Daily Monitor Correspondent
Nairobi, July 23, 2009
A renown diplomat, African peacemaker and a man of eloquence has got the
job to test his skills. Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat, a career diplomat
and well-known peace negotiator was yesterday appointed the chairman of
the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to serve for two years.
Kenya’s Parliament approved the setting up of the TJRC last year with a
wide mandate: to investigate gross violations and abuses of human
The cases to be investigated include abductions, disappearances,
detentions, torture, sexual violations, extrajudicial killings, murder,
ill-treatment and loss of property suffered by any person between
independence and end of last year’s post-election violence.
Mr Kiplagat’s deputy will be Ms Betty Murungi, a Harvard-trained lawyer
and international human rights law expert who has experience in similar
processes in Sierra Leone and elsewhere in the world.
The other Kenyan commissioners are Margaret Shava, Tom Ojienda, Ahmed
Sheikh Farah and Tecla Namachanja. The foreign appointees are Judge
Getrude Chawatama from Zambia, Mr Berhanu Dinka from Ethiopia and Prof
Ronald Slye from the US.
The TJRC Act says that the vice-chairman is to be appointed by the
commissioners. Mr Kiplagat described the job as enormous but expressed
confidence that his team would deliver.
“We will cover events of the past, since 1963 which will include
historical injustices, corruption and ethnic clashes,” he said.
Independence Kenya has a long story of assassinations, state-sponsored
ethnic violence, police executions and disrespect for human rights.
Killings such as those of former MP JM Kariuki and Foreign Minister
Robert Ouko remain unresolved despite decades of police and
parliamentary investigations and lots of public speculation.
Investigating the plunder of public resources by successive regimes is a
major task in its own right, given the pervasive theft by generations of
the political elite and top civil servants.
Mr Kiplagat, along with nine other commissioners, was appointed by
Kenyan President Kibaki, to serve for two years. Mr Kiplagat is a former
permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also served
as the special envoy to the Somalia Peace Talks. He has been Kenya’s
envoy in France and the UK and was deputy General Secretary of the
National Council of Churches in Kenya.
His selection according to the parliamentary departmental committee on
administration of justice and legal affairs was due to his vast
knowledge in conflict management.
The TJRC team will identify people whose rights were abused and decide
how they are to be compensated. It will also investigate economic crimes
and provide redress in respect of crimes of a sexual nature against
The commission will recommend prosecution of persons responsible for or
involved in human rights and economic rights violations and abuses.
Mr Kiplagat has an international profile and is respected for his work
in both the Sudan and Somalia peace processes.
The appointments came amid a raging debate over whether those guilty of
crimes against humanity during the post-election violence should be
tried or be taken before the TJRC.