he would not honour the summons,” she noted.
“The commission is unwilling to squander any more valuable time and resources on theatrical tantrums meant to distract it from achieving its mandate,” she charged.
Shava, who was accompanied by vice-chair Tecla Namachanja, commissioners Ahmed Farah, Berhanu Dinka and Gertrude Chawatama, also countered Kiplagat’s argument saying the High Court ruling did not address the issue of illegal or irregular acquisition of land.
“Clearly the High Court case did not address the issue of illegal or irregular allocation of land. It only dealt with the legality of the process followed in appointing the commissioners,” she argued.
The truth commissioners further stressed the need for ensuring the successful conclusion of the hearings saying that snubbing summons was retrogressive.
She noted that the hearings were aimed at ensuring fairness in compiling an accurate and complete historical record of the truth about gross violations of human rights in the country.
“It is in pursuit of the truth that Ambassador Kiplagat, like any other witness, was to appear today before the commission. The commission is therefore surprised and taken aback by the reasons advanced by his lawyers for his non appearance here today,” she said.
The hearings have now been adjourned to March 29 to accommodate witnesses, who had travelled long distances to appear before the Commission, before the session was cancelled.
“We are cognisant that there are Kenyans in this room who had travelled from Kitale to attend these proceedings. We have to adjourn them to a date when other witnesses, expected today and who sought more time, shall be in a position to attend,” she explained.
The commissioners also criticised the TJRC chairman accusing him of non compliance saying that his actions were hampering the commission’s work. Shava said that Kiplagat was undermining the TJR Act, which requires witnesses to comply with summons to appear.
“We note that it is the commission, and not individual commissioners, that has summoned Ambassador Kiplagat to testify. The law is clear that the decision to summon a witness lies with the commission and not with any other person or institution,” they argued.
The truth commissioners have been embroiled in a power struggle with Kiplagat who they accuse of facing integrity queries.
The TJRC commissioners want the besieged chairman to face a judicial probe over his conduct in the past regime and have vowed not to work with him.