Kenya church leaders' stance on terror suspects angers Muslims

By Fredrick Nzwili
October 26, 2010

Christian leaders in Kenya have cautiously backed the extradition of terror suspects to Uganda, expulsions that have enraged Muslims in the east African country.

More than 10 Kenyan Muslims, suspected to be linked to the Kampala bombing attacks that took place during the soccer World Cup, have been arrested and taken to neighboring Uganda for trial.

"The crime was committed in Uganda and if the extraditions are going to curb crime, then I support it," the Rev David Gathanju, the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, told ENInews in Nairobi. "The exchange of suspects in a case like this one sends a good signal to east African countries and the international community of their commitment to the war on terror."

Church leaders said the special nature of the crime makes the extradition necessary after Kenya implemented a recently signed East African Community agreement, which allows the transfer of suspects between countries in the region.

"This is a serious security issue ... but if it is true they committed the crime then I think we should let the law take its own course," said Anglican Archbishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa, on the coast where many Muslims live.

Al Shabaab, a radical Islamic group in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 76 people who were watching the World Cup final match between Spain and the Netherlands that was being beamed live from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Still, Kenyan Muslim leaders want the government to return the suspects so that they can face trial in their country. They stress the recently enacted constitution gave all Kenyans rights against such extraditions.

"We condemn this action in the strongest terms possible. We want the Kenyans tried here. If they are found guilty, we shall not object to it," said Sheikh Juma Ngao, the national chairman of the Kenya National Muslim Advisory Council. "We consider this as mistreatment of Muslims and furthering of their marginalisation."

On 28 September 2010, Justice Mohammed Warsame of Nairobi High Court criticised President Mwai Kibaki for contravening the constitution he swore to uphold, by allowing state security agents to infringe on the rights of Kenyans. Human rights organisations say eight out of the 13 people suspected of the crimes were illegally transferred to Uganda without any legal representation.

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


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