TJRC seeks to extend mandate

TJRC acting chairperson Tecla Namachanja (centre) addresses a press conference at their offices in Nairobi June 24, 2011. She is flanked by commissioners Maj Gen (Rtd) Ahmed Farah (left) and Tom Ojienda right, partly hidden). She said the commission had initiated the process of extending its mandate. PHOEBE OKALL

The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) has initiated the process of having its tenure extended by another six months as fears emerge its mandate might not be achieved within the stipulated time, acting chairperson Tecla Namachanja has said.

“The time we are left with is not enough and since there is a provision in the Act for an extension, we have initiated the process. We want to give all Kenyans a chance to appear before the commission,” said Ms Namachanja Friday.

She added that the commission’s work plan would not be met if their tenure was not extended by six months as provided for in the TJRC Act.

The commission has five months to complete its work, compile and hand in its report by November. The commission is expected to wind up by May 2012.

The TJRC was established in 2009 to lead the inquiry into gross human rights violations and other historical injustices in Kenya between December 12, 1963 and February 28, 2008.

The commission’s work was hampered from the beginning when issues about the past record of its chairman Bethwel Kiplagat were raised. Former Chief Justice Evan Gicheru appointed a tribunal to investigate Mr Kiplagat following public pressure.

The Commission on Friday wound up its hearings in northern Kenya dominated by the 1984 Wagalla massacre.

Ms Namachanja said that they have heard from 161 witnesses including victims and they “were satisfied with the hearings”.

Next week, the commission moves to Western and Rift Valley regions where they will focus on land ownership, economic marginalisation, torture, detention, extrajudicial killings and the 2008 post-election violence.

During Fridday’s hearing, Retired Colonel Hastings Muhindi told the commission that the Wagalla massacre was an operation spearheaded by the Wajir District Security Committee and did not involve the Provincial Security Committee.

Col Muhindi told the commission that General Mudogo was the officer in charge of the operation and might have ordered the torching of houses in the area as people were rounded up.

He also defended the army officers involved in the operation saying that the were only involved in rounding up of people but not in the shootings. The former army man said there were no army officers at the airstrip when he visited the scene.

“I saw between 70-100 naked people all lying on their stomachs. There was blood on the airstrip an indication of many more people at the airstrip that I had not seen,” said Col. Muhindi.

Col. Muhindi said that northern Kenya was under tight security surveillance because of skirmishes that rocked the area since independence and it was not clear whether it was by Kenyans or Ethiopian militia.

The former army man said that the military should take responsibility of reporting cases of violations such as sexual assaults. He added that such cases should be reported so that specific persons should be charged for the offences.