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Ex-commissioner reveals intrigues in truth team report

NAIROBI
By Nzau Musau | November 10th 2019
Former TJRC commissioner Ronald Slye.

The hand-over of reports to the Head of State has not been a walk in the park as the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) found out in 2013.

After swallowing the hot potato that was the Waki Report, former President Kibaki’s administration was not keen on tossing itself into another fray. For a start, the TJRC had all the hallmarks of a Pandora’s box - land, political assassinations, human rights injustices, torture and forced disappearances. And all the games played to botch the process- false start, contrived divisions, credibility crisis and poor funding- had not worked.

For all its trials, the Kibaki administration succeeded in ensuring the TJRC at least spilled over to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration. By the time he was settling in after forming government, TJRC report was ready for handover.

With a May 3, 2013 deadline to not only hand-over their report but also release it to the public, the commissioners were reeling under the pressure of extensions, infiltration and threats.

In his book, “The Kenyan TJRC, an Outsiders View from the Inside,” Commissioner Ronald Slye says the hand-over turned out to be a game of musical chairs.

“I was sitting in an office at our printers with two commissioners and our director of research when a strange number called my phone. When I answered, a soft voice asked; is this Slye?” the American law professor writes in the book.

It was then Secretary to the Cabinet and Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President Francis Kimemia. A commissioner had leaked the draft report to OP, Mr Kimemia was demanding changes to the report and some commissioners were a bit cocky hence the call.

The Secretary to the Cabinet directed Slye to a specific paragraph expressly saying it would be ‘difficult for the president to implement a report that reflected badly on his family.” More calls were made to the commission CEO Tom Chavagi Aziz and section of the commissioners.

Within no time, the commissioners who only days earlier had sworn that “not even a coma” would be changed, had capitulated. They were now the new champions of the proposed changes.

“Judge Chawatama and I were shocked at the turn of events, not only because of the merits of the decision but also because of the procedure- there was no formal meeting of the commission to discuss these changes nor even a request for approval of such changes by email or telephone as our internal rules allowed,” Slye says in his book.

Two weeks past the deadline, the book says, the commission had not gotten an appointment with the President. He says the President’s office was “cajoling, threatening and offering bribes to commissioners.”

Not even informal chats with then National Intelligence Service boss Michael Gichangi helped. When the changes were secured- with international commissioners agreeing to write a dissent- the State House gave them an appointment.

“There was nothing of that sort. First I was not a commissioner. Second, I could not have called all the commissioners to do their work. Third, why did he have to wait for all the years to make the allegation?” Kimemia, now Governor of Nyandarua, told the Sunday Standard last year when the book came out. 

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