Kenya government accused by churches over prayer rally killings

By Ecumenical News International
June 18, 2010

Church leaders in Kenya have said they are holding the government responsible for two explosions at a constitution prayer rally in Nairobi, in which seven people died and nearly 100 were injured on 13 June - writes Fredrick Nzwili.

The church leaders, who have been campaigning for a "No" vote against a proposed draft constitution, condemned the attack as an affront to the Christian faith, and sent their condolences to the families of those who had died.

"Having been informed over and over that the passage of the new constitution is a government project, we are left with no doubt the government, either directly or indirectly, had a hand in this attack. Who else in this country holds explosives?" said the Rev Peter Karanja, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya.

"We therefore hold the government and the "Yes" team responsible for the attack and the blood that was shed, unless they prove to Kenyans that someone else planted and detonated the devices," said Karanja.

The rally, organised by senior Evangelical and Pentecostal church leaders to pray for the rejection of the draft constitution, had gone peacefully until the explosions took place shortly before the event was due to end.

"It is very unfortunate this has happened but we stand firm and refuse to be intimidated," Bishop David Oginde of the Nairobi Pentecostal Church told journalists soon after the blast.

Thousands of Christians had danced and sung, and were praying when the first of the explosions took place at about 7.00 p.m. at Uhuru Park in the centre of Nairobi.

""We condemn this attack in the strongest terms. I want to let Kenyans know Christians have won," said Pastor James Ng'ang'a, the leader of Neno Evangelism, a large Pentecostal church.

The draft constitution will face a referendum on 4 August but the issue has split the country between the majority Christians and minority Muslims. Christian leaders reject the draft because it entrenches Kadhis, as Islamic courts are known. They also say the proposed constitution will legalise abortion and reduce freedom of worship.

The government says it wants the document accepted but Christian leaders and some politicians have warned the authorities not to force it on the people.

"We are being asked to pass this constitution hurriedly but take time and ask yourselves why they are pushing us to speedily pass the new law," said Bishop Mark Kariuki of the Life Celebration Centre at the rally.

The leaders are also questioning what they see as US interest in the draft after, they say, American Vice-President Joe Biden endorsed the draft.

"What is it in this new constitution that has attracted Americans until their VP says pass this law and we will give you money for investment," said Bishop Kariuki.

The BBC reported on 14 June that, after an emergency security meeting, Prime Minister Raila Odinga had confirmed it had been a grenade attack and said a top police team was investigating it.

Previously, Odinga had said it was an isolated case that should not be linked to the referendum. Christian leaders responded by continuing to accuse those supporting the law of carrying out the attack on them.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]


Keywords:Kenyan | Kenya
Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.