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Will Francis Ole Kaparo succeed where Mzalendo Kibunjia failed?

COUNTIES
By Stephen Makabila | September 28th 2014
Incoming National Cohesion and Intergration Commission Chair Francis ole
Kaparo. [PHOTOS: FILE/STANDARD]

NAIROBI, KENYA: The new chairman of National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), Mr Francis Ole Kaparo, is faced with the challenge of succeeding where Mzalendo Kibunjia failed.

Kaparo and other new NCIC commissioners take office at a time the country is getting polarised by hardened position on referendum proposals by some governors and the Opposition, and pockets of clashes in some regions.

One of the team’s first task could be to deal with the hostilities that have emerged over these calls—illustrated by the recent and very public exchange of words between Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto and National Assembly Leader of Majority Aden Duale in Narok in a public function presided over by Deputy President William Ruto.

President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Kaparo the chairperson of NCIC on Thursday last week. Also appointed as commissioners were Belinda Akoth Ochiel, Irene Njeri Wanyoike, Adan Abdi Mohammed, Roba Sharamo, Joseph Wamocha Nasongo, Morris Dzoro and Gitile Naituli. The chairpersons of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, the National Gender and Equality Commission and the Commission on Administrative Justice will also serve as commissioners in the NCIC. The country has been without a cohesion commission since the Kibunjia team left office in September 2013.

Questions are now being raised as to whether Kaparo, a Ruto ally and the outgoing chairman of the Deputy President’s URP party, is equal to the task. His critics are worried that his close association with the Jubilee coalition may compromise the delivery of services, especially if top politicians from the ruling coalition engage in hate mongering and related transgressions.

The Standard on Sunday sent a series of questions to the former National Assembly Speaker which he declined to respond to, only telling this writer that he had resigned from the URP leadership and would be impartial when serving Kenyans. “I have asked the public to help NCIC in this process and I invite them to be part of the cohesion initiative. No single Kenyan can steer the process in isolation,” responded Kaparo.

Kibet Ng’etich, the Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Egerton University, says Kaparo should first learn from the successes, failures and challenges of the Kibunjia team.

“He should identify threats to cohesion which to me includes bad politics, the rich-poor divide, and unresolved historical injustices,” said Dr Kibet.

TEETH TO BITE

James Mwamu, who is the President of the East African Law Society, says there is need to amend the Cohesion Act to give NCIC some teeth to bite. “Apart from strengthening the legal framework, Kaparo should professionalise the team, be impartial and provide strong leadership,” Mwamu observed.

However, Law Society of Kenya (LSK) chairman Eric Mutua says the legal framework under the Cohesion Act is strong enough but is not effectively managed. “What is important is the collection of evidence. Efforts must be made to ensure the evidence collected is adequate to sustain charges against a hate-speech suspect,” Mutua said.

Others want public expectations to be tempered. Gertrude Angote, the Executive Director of Kituo Cha Sheria, believes Kaparo should be given time to prove himself, and says he has exemplary credentials and work experience.

“Let’s not rush to make conclusions because of his political affiliations even before the team embarks on executing its mandate,” says Angote.

But Peter Kagwanja, the CEO of the African Policy Institute (API), argues that Kaparo has the experience to turn NCIC into an effective body.

“Having served as Speaker of the National Assembly, managing conflicting forces in the House, Kaparo has the ability and is the best suited to head NCIC. It is erroneous for the public to view NCIC as an alternative to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. It is supposed to provide a platform for people to dialogue and promote dialogue between communities,” Prof Kagwanja noted.

He said the Kibunjia Commission failed to understand its role, and spent most of its time drawing up statistics of tribes without providing standards and scientific criteria.

Some feel Kaparo and his team should find a way of dealing with the tribal imbalance in public appointments which is raising tensions.

Sources in the Jubilee administration defended the long duration it took   to replace Kibunjia and said they needed to amend the weak legal framework that existed before. Since the enactment of the Cohesion and Integration Act 2008 and subsequent establishment of NCIC, there has been little evidence to show that the country has turned a new leaf on inter-ethnic relations, with inter-clan clashes now a common occurrence in Northern Kenya. When we visited the NCIC offices at KMA building in Upper Hill on Wednesday, some of the new commissioners in the Kaparo team were moving into their new offices. Kaparo reported to the office on Tuesday.

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