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TJRC commissioner succumbs to cancer

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 00:00 -- BY NZAU MUSAU

TRUTH, Justice and Reconciliation Commissioner Berhanu Dinka passed away yesterday. Dinka died in New York where he was being treated for cancer.

He chaired the report writing committee of the commission and is one of the three commissioners who dissented on the land chapter. Though ill, Dinka lead his team in completing the report to hand it to President Uhuru in May.

“He chaired our report-writing committee, and returned to Kenya to guide the process to the very end. He gave the TJRC process his very best,” fellow commissioners said yesterday.

Chairman Bethuel Kiplagat said Dinka's body will be flown from the US to Ethiopia for burial. “We will keep you informed on the burial arrangements. Let us keep his family in prayers,” Kiplagat said. Born on June 4, 1935, Dinka was educated in Ethiopia and in the US. He held a degree in politics and economy. Dinka has served in the diplomatic circles for 27 years and undertook many special assignments.

He served in Ethiopian embassies in Liberia, Egypt and the US during the reign of Ethiopia’s last emperor Haile Selassie and became ambassador in 1975.  He was the first Ethiopian ambassador to Djibouti between 1980 and 1984.

He later became Ethiopia’s permanent representative to the UN in New York while serving as the ambassador to Canada. In 1986, Dinka was detained by the Mengistu Haile Mariam government for several years alongside three grandsons of the deposed Selassie.

He was released in 1989 with 87 political prisoners. The release took place five days before peace talks between the Ethiopia government and Eritrea rebels began in Atlanta under the auspices of former US President Jimmy Carter.

From prison, Dinka worked as a consultant for the International Livestock Centre, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the UN Development Programme and the International Peace Academy.

In 1992, Dinka moved to UN and served in Cambodia, South Africa and Somalia. He served as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Sierra Leone between 1995 and 1997 with similar postings in the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa (1997-2002) and Burundi (2002-2004).

He chaired the power-sharing commission of the Abuja talks on the Darfur crisis until the Darfur Peace Agreement was concluded in 2006. Despite handing over the TJRC report on May 22, the report has never been tabled in Parliament.