Friday, April 16, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

April 15, 2010

Those good old days when I was in Primary school, I was one of those children that loved to make noise whenever a teacher was out of class. At times a fight would break out between two boys or girls and instead of separating them; we would join in the fray and urge them on as we shouted on top of our voices. However when the teacher walked in, we would all be dead silent. Any attempt to investigate the origin of the fracas would meet mute silence until we saw the teacher’s cane then we would start blaming one another for starting the fight or making noise. It would be a case of pointing fingers at each other.

At other times we would conspire to either discipline a prefect that was cruel to us or strike against a teacher we didn’t like for one reason or another. In both cases, we would have genuine grievances why we either wanted to teach a prefect a lesson of his life or why we wanted to strike against the teacher. Our only undoing in both cases was when we were told that we did not follow the laid down school rules in dealing with our grievances.

Whereas a strike against a teacher would be more difficult to organize and carefully planned, teaching a prefect a lesson was easy. We would wait for the end of the term and “close the school with him” outside the school compound. However, in cases where the victim had wind of our plan, he would take off at lightening speed as soon as the assembly was dismissed with a bunch of us in hot pursuit. Only his legs would save him until he reached his safe territory.

The circus and comedy currently on display at the TJRC remind me of my good old days. If you and I see it that way, then we must liken our current TJRC commissioners to the latter day school kids. The only difference is that they have quarreled publicly in front of cameras; gone behind one another’s back and accused each other to their appointing authority.

Calling a meeting to discuss their chairman is no different from school kids in a class organizing a meeting to discuss their prefect before reporting that same prefect to the headmaster.

Since the TJRC was constituted, this commission has never known any peace especially after the Self-proclaimed high priests of the civil society realized they had missed the gravy train. So many behind the scenes meetings have been held to discuss Kiplagat’s many transgressions by his own commissioners. If it was not land grabbing, it was the murder of Robert Ouko. If it wasn’t the Wagalla Massacre, it was material benefits in the Somali Peace accord.

It is true Ambassador Kiplagat could be having many skeletons in his closet just like many Kenyans who have served the three regimes throughout our independence period. What baffles us is why there was no due diligence on a man who has in the past been called upon by the current regime to perform so many delicate tasks. I remember in 2006 soon after the debacle with the new constitution; he was the one chosen by the current regime to jump start the constitution process. At that time, apart from a few politicians, no civil society groups raised any objections.

Between 2003 and 2009, Bethuel Kiplagat was one of the seven Eminent Africans chosen by the African Union to spearhead the African Peer Review Mechanism. He went on to serve as the Chair of the Eminent Persons for at least one year without any protests from any groups. Why then are the protests now?

I’m not sure if I’m right but is it the business of fellow commissioners to ask for their chairman to be probed, sacked or suspended? Aren’t they bound by collective responsibility no matter the circumstances until an outside agency institutes a complaint to the appointing authority? How can commissioners appointed just like their chairman, call a press conference then purport to sack him and appoint one among them to replace him? When did the commissioners become the appointing authority in their own commission?

As it is, the collective responsibility is now missing in the commission. Factionalism, backbiting and gossip have gained currency. Personal interests are now the driving force at the expense of the very reason the tax payer set up the commission in the first place.

Like Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo said early in the week, these children have made enough noise and disrupted learning in the school compound. They must be sent home and only come back to school in the company of their parents failing which they all deserve to be expelled from school and fresh candidates recruited. Let the whole noisy privileged bunch go home.