Christmas Shopping–For Sale: Brooklyn Bridge, Ocean Front Property in Arizona, Local Tribunal in Kenya

“People, it is THREE YEARS since the election, isn’t it . . . ”

Surely it is a simple choice between the ICC and impunity at this point. Every Kenyan is is entitled to his or her opinion as to what is best, but it would be unfortunate to be diverted into fantasy in looking at the way forward. Who is it that said that the ICC process was ideal or perfect? The choice of the ICC was made with eyes open. It is only the desire to preserve the ground rules that accountability can only go so high, that certain “champions” are untouchable, no matter what they do, that has triggered the “buyers’ remorse” we are seeing now with the choice of the ICC.

Remember that the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission was sold as an alternative to legal trials. Now we see that Parliament was sitting on a report calling for Bethwel Kiplagat to be investigated for an alleged role in the Ouko murder when they approved him as head of the TJRC. I don’t buy the idea that any local tribunal now in Kenya could take on the highest level of suspects in the post election violence, and I think that is the whole point.

Kenyan Politics

In the final days of review, Kenyan MPs remain divided as to amendments to the current draft constitution. “MPs list their wishes as debate rages”.

Remembering: Exhibit of photographs of Kenyan post-election violence shown at Eldoret (sponsored by USAID and UNDP)

The Vice Chair of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission has stepped down from her position, after calling for the Chairman, Bethuel Kiplagat to resign. She will continue as a Commission member.

The Indian Ocean Newsletter reports that Kenya’s Blue Shield Insurance Company, owned by the Kenyatta family, is subject to a demand by the Association on Insurance Brokers of Kenya to the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA) to appoint a liquidator due to its failure to pay claims. “The IRA position is clearly very delicate in this affair, since this body depends on the ministry of finance, headed by [Uhuru] Kenyatta, who is the half brother of the late Muigai Kenyatta whose widow Beth Muigai chairs the board of Blue Shield Insurance.”

“The Reckoning”–The ICC in Mississippi and Kenya

For the first time, I have an occasion to post about something taking place right here “on the ground” in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Last night my daughter and I attended a screening of the film “The Reckoning”, the documentary story of “the battle for the International Criminal Court”, at our town’s arts and culture center. We both found it inspiring and greatly enjoyed getting to meet and talk with Director Pamela Yates who was accompanying the film on a “Southern Series”.

The film website has been on my links to the right since about the time I started this blog and I would highly recommend it. It gives background for the Court concept dating back to the Nuremberg trials and has lots of coverage of the development of the cases in Northern Uganda and Eastern Congo, as well as Darfur. Good insight on Ocampo and the prosecutors working with him. Ms. Yates is deeply engaged and knowledgeable–and she and her colleagues are following the proceedings before the Court in Kenya.

Her previous film, “State of Fear” involved the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission in Peru.

For more information on the ICC–including news from the Kenya inquiry–and citizen activism to support it, go to IJCentral:

Skylight Pictures and the International Center for Transitional Justice Productions (ICTJP) are producing a 3-year campaign to build a global grassroots movement to support an effective international justice system, with IJCentral at its core. By joining the IJCentral global community, you will be kept informed about developments with the ICC and other international justice cases, and your voice will be heard by our leaders and policy makers, letting them know that we want perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide to be held to account.

Saturday Nation: Kiplagat and Ranneberger go for “Softer” Sell 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.

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.

Ranneberger speaks out to defend Kiplagat–Why? (Updated)

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.