David Makali: Kiplagat should be forced to quit - The Star

Until his appointment to chair the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission, Bethwel Kiplagat was one of the few Kanu-Era government officials that had some integrity left.

His achievements in the diplomatic service and as mediator and personal envoy of former President Moi in the region were well recorded.

Even when the post-election violence broke out in 2008, he was among the few credible Kenyans who pioneered mediation before the African Union-appointed group of Eminent Persons led by Kofi Annan stepped in.

There is no doubt he has peace building credentials and is a decent man. But his obstinate refusal to resign from the chairmanship of the TJRC is erasing that resume. I am beginning to question his wisdom. Kiplagat says he is clean and suitable to chair the TJRC. That there is no evidence implicating him in past injustice or human rights violations. That he has nothing to do with the Wagalla Massacre or the murder of Dr Robert Ouko.

That's fine, Bethwel. But does it mean you should continue to occupy the crucial position against the wishes of a significant section of the very public you are supposed to serve and whose confidence you must enjoy to execute your functions?

Kiplagat is applying the wrong standard of integrity and acceptability. It is not enough for you to vindicate yourself. Public confidence is absolutely necessary for the carrying out of the TJRC mandate. It is clear that his , continued stay in office is the biggest stumbling block to the performance of that mandate.

According to the Act, the commission is supposed to conclude its work and hand in a report by November 2011. Yet there is very little progress so far and all indications are that this deadline is unrealistic. According to the programme of action, the TJRC is supposed to have recruited all staff and established a functional secretariat by November last year. That is still dragging on, the director having been recruited only a fortnight ago.

By now, it is supposed to have begun investigations, research and hearings. But the first step of public awareness that the commission has embarked on has been derailed by protests against the chairman.

Kiplagat's stance is also an outdated and dim view of public service. It is not enough for one to be innocent; you must, like Caesar's wife, be above suspicion.

Unfortunately, in this case, he is being suspected, rightly or wrongly, and a significant constituency of the clients of the TJRC —victims of the violations — have no confidence in him.

There are questions that you, Mr Kiplagat, must answer: why are you clinging on to this position? Don't you have anything else to do? Did you seek this position for your own aggrandizement or for the posterity of the country? If you indeed believe that your actions serve the country, and your leadership of the commission is distracting it from its focus, why can't you step down or aside?

And now to the other commissioners: if Kiplagat does not resign, what is your recourse? Are you going to sit there and suffer collective opprobrium while enjoying your huge salaries?

My advice is that you issue a quit notice to your chairman; if he does not resign, boycott any meetings he convenes and proceed to resign en mass to embarrass him or report your inability to progress back to Parliament. Anything less will render you accomplices in the waste of public funds.

Civil Society: there is something awfully wrong with your approach. Why are you ranting about instead of presenting a detailed petition to the Chief Justice to establish a tribunal, as required by the TJRC Act, to probe the allegations against Mr Kiplagat?

Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo: Legalistic arguments aside, are you honestly proud of the progress of the TJRC? Your arguments that Mr Kiplagat was vetted before appointment do not hold water. What of the new information that has come out afterwards?

Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki: why have you forgotten this Commission? Besides the corruption standoff in the coalition, you should make the removal of Kiplagat part of the agenda of your meeting this week.

Parting shot to Kiplagat: It is a sad precedent for a man of your calibre, who has earned international fame to stoop this low. What example are you setting by clinging on to the position?

How different are you from the old-fashioned African leaders who do not step down when their moral authority is questioned?

You should stop listening to Mutula Kilonzo and learn from Aaron Ringera. You cannot hold down a whole nation to fix its ugly past and stride into the future confidently by your tenacity. This will not go away.

Makali is the director of The Media Institute. dmakali@yahoo.com

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