23 September 2011

Kenya: Justice Commission Risks Losing Relevance

The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission is one of the bodies established under Agenda Four items as part of the process of resolving long-term contentious issues that culminated in violence after the 2007 elections.

Whereas most of the Agenda Four commissions have delivered on their mandates, the justice commission has not. Its work has been rather slow, but not because of any reason of its own making.

It started off on the wrong foot with incessant wrangles over its leadership. Eventually, the chairperson, Mr Bethwel Kiplagat, was forced to step down owing to public pressure.

But matters were made worse by the fact that the Government did not give it the necessary resources to carry out its work.

Lately, the commission has been asking for an extension of its deadline to enable it complete its task.

Yet, the commission was set up to undertake a major assignment, namely, provide a platform for Kenyans to confront past injustices and seek reconciliation and long-term solutions for them.

So far, it has acquitted itself fairly well, but a lot of work remains to be done. But it is worrying that the Government and the public are less enthusiastic about it.

Hardly does it attract the support it deserves. In fact, one wonders whether its findings and recommendations will be taken seriously.

With the elections coming next year, there are fundamental issues that ought to be resolved lest we fall into the same pitfalls of the past.

Unresolved land questions, mass displacement of population, torture and political killings must be dealt with.

Thus, the Government and the public must provide the necessary support to the commission.

On its part, the commission must market itself quite aggressively to excite public interest and participation.

Unless, the commission completes its assignment on time and conclusively, it may be rendered irrelevant.

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