Calls for peace dominated the burial ceremony of former Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) chairman Bethuel Kiplagat at his Mosoriot home in Nandi county on Saturday.
Speakers at the ceremony eulogised him as a great peace pillar within the country and beyond and called for the delinking of his name from the purported role in the 1984 Wagalla Massacre in Northern Kenya.
“I was a senior military officer by the time the incident occurred and I had access to intelligence. He did not play any role in that attack,” said Lt-Gen Augustine Cheruiyot (rtd) who schooled with Kiplagat at Kapsabet Boys’ High School.
Family, friends, government officials and political leaders described Kiplagat as a great peacemaker who knew no geographical, religious and ethnic boundaries in his peace mission that saw him work in several countries.
“Ambassador Kiplagat’s record in the peace process speaks for itself. A fitting legacy to his uniting efforts at negotiation tables has been key in finding solution to conflicts wherever he took part in peace missions,” said Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed who represented President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In a condolence message by retired president Daniel Moi, read by Baringo senator Gideon Moi, the former head of state commended Kiplagat for his role in brokering peace in South Sudan, Somalia and Zimbabwe.
“He was very instrumental in the peace process in this region especially in South Sudan and Somalia. His death is a great loss,” read part of the message.
Representatives of the South Sudanese government said ambassador Kiplagat’s name will remain etched in the country’s history for his role in addressing cases that led to cases of bloodshed witnessed in the country in the past.
“We cannot talk of our history without mentioning the crucial role played by Ambassador Kiplagat in ensuring civil wars initially witnessed in our country were brought to an end through peace pacts,” said Mr Cirino Hetieng Ofuho, a former South Sudanese minister.
The heavy presence of the clergy and mourners from both Christian and Islamic religions at the event was symbolic of Ambassador Kiplagat’s working relationship with people without minding their religion.
Kiplagat, who was born a Muslim – Abdul Arap Kiplagat – later converted to Christianity where he was named Bethuel after baptism by the Anglican Church. Most of his close relations are Muslims.
“We had no divisions at any time with our brother despite the fact that we were Muslims yet he was a Christian. This is a good example that we must embrace as a country as we clamour for peace,” said Suleman Magut, the deceased’s brother.
Governors Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu) and Cleophas Lagat (Nandi), among other leaders, emphasised the need for peace as the country heads to elections.
“The election process should not be a recipe for chaos among Kenyans,” he said.
Career diplomat spent most of his life campaigning for peace and reconciliation.