Wednesday, March 3, 2010

reflections on Kenya, The TJRC and Civil Society

Truth must serve justice for Kenyans liberation today

By Achieng’ in Exile

“It is a basic and fundamental part of the work of civil society that we do not compromise on the threshold of impunity and also we must demand! In this we must stand united.”

Many voices have expressed lack of confidence in the leadership of Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat as the Chairperson of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission ( TJRC).

Some have gone to court against him citing that he knew of and could be implicated in human rights abuses. Kiplagat has stayed put and gone to court himself.

Cited in the arguments against for very concretely is that he served Kenya in various positions in the Moi regime. That was time when people were detained for holding dissenting in opinion.

Detention without trial and murders were common. Some of these people are actively trying to get Kiplagat off this Chairmanship. There are many other concerns and serious ones including knowledge he may have had on the assassination of Dr. John Robert Ouko Minister of Foreign Affairs when Kiplagat was serving in the same ministry and having attended a meeting that was held before the horrendous Wagalla Massacre.

Key things

The key things which should matter is that both victims and suspects should be able to come to a free and fair truth commission. For Kiplagat, beginning to seek legal protection now is to undermine the very concept of Truth and could lead to TJRC’s total loss of credibility. So Kiplagat, like Onyango Oloo, who was imprisoned and wants Kiplagat on the Chair arguing that the will deliver his much awaited for justice, should not preempt the work of the TJRC but submit themselves to it, not through the media.

Futher, the civil society, rather than expending energy consuming itself, should focus on the key priorities for the country, including seeking Truth and Justice, the constitution and the key priorities of the national Accord.

Everything else is a side show. Also, it is not unheard of for victims to begin to identify with their torturers in some kind of psychological empathy. We should all remember that Onyango is a victim as are many Kenyans.

Either we give the process credence by not undermining it and asking for it to be as transparent and above reproach, or we can start the trials by "mob lynching" with no guidelines, legitimacy or framework. This is wrong. I think if we are going to put people on trial, we should do as Professor Yash Ghai said, and form proper people's tribunals to run in parallel with the official ones.

We could also be more united in asking for the reforms that we want and which generations of Kenyans will need so badly! It is a basic and fundamental part of the work of civil society that we do not compromise on the threshold of impunity and also we must demand: That the people involved in the TJRC should be above reproach and clearly Kiplagat has failed the confidence test irrespective of what (Emeritus! ) Bishop Gitari thinks. What are they protecting? Let Kenyans be told.

We must stand united on this. Also, I believe that it would help to have internationally respected people involved in the commission. These are forgotten and we need them badly now, as all Kenyans have been implicated, one way or the other either as victims or as perpertrators.

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