A new book by a former TJRC commissioner, Prof Ron Slye, lays bare the intrigues that preceded the production of the final report in May 2013, barely two months after President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in.
The book titled- The Kenyan TJRC: An outsiders View From the Inside, reveals that the Report found out that Kenya’s First President Jomo Kenyatta grabbed land at the Coast during his days in power.
“The government of Jomo Kenyatta’s son, Uhuru, used its powers to cajole, bribe, and threaten commissioners and senior staff of the TJRC to have this and other references to his father’s land grabbing removed from the report,” Slye says.
He adds resolutely: “I know, as I was offered a bribe to do just that, and refused,” he says. The report writing and compilation was laced with high octane politics. Slye says one of the commissioners – Margaret Shava – had expressed concerns about portions of the land chapter and submitted proposed changes. When she inquired on the status of the changes, she was directed to her fellow commissioners who were overseeing the compilation of the report in Lake Elementaita. When she called commissioner Ahmed Farah who was in Elementaita, she was rebuffed.
“A colleague told me that commissioner Farah emphatically stated to others in the room that not a single comma shall be changed in the land chapter,” Slye writes. Exhausted and tense By late April, Shava had given up the bid because other than Farah, the other commissioners had given her changes a wide berth.
However, strange calls started trooping in from the Office of the President, which turned the tide in her favour.
“Shortly after commissioner Farah had insisted to commissioner Shava in late April that not a single coma in the land chapter would be changed, he apparently received a phone call from Kimemia (Francis, former Secretary to the Cabinet). Immediately after that phone call, commissioner Farah returned to the report-writing meeting and started to demand changes to the land chapter,” he writes.
When Slye arrived back from the US on May 2, a day to the official lapse of the TJRC mandate, he says he found commissioners “exhausted and tense”. Kimemia wanted all references to Jomo Kenyatta and DP William Ruto removed, he claims.
Four days later on May 6, he went to the printer’s office to check the status of the production of the report. He says he found Commissioners Shava and Farah “standing over our staff and directing which parts of the report to remove concerning Kenyatta family”.
The following day, May 7, Kimemia called him. “He first thanked me for agreeing to take out the table in the land chapter that listed the Kenyatta family, among others, as having obtained land illegally or irregularly,” Slye says.
Shava had proposed the removal of the list of 24 people, arguing it was selective but if it was to be retained, it had to be expanded. Slye had agreed. He says after a few niceties, Kimemia asked him to take a look at paragraph 257 of the land chapter, which according to him, had similar problems to the removed table. The paragraph contained three sentences from the testimony from one witness who linked Kenyatta to land grabbing in Kwale.
“He then observed that while we all wanted the TJRC report and its recommendations to be implemented, it would be difficult for the President to implement a report that reflected badly on his family. He also noted, at least three times during the conversation, that I should stop by his office in State House and say jambo,” Slye says.
He says he never passed by Kimemia’s office nor acquiesced to his demands. He says the following day, Kimemia called CEO Tom Chavangi Aziz and informed him that he (Slye) had agreed to the changes and together with Farah, Chavangi headed to the printers to make the changes. “I called the printers and made it clear that I had not agreed to any changes in the report. The paragraph was left untouched,” he says.
Also, two other Kenyan commissioners – Prof Tom Ojienda and Tecla Namachanja – made it clear that they were opposed to any changes in the chapter.
Just at the time, Slye writes, Namachanja called to say she was hiding after receiving numerous calls threatening her to fall in place. Worried, Slye also called the US embassy for advice on his personal security.
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