Kenyan religious leaders campaign for violence-free elections

By Ecumenical News International
September 22, 2007

Christian, Muslim and Hindu groups in Kenya are to launch a campaign to urge political leaders to sign a peace charter and pledge to avoid violence ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for December 2007 - writes Fredrick Nzwili.

"While politicians adopt the strategy of divide and rule, we are called to adopt the strategy of peace and unity," Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi told religious leaders in Nairobi ahead of the 21 September campaign launch.

The campaign, titled "Chagua Amani, Zuia Noma", youth slang in Swahili meaning "Choose Peace, Prevent Catastrophe", follows several months of meetings between Christian, Muslim and Hindu leaders who belong to the country's Inter-Religious Forum.

The launch of the campaign was planned to coincide with the United Nations International Day of Peace, which the World Council of Churches also marks as an international day of prayer for peace.

Archbishop Nzimbi urged Kenyan religious groups to take responsibility for encouraging people to embrace peace before, during and after the elections.

"We, together, developed and signed the peace charter that affirms our pledges to the instruments of peace wherever we are," said Nzimbi who chairs the interfaith forum. He urged religious leaders to be the "glue that holds Kenyans together".

Five political parties, including the Orange Democratic Movement, which is the largest opposition alliance, plus individual politicians and religious leaders have already signed the charter.

The charter, which more political leaders are now being asked to sign, states:

"In order to promote peaceful, secure, free and fair elections in my constituency and/or ward and in the country as a whole, I shall not engage in incitement, and renounce violence as a means for political mobilisation. I will not engage, support or associate with activities of any militia. Where I know of the existence of such militia, I will immediately notify the police."

[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.]

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