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Credibility crisis hits TJRC

BUSINESS
By | March 30th 2010

By Standard Reporter

The body charged with looking into historical injustices is in crisis following the resignation of its deputy head.

Ms Betty Murungi quit her post as Vice Chairperson of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) on Monday after co-authoring a newspaper article on Sunday critical of the panel’s chair. At the weekend Murungi and fellow commissioner Ronald Slye publicly called on TJRC chairman Bethuel Kiplagat to step down over allegations he was linked to abuses.

"Given the public position I have expressed with regard to matters facing the Commission’s chair, I regret I’m unable to continue as vice chair," Murungi said in a statement released by the TJRC secretariat on Monday. The move is likely to deal the troubled commission a major blow since its work seems to have stalled owing to the wrangles.

Since TJRC was created, there has been strong opposition to Kiplagat, a key player in past administrations, chairing the commission.

Kiplagat: Says he won’t resign

In a communication to Kiplagat over her move, Murungi noted her weekend position on the problems bedevilling the commission was reason enough for her to quit as his deputy although she said she will remain as a commissioner.

Murungi, who is out of the country, has now asked her fellow commissioners to elect someone else to the position of vice chair.

Internal processes

"I will continue in my role as commissioner until we have resolved or concluded our internal processes regarding these matters," she added.

TJRC Chief Executive and secretary Patricia Nyaundi said the commission will await the return of Murungi from abroad to discuss "these issues" in her presence before electing her replacement later in the week.

At the weekend, an opinion article co-authored by Murungi and Slye was published in a section of the media demanding the resignation of Kiplagat as the TJRC chairman. Murungi and Slye demanded that Kiplagat’s resigns on the strength of three allegations facing him.

They argued that TJRC was chosen to perform a specific task and not "to serve as a court of law to determine the guilt or innocence of an individual". The two further stated that while they supported Kiplagat’s right to pursue his innocence or guilt in court, they noted that this issue should not be a fight for the commission.

The demand by the two commissioners comes two weeks after the three foreign commissioners in TJRC cautioned their silence on the controversy surrounding Mr Kiplagat’s position should not be construed to mean they were indifferent to problems facing the commission. It also follows a one-day retreat that one of the commissioners described as enabling the TJRC "to get its act together".

Mr Kiplagat is faced with criticism from the civil society for having accepted two pieces of land in Nairobi’s Kileleshwa and Lavington estates and another parcel of land in Uasin Gishu District. He is further named in the Parliamentary report on the inquiry into the murder of former Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Ouko. Other Kenyans have questioned Mr Kiplagat’s role in Government during the Wagalla massacre. Last month, former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu asked the TJRC chair to quit. However, Kiplagat was defended by among others former President Moi, former ACK Primate David Gitari and a section of Rift Valley Province MPs.

Where he served

Kiplagat has served as Kenya’s ambassador to France and Britain, Kenya’s special envoy for Somalia as well as chairman of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGADD). He is a consultant on peace and conflict resolution in Africa and a member of the International Resource on Disarmament and Security.

Kiplagat is a former Foreign Affairs permanent secretary as well as a former Kenya’s special envoy to Somalia.

Internationally, his reputation remains high: He is chairman of the Africa Peer Review Mechanism of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), on the Board of the International Crisis Group (ICG).

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