Ap­peal ahead of elec­tions in Kenya

The Church of England - - NEWS - By Ge­orge Conger

CHURCH LEAD­ERS in Kenya have called upon vot­ers to re­ject politi­cians so­lic­it­ing sup­port by ap­peals to re­li­gious en­mity and eth­nic ha­tred and vote for the can­di­dates that can best serve the needs of a united coun­try.

On 7 Fe­bru­ary the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee and House of Bish­ops of the Angli­can Church of Kenya re­leased a pas­toral let­ter warn­ing the coun­try that the vi­o­lence that fol­lowed the De­cem­ber 2007 elec­tions that left ap­prox­i­mately 1,500 peo­ple dead in tribal-based po­lit­i­cal clashes could re­turn. Kenya goes to the polls on 4 March 2013 to elect a pres­i­dent and mem­bers of the se­nate and na­tional as­sem­bly un­der a new con­sti­tu­tion adopted last year.

“The im­ages from the last gen­eral elec­tions and the re­sul­tant post-elec­tion vi­o­lence are still fresh in our minds. Many peo­ple died, oth­ers were in­jured and a lot of prop­erty was de­stroyed, leav­ing many Kenyans dis­en­fran­chised and dis­il­lu­sioned. A lot of their emo­tional wounds are yet to heal. A ma­jor con­tribut­ing fac­tor to this tragic sit­u­a­tion was words spo­ken by Kenyans against their neigh­bours and col­leagues based on as­sump­tions and per­ceived po­lit­i­cal lean­ings,” the Church state­ment said.

“Kenya is a land of God-given eth­nic di­ver­sity that we should all em­brace and man­age to en­sure that we har­ness the var­i­ous strengths for na­tional devel­op­ment.

“This is our mes­sage to all po­lit­i­cal as­pi­rants: take re­spon­si­bil­ity for your ut­ter­ances dur­ing cam­paigns and de­sist from state­ments against other Kenyans just be­cause they are from a dif­fer­ent eth­nic back­ground,” the state­ment said.

Ap­peals to tribal unity and eth­nic dem­a­goguery by politi­cians dur­ing the 2007 elec­tion cam­paign were blamed for the post-elec­tion vi­o­lence that pit­ted the dom­i­nant Kikuyu tribe of Cen­tral Kenya of Pres­i­dent Mwai Kibaki against the Luo tribe of his chal­lenger Raile Odinga, who built a coali­tion with the Luhya of West­ern Kenya, the Kalen­jin from the Rift Val­ley and Mus­lims from the Coast Province.

Af­ter re­sults were an­nounced, Kikuyus liv­ing out­side their tra­di­tional home­lands were the tar­get of tribal vi­o­lence – which sparked reprisals against Luo liv­ing in Kikuyu lands.

“We are emerg­ing from an ex­pe­ri­ence where vi­o­lence was trig­gered by dis­puted pres­i­den­tial elec­tion re­sults. Our prayer is that free and fair elec­tions will be held and that po­lit­i­cal as­pi­rants and their sup­port­ers will ac­cept the elec­tion re­sults,” the Church lead­ers wrote, adding “this is a sign of ma­tu­rity and re­spon­si­bil­ity” that all must sup­port to build a bet­ter Kenya.

“Let ev­ery voter take time to vet the can­di­dates as­pir­ing for po­lit­i­cal of­fice to en­sure that Kenya is led at all lev­els by men and women who have hu­mil­ity and lead with in­tegrity, trans­parency, and accountability. The lead­ers we elect also need to have the req­ui­site skills and un­der­stand the con­text in terms of the needs and as­pi­ra­tions of Kenyans,” the Church state­ment said.

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