Pressure for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) chair Bethuel Kiplagat to quit office intensified Thursday with a lobby group warning that his continued stay in office was undermining the commission’s mandate.
The International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) demanded that Mr Kiplagat immediately steps aside to enable the commission fulfill its mandate.
“Despite being a key mechanism to addressing Kenya’s 2008 post-election violence, the TJRC is being held hostage by Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat’s continued refusals to step down following credible allegations of bias and misconduct made against him,” said director of ICTJ’s Africa Program, Suliman Baldo.
The calls came only two days after all the commissioners to the truth body wrote to Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo asking him to petition the Chief Justice to establish a tribunal to investigate allegations raised against Mr Kiplagat.
The statement, also signed by Mr Kiplagat listed the allegations to be investigated a relating to Mr Kiplagat’s alleged role in the illegal acquisition of land, the former Foreign minister Dr Robert Ouko murder and his alleged role in the Wagalla massacre.
There was confusion during the press conference called by the commissioners on Tuesday to announce that Mr Kiplagat had agreed to step down to pave way for investigations after he insisted that he would only do so after the tribunal is formed.
The Justice Minister has since written back to the commission informing that his office has no role to play in the matter.
“ICTJ maintains that truth commissions must have public confidence and that their leadership should step down when a reasonable apprehension of bias exists. The allegations against Ambassador Kiplagat and his conduct in the months since they first surfaced seriously call into question his ability to be a fair and effective TJRC chairman,” read the statement.
“The TJRC is not about the chairman; it is about the victims of past injustices. Victims cannot be expected to continue to wait for the commission to address the paralysis caused by Ambassador Kiplagat. He should heed the voices of reason, especially those of his fellow commissioners, which are demanding that he resigns,” said Njonjo Mue, head of ICTJ’s Nairobi office.
It lamented that the commission had wasted the last one year because of Mr Kiplagat’s reluctance to step aside
“The commission has a two-year mandate and much of the first year has been squandered on account of one person. This clearly cannot be allowed to continue,” Mr Mue added.