Appeal ahead of elections in Kenya
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.