Church leaders, civil society warn over election 'drumbeats of war'

Wednesday February 17 2016

Elections Observation Group chairman Brian Weke (right) with Catholic Justice and Peace Commission chairman Bishop Cornelius Korir at Hotel Intercontinental in Nairobi on February 17, 2015.

Elections Observation Group chairman Brian Weke (right) with Catholic Justice and Peace Commission chairman Bishop Cornelius Korir at Hotel Intercontinental in Nairobi on February 17, 2015. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By SAMUEL KARANJA
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Religious and civil society groups have warned that “drumbeats of war” are becoming louder as the country heads to the general elections next year.

The groups fingered politicians, who they said were continuing to make inflammatory statements likely to result in ethnic-based violence.

Under the auspices of the Elections Observation Group (Eclog), the leaders also demanded that the electoral body ensure it conducts peaceful and credible elections to avoid any chaos.

Eldoret Bishop Cornelius Korir said the 2007/08 post-election violence was a “dark time” for Kenya and a repeat of the chaos should be avoided at all costs.

“The inciting comments by politicians [are] a common phenomenon that occurs before tribal clashes erupt, we must stop that,” he said, speaking at a Nairobi hotel on Wednesday during the launch of Eclog’s strategic plan.

He said he had witnessed ethnic-based violence since the 1990s and most of it was instigated by politicians.

The bishop also urged the youth not to accept handouts from politicians so as to vote in a certain manner.

He also chastised the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) over the breakdown of voting machines in the 2013 election, saying it was a “shame” that the vote results could not be transmitted electronically due to technical failure.

The cleric also urged the media to report news responsibly, arguing that although the truth must be told, care must be taken to avoid raising emotions.

Mr Brian Weke, the Eclog Steering Committee chairman, said inflammatory remarks by politicians were on the increase and must be stemmed.

“I have heard some say they will take tough actions against those in their strongholds who will not register as voters while others are telling the electorate to vote and leave the rest to them (politicians).

“What does that mean? Such drumbeats of war must not be allowed at all,” he said.

Mr Weke said the level of trust that Kenyans have in the IEBC is very low and urged the agency to ensure accountability in its activities.