Saturday Nation: Kiplagat and Ranneberger go for “Softer” Sale of TJRC Chairmanship

The Truth Justice and Reconciliation commission chairman Bethwel Kiplagat (left) with US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger during a youth forum on Agenda Four on March 5, 2010. Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI

By SATURDAY NATION ReporterPosted Friday, March 5 2010 at 22:30

Embattled Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission chairman Bethuel Kiplagat on Friday softened his stance, saying he would seek forgiveness from Kenyans if proven guilty of any wrongdoing in the past.

“If I made a mistake, then I will ask for forgiveness but it is important that we stop wasting time on enmity and build an atmosphere of truth, justice and reconciliation,” Mr Kiplagat said at a Kenya Youth Development Trust conference.

Mr Kiplagat said his experience in diplomacy and reconciliation work in Sudan, Mozambique and other war-torn countries compelled him to apply for the TJRC job and Kenyans should help him to take forward the work.

Warmed up

US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger warmed up to Mr Kiplagat, saying he had had an outstanding career and was among the first Kenyans to help seek ways to end the post-elections violence in 2008. “I wish you well,” Mr Ranneberger said.

Mr Kiplagat and Mr Ranneberger concurred that the post-election violence was caused by tribal bitterness and intrigues where the youth were used as foot soldiers by politicians who later dumped them when their interests were accomplished.

Executive director of the Committee of Experts drafting the new constitution, Dr Ekuro Aukot told youths:

“Are you being driven in GK Passats now, or is traffic being stopped for you to pass? Why allow yourselves to be used by these politicians?” he queried.

Again, it seems clear to me that the diplomatic role of facilitating negotiations between warring foreign parties is something entirely different than acting as a Kenyan to lead the TJRC. Kiplagat was without dispute a key Moi insider–period–regardless of whether he is personally guilty of specific acts, for which he now graciously offers to apologize if proven guilty (by whom?). Moi ran the country from 1978 to 2003; he reportedly stole perhaps $1B and otherwise distributed the wealth of the public for his private purposes; he acted in all sorts of extralegal manners to repress legitmate opposition, including the use of torture, etc. Moi eventually stepped aside as President under constitutional term limits, but kept all the money and a substantial role for himself and his cronies in key areas of the economy and politics.

What is the purpose of a TJRC process if not in substantial part to examine the conduct and consequences of the Moi rule?

You would have to be pretty naive to believe that many of the current crop of Kenyan political leaders–MPs, President Kibaki, etc.–really want much light shed or justice done. Thus, the process will of course be subject to powerful efforts to subvert and divert it, so that it poses no real threat to the status quo. As with other commissions in the past.

As for what side of this Ranneberger is on, I would suggest he has a track record that is worth taking a look at.

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