KENYA: Churches say, 'use poll report carefully' to contain violence

October 23, 2008

Some Kenyan church leaders have called for the implementation of a report which recommends special criminal trials for those who stoked violence that was triggered after national elections late in 2007.

"We think it [the report] is well researched ... We call on the president and prime minister to enable its implementation," Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi told Ecumenical News International on October 24 in Nairobi.


He was commenting on the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence, headed by Judge Philip Waki, and released on October 15. "It is good for reconciliation," said Nzimbi. "If it is implemented well, it will create a chance for forgiveness."

The report recommends that the people who planned the violence should face a special tribunal locally or through the International Criminal Court at The Hague. It did not make public the names of perpetrators.

After its release, the report was said to have stirred tensions in the ruling coalition of the Party of National Unity and the Orange Democratic Movement, a compromise government that came about after the elections and that was brokered by former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan.

"I think it is an honest report. It is a true reflection of what happened," said Roman Catholic Bishop Maurice Crowley of Kitale. He urged that evidence that aided the report should be made public.

On October 20, President Mwai Kibaki, of the PNU, told Kenyans to think of justice tempered with forgiveness so that reconciliation might take root.

"Let us therefore prepare as a nation to consider restitution and forgiveness as complementing truth and justice in order to give our nation a fresh start," said Kibaki, who had been accused by his opponents of stealing an election he lost.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga of ODM called for homegrown solutions to the recommendations of the report. "Justice must be done without necessarily being seen as an act of revenge," said Odinga on October 22 in Nairobi.

But justice minister, Martha Karua, a PNU member, warned, "We cannot brush aside gross violation of human rights without the perpetrators first owning up to their crimes and asking for forgiveness."

Some church leaders said they feared if the report is badly implemented it could heighten ethnic tensions that came to the fore in the violence at the beginning of 2008 after the December 27, 2007 election results were disputed.


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