A crowd cheered loudly on Thursday as President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga endured a blistering attack from Kenya’s key religious leaders during national prayers for Nakumatt and Molo fire victims.
In some of their strongest public attacks against the country’s leadership, religious leaders from all the major faiths took turns to dress down President Kibaki and Mr Odinga over the failure to punish corruption in high places, to deal with extra judicial killings by the police and to resettle thousands made homeless by election violence.
The religious leaders, who shared the stage in Nairobi with the two Grand Coalition principals and addressed them directly also complained about tribalism and lack of national reconciliation.
Even as the President and Prime Minister appeared uncomfortable, the religious leaders, through the Inter-Religious Forum, railed against impunity, food shortages and the slow pace of reforms since the two leaders signed a deal that resulted in the formation of a Grand Coalition Government in February 2008.
“When you joined hands to sign the National Accord, Kenyans expected the best leadership ever. However, Kenyans are concerned that they are witnessing the opposite,” Bishop Boniface Adoyo of Evangelical Alliance of Kenya said. “They are discouraged, ashamed, disillusioned and angry.”
When he stood up to address the gathering during the national prayers, President Kibaki only told the religious leaders that they had chosen the wrong forum to direct their criticism. The stinging indictment mirrors closely a damning report of government performance released recently.
The report by South Consulting urged President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to take charge of the affairs of government and push through wide-ranging reforms to avoid a repeat of the 2007 elections crisis. The “Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation Monitoring Project” report also says most Kenyans want poll chaos suspects to be prosecuted either by a local tribunal or the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
In the lead-up to the 2008 General Election, religious leaders were divided between those supporting President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity and Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement.
On Thursday, they said that after much soul searching and self-reflection, they had come together to push for stronger and more focused leadership to save the country.