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.
Civil society leaders have been truly thrilled with the news that Bishop Tutu and 9 other former Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission leaders have called for Ambassador Bethwel Kiplagat to step aside from his recent controversial appointment to such a role in Kenya by President Kibaki.
Now US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger is quoted as having stepped in to support the Kiplagat appointment. From the story entitled “Why Tutu and team told Kiplagat to resign” :
speaking to The Standard in Nairobi yesterday, Mr Ranneberger said Kiplagat was internationally recognised and capable of steering healing and reconciliation in Kenya.
His support comes at a time TJRC is expected to appear before the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs today, to discuss the calls for Kiplagat’s resignation.
Ranneberger cites Kiplagat’s role as in international negotiator. But Ranneberger instigated Kibaki’s appointment of Moi as envoy to Sudan back in mid-07. By this logic, why not appoint Moi to the TJRC?
The qualifications involved in the international diplomatic roles filled by Kiplagat in the past are simply different than what is called for in the TJRC position for a Kenyan today. The parties in foreign disputes who were dealing with Kiplagat didn’t care about his past dealings within Kenya as a member of the Moi government–Kenyans today care very much.
We have already seen the Kreigler Commission (the IREC) stop short of doing its job–if the TJRC is “the Kiplagat Commission” it will simply not be what is needed, and risks being like those other previous reports raising concerns about Kiplagat himself that did stop his appointment now. He is being reckless and irresponsible, in my estimation, by hanging on to this appointment when it is clear that he does not have the level of public confidence that is necessary.
It is very disappointing to see the Ambassador cutting at the feet of Kenyan Civil Society once again.
A good BBC World Service report explains the issues with Kiplagat and the fact that the matter may be in Kibaki’s hands.
“Breaking News” story from the Daily Nation. In a nutshell it would seem that PM Odinga was able to assert leadership within ODM in the face of opposition from Ruto and Balala, and the Parliament overall broke a deadlock and is position now to take up substantive business, to the extent that it choses.
Going forward, it seems hard not to expect Ruto to formally break from ODM but probably not during this session of Parliament. Parliament will again be faced with a “local tribunal” bill on the post-election violence, but I would think it is unlikely to move. While the ICC awaits further submission from Ocampo early next month to explain why the Court should authorize an investigation of key suspects, visions of complete immunity must be dancing in the heads of the perpetrators.
Bishop Tutu has come out against Kiplagat on the Truth Commission, as the leader of a group of nine former heads of such groups, saying they are seriously troubled by a range of allegations against the Ambassador. Perhaps replacing him would provide “meat” to those who care about human rights, the ICC will pass, and the VP and others who have called for the Commission approach in lieu of legal action can have their day, and the suspects can focus more comfortably on the next election.