KENYA: Churches want post-poll violence report implemented

November 24, 2008

Kenyan church leaders have demanded the recommendations of an official report into post-election violence, which nearly tore apart the East African country at the beginning of 2008, be implemented and that instigators be brought to book.

"The time has come for people to accept their mistakes. We should not continue to sweep our problems under the carpet," Roman Catholic Cardinal John Njue told a congregation in Kakamega in western Kenya on November 22.

Still, some politicians are vehemently opposed to the findings of what is known as the Waki report.

Around 1,300 people were killed and 300,000 forced from their homes in violence triggered by a disputed presidential election at the end of December 2007. Some church leaders said that unresolved ethnic tensions related to land distribution, and the gap between rich and poor, also lay behind the violence.

Njue spoke as some top politicians continued to reject the report as inept and complained it victimizes many of them. The cardinal warned that failing to implement the findings could signal worse things to come. "We have taken our stand and would like to see that the measures to have it implemented are put in place," the Daily Nation newspaper on November 24 quoted the cardinal as saying.

Many church leaders view the report as crucial to healing and reconciliation in Kenya, which has repeatedly faced ethnic clashes every election year.

The Waki report, released in October, accused 10 unnamed senior individuals of planning murderous inter-ethnic attacks. The names were put in a sealed envelope and handed to the former U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Annan, who was a key mediator. The report said that if a special tribunal to try those behind the violence did not begin by the end of January 2009, the envelope would be passed to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

After peace negotiations between the opposition Orange Democratic Movement and the former ruling Party of National Unity soon after the 2007-2008 post-election crisis, the Waki commission was set up to look into the causes of the violence, and recommend solutions. The commission's report listed those it said were key financiers of the violence.

"Those adversely named in the report have limited options, either to defend themselves before the tribunal in Kenya or face the International Criminal Court at The Hague," said Anglican Bishop Thomas Kogo of Eldoret diocese.

Early in November, the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) urged politicians to accept the report. "The politicians have decided to focus on narrow aspects of the report that play to their own selfish and immediate gains, deliberately leaving out significant and critical aspects," said the Rev. Peter Karanja, the NCCK general secretary. He promised that the church council, religious leaders and civil society organizations would mobilize millions of people to sign a petition to support an appeal to the ICC to take up the matter.

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