PHOTO | PPS President Kenyatta receives the Truth, Justice and
Reconciliation Commission’s final report from team chairman Bethuel
Kiplagat at State House Nairobi.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Dr Bethuel Kiplagat could go down in history for having the
distinction of being both the chairman of a commission and one of the
people adversely mentioned in the commission’s final report.
The very mandate of the Truth, Justice and
Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) put its chairman on a collision course
with rights activists, who demanded that he resigns from the position
soon after President Kibaki appointed him in 2009.
Matters came to a head when some of the
commissioners proposed that a tribunal be set up to hear complaints
against their chairman.
Among those who had called on Dr Kiplagat to quit
were his deputy, Ms Betty Murungi, and Commissioner Ronald Slye. This
caused a rift in the commission that reduced its standing in public. The
two later resigned.
Those who opposed his appointment argued that they
had information linking him to the Wagalla Massacre of February 1984 in
which hundreds were killed in Wajir, while others were tortured in a
Questions were also asked about Dr Kiplagat’s role
in the 1990 death of Foreign Minister Robert Ouko, and his acquisition
of government land while serving in the Moi administration.
And now in its report, the truth commission has
recommended that the Land Commission carry out further investigations
into Dr Kiplagat’s acquisition of land in Liyavo Farm, Kitale.
When the allegations were levelled against him, Dr
Kiplagat protested his innocence, insisting that he, too, deserved
justice and had a right to be heard. He declined to step aside despite
At the time of the Wagalla Massacre, Mr Kiplagat
was a member of the Kenya Intelligence Committee by virtue of being a
permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The Kenya Intelligence Committee of the 1980s was
described as an intelligence gathering body by James Stanley Mathenge,
the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President in charge of
Internal Security and Provincial Administration at the time,” the report
“The rest of the committee consisted of a small
and fairly select group of people: permanent secretaries drawn from the
ministries of Information, Foreign Affairs, Defence, Home Affairs, and
the Director of Intelligence, the Commissioner of Police and the officer
in charge of Intelligence in the Army.
In February 1984 the persons occupying those posts
were Mr Gituma, Dr Bethuel Kiplagat, Mr Muliro, David Mwiraria, Mr
James Kanyotu, Mr Bernard Njinu and Brigadier (later General) Joseph
Raymond Kibwana, respectively.”
One of the witnesses who gave evidence before the
commission was Mohammed Ibrahim Elmi, a doctor at the time of the
massacre, but later became the minister for Northern Kenya and Asal
He said: “On Saturday, 11 February, 1984, the
operation continued. It was particularly bad in Bulla Jogoo in Wajir
town, where all non-permanent houses called herios belonging to the
Degodia were burnt down.
“That was when women were raped. I distinctly
remember that a disabled person was burnt in one of those houses. My
colleague at TB Manyatta Dispensary, Sister Annalena Tonelli, went to
remove the body for burial on Sunday morning.”
Mr Elmi broke down in tears as he recounted the horrors he witnessed.
Another witness who gave her testimony in camera,
said of the massacre: “No woman was spared. They did not care whether
some were pregnant. They did not care when some women told them they
were about to give birth. They did not care that some women were old.
Every soldier came. They were so many soldiers. They were uncountable.
“There were no prostitutes those days, so these men were
sexually starved. By then, I was nine months pregnant. They raped me
again and again until my unborn child came out. Twenty women who were
raped died. I saw them with my own eyes.”
In its report, the truth team says that lack of
involvement, detachment and distance were the overriding themes of the
evidence received from the former Kenya Intelligence Committee,
including Mr Kiplagat. They all said they had toured the area to inspect
But “the documents made available to the
commission, including those by some of those testifying, painted a much
more complex picture of the purpose of the intelligence committee’s tour
of the area”.