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Churches’ warning to Kibaki and Raila

Friday April 22 2011

Youth from St. Joseph Catholic Church Milimani, Kisumu perform the

Youth from St. Joseph Catholic Church Milimani, Kisumu perform the "way of the cross" on April 22, 2011. Photo/JACOB OWITI 

By SATURDAY NATION Team

Kenya’s top churchmen have petitioned the President and Prime Minister over rising political temperatures, warning that the escalating cost of living could lead to civil strife.

They all said that the two principals should use this Easter holiday to reflect on what could be done to address negative ethnicity, political impunity and a growing sense of frustration amongst the poor in the country.

In their Easter messages to President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the church leaders spoke of growing uncertainty amongst their flock, fuelled by heightened political activity across the country and rising food and fuel prices.

The church leaders from both the mainstream and Pentecostal churches spoke in wide-ranging interviews on the eve of an Easter holiday foreshadowed by rising political discord and surging consumer prices.

“The two principals should move fast and stem the growing partisanship that imbues all ethnic groups with a powerful sense of identity to their community of origin,” said Catholic Archbishop John Njue.

Political temperatures rose a notch higher with the appearance of the Ocampo Six at the Hague a fortnight ago. Early this week, protests were held against the rising cost of living in the country.

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Some church leaders expressed concern that with the next general elections barely 16 months away, the country is yet to have an electoral body or the laws necessary to run an election.

Much of the new constitution has not been implemented nine months after it was promulgated.

“If electoral laws are not implemented quickly, and then it means that we will be entering 2012 with so much uncertainty,” cautioned Anglican Arch Bishop Eliud Wabukala.

The church leaders also want the two principals to take charge of the political arena in the country, and to reign in their followers.

“They should ask their troops to sober up and reduce political rhetoric,” said Bishop Mark Kariuki of Deliverance Church.

The two principals, church leaders say, must steer political conversation away from the ICC hearings at The Hague to more pertinent issues affecting Kenyans such a hunger and the rising food and fuel prices.

“They (the president and the PM) have a duty to stem the escalating prices of food starting with fuel,” said Paul Muasya, the head of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

The church leaders cautioned that current political and social situation can easily degenerate into chaos. Political rhetoric and rising poverty levels, they said, created a perfect recipe for violence.

“If they press the poor man to the wall they should be ready for the consequences. Let them take this as a warning that if nothing is done, we are headed to a big riot,” said Bishop Boniface Adoyo, of Christ Is The Answer Ministries.

But the church leaders themselves did not escape blame.

Former PCEA moderator Rev Dr Timothy Njoya criticised a section of the clergy for contributing to the political uncertainty facing the country, especially in their handling of the ICC debate.

“The church has allowed itself to be bought and the clergy have started adoring the politicians and money more than their calling,” said Rev Njoya.

John Cardinal Njue, Catholic Archbishop of Nairobi

What is your assessment of Kenya today?

The church takes cognisance of the fact that soaring of food and fuel prices is quickly moving beyond the reach of many poor people.

Under-reported are the population pressures and economic difficulties, which push normal disputes over resource allocation past the threshold of traditional resolution mechanism into the pursuit of violence.

But even of grave concern to the church is the political wrangling.

These wrangles are a witness to features of living in conflict among us, but many other factors lie beneath the surface.

What is your Easter message to the President and Prime Minister, respectively?

The two principals should move fast and stem the growing partisanship that imbues all ethnic groups with a powerful sense of identity to their community of origin.

While only in the rarest cases this has in the past pushed either group towards open physical violence it has, however, contributed to an unfortunate culture of sectarian analysis which interprets these events along ethnic lines. But action from the two principals is critical and it better happen yesterday.

Lest they forget, a nationwide well coordinated violent conflict as that one witnessed during the 2007-8 was not normal news in our beloved country.

What are your fears and hopes for Kenya?

I have fears that there is a deepening sense of national division, cultivating further cyclical patterns of aggression, sometime passive against the other or psychological and accusations of disloyalty or persecution.

Reporting styles in the media, with all its variety, generally tends to fuel this establishment by either labelling an incident a tribal event or else denying the reconciliation dimension completely.

Balanced and objective journalism of good professional nature is disappearing in the process. We need this country and we must all work towards uniting it.

What is your Easter message to Kenyans?

I appeal for reconciliation. The Constitution, if it has to make an impact, must be a peacemaking project meant for healing and reconciliation.

Let us address the division and physical disagreements among ourselves as citizens though we seem to have made peace when the National Accord was signed. We cannot sit and wait for international courts to do healing and reconciliation for us.

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Rev Eliud Wabukala, Archbishop Anglican Church of Kenya

What is your assessment of Kenya today?

We have many challenges, but we must learn to offer solutions.

On the issue of food prices, one of the solutions would be for all leaders in office to save something. Perhaps it is time to merge government ministries so that we can spend less on state operations.

What is your Easter message to the President and Prime Minister?

Kenyans like to hear them speak in one voice.

They should also focus on the implementation of the new Constitution, particularly the electoral laws, which if not implemented quickly, means that we will be entering 2012 with so much uncertainty.

They should also address the issue of youth unemployment.

What are your fears and hopes for Kenya?

I do not like to dwell of fear. I would rather talk about hope. I have a lot of hope for the people of Kenya, we are a very resilient people, and I have faith that we shall overcome.

What is your Easter message to Kenyans?

My message is for Kenyans to use Easter selflessly. Let us help each other through these hard times. Easter should help us to be sober, to love each other and concentrate on keeping out country stable. To the youth, I say let us be vigilant, and take control of our lives.

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Rev Canon Peter Karanja, NCCK general secretary

What is your assessment of Kenya today?

The new Constitution offers Kenya new possibilities and this is a season for Kenyans to embrace their liberties and forge ahead.

The government should ensure that the implementation of the new Constitution is on course.

But I am disappointed that four years down the line internally displaced persons are going to spend their Easter in the camps.

This indicates the indifference on the part of the government and it clearly shows the insensitivity of some of our leaders.

Leaders should use this Easter to think about the internally diaplaced persons and others who have been displaced in the past and look at new ways of solving the problem.

What is your Easter message to the President and Prime Minister?

The President and Prime Minister should take this time to reflect on the need for unity in the grand coalition for the sake of the country because they carry the burden of Kenyans on their shoulders and the more unified they work together the better.

What are your fears and hopes for Kenya?

Kenyans face a number of challenges including the rising cost of living which has pushed them into a harsh life.

As Christians, the moment of fear is also the moment of hope and the Easter holiday offers Christians the opportunity to reconsider their way of life and strengthen their confidence in their faith.

Kenyans should not continue to suffer because of selfish leaders who have failed to solve their problems.

It is because of the selfishness and the lethargy of some leaders in government that Kenyans continue facing the same problems.

What is your Easter message to Kenyans?

I urge Kenyans to celebrate the Easter holiday with sobriety and in moderation.

Reported by Muchiri Karanja, Samwel Kumba and Jacob Ng’etich