More on Ambassador Kiplagat and Kenyan TJRC

It seems to me clear that for a Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission to expose truth, bring justice and reconcile Kenyans, it has to inspire broad confidence and trust from the Kenyan people. In this regard, I have to say that it seems obvious to me that there are serious and legitimate concerns about whether former Ambassador and Moi foreign ministry official Bethwel Kiplagat is well suited right now to be fully objective–and that these concerns in and of themselves are sufficient to make the need for change manifest.

It is not to suggest that Kiplagat is guilty of any specific individual wrongdoing–that would be for others to decide upon serious and fair factual inquiry–nor to disparage his accomplishments in foreign diplomacy. Rather, it is that he was in fact a key insider in the system that hid the truth, brought injustice and brought about the need for reconciliation. He presents himself as one who essentially supported change from the inside–perhaps this is so, but this doesn’t make him a neutral and objective person to stand above the fray now.

Daniel Waweru of KenyaImagine has put it well:

The Chair of the TJRC isn’t a position to which Amb. Kiplagat is entitled; rather, it’s a privilege contingent on his suitability for the task. One element of that suitability is the absence of a conflict of interest. Amb. Kiplagat has multiple obvious and pertinent conflicts of interest: he was named in reports which will form part of the deliberations of the commission which he chairs. His ability to handle the commission’s affairs impartially is reasonably called into question. He’s therefore unsuitable for the job until he can show that these conflicts of interest are only apparent.

An important part of the context to always remember here is that the TJRC has been kicked off by the Grand Coalition without having passed a local tribunal bill to prosecute the immediate issues involved in the most recent post-election violence, and without having actually committed the government to making reference to the International Criminal Court in the event that the ICC should decide to authorize an investigation. Two years having passed since the deal creating the Grand Coalition, there is a very real concern that key players are seeking to use the TJRC as a way to avoid actual prosecutions for recent crimes.

This is an issue for Kenyans to decide, but I think Bishop Tutu and his group of others experienced in the TJRC role are the wisest of outside voices.

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