Posted by EVELYN NJOROGE and CATHERINE KARONGO on January 31, 2010
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 31 – A section of civil society organisations have called on Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo to introduce a bill in Parliament to amend the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation (TJR) Act of 2008 to ensure a transparent and credible reconciliation process.
Centre for Multiparty Democracy Executive Director Njeri Kabeberi said on Sunday that the legislation is ridden with numerous flaws which are likely to hamper the truth-seeking objectives of the commission.
“The Act has inherently inbuilt fatal provisions that will collapse the process unless it is either amended and or legal safeguard measures in place,” she said.
Chief among the flaws that they point to are the provisions of amnesty- which in part say that an individual can be pardoned in exchange for the full truth and which are not clear on what acts can be amnestied.
The reparation provisions they argued are ambiguous and remain ‘highly problematic’ as they require TJRC to assess and make recommendations on individual applications for compensation to victims of gross human rights violation which are likely to overburden the commission.
At a press conference, Ms Kabeberi who spoke on behalf of eight other organisations also called for the review of the Witness Protection Act of 2006 to guarantee the safety of the witnesses who will provide information to the commission.
“The TJRC should make robust efforts to protect victims during the proceedings, particularly because many perpetrators remain at large and hold positions of influence and power,” she argued.
She said these issues must be addressed urgently before the country can be said to have achieved democracy and respect for the rule of law.
Members of the civil society have and continue to question the integrity and credibility of the Commission and its chairman Ambassador Bethwell Kiplagat whom they have accuse of playing a part in the violations of human rights.
They have called on the commission, which has already begun its sittings to resign and pave way for officers who are beyond reproach in order to ensure accountability of the process.
“We regret to note that while the core mandate of this Commission is to address impunity, it proceeds to act with the same impunity. It has never bothered to address the concerns raised by either the victims or the civil society,” she chastised.
Ms Kabeberi, who was flanked by International Centre for Policy and Conflict Executive Director Ndung’u Wainaina, also urged the commission to institute modalities that will ensure that its operations complement other justice seeking mechanisms that seek to heal the deep rift that exist among Kenyans and thus promote peaceful co-existence in the country.
Speaking separately, other Civil Society Organisations under the banner ‘Katiba Sasa’ said the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission should not have been formed before a new constitution was achieved.
National Civil Society Congress Coordinator Suba Churchill said the TJRC could not investigate incidences when injustices were still taking place.
He said with a new constitution it would ensure that injustices were halted.
“We are yet even to enact for ourselves a new constitution that will herald a new chapter for us as a people and therefore the setting up of the TJRC is like putting the cart before the horse,” he said.
“It won’t work because it ought to have been established as it is proposed in the harmonised draft constitution, six months after a new constitution comes into place,” he added.
Release Political Prisoners Executive Coordinator Stephen Musau expressed concern that the TJRC’s mandate was ignoring injustices that occurred before December 1963.
“We know there is a group of the freedom fighters who also question the mandate period of the TJRC because it is ignoring a whole generation of people who fought for independence,” Mr Musau said.
Meanwhile, former Kabete MP Paul Muite has once again called on the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission chair Bethwell Kiplagat to resign from his position.
Mr Muite said the renowned peace negotiator had no moral authority to preside over the commission.
Speaking after giving food rations to residents of Gakambura village in Kikuyu, he also said the manner in which the commissioners were recruited was wrong and that was why they didn’t have the faith of Kenyans.
“It’s a wrong constitutional arrangement that parliament advertised for the TJRC commissioners, it short-listed, carried out interviewing as well as the vetting. That shows that the balancing of power between the executive and parliament has sunk too much on the side of parliament,” he said.
He said giving all these powers to Parliament left the country with commissions that were not satisfactory.
“We should look for professionalism not representative commissions. We are falling into this trap of saying that each commission must have nine people while we should not have commissions of more than five people,” the former legislator said.
“The names should be generated by the executive and taken to parliament for vetting and approval because the executive will know that if they put forward a name of an unqualified person, parliament won’t pass it,” he added.