Tutu remains hopeful about a Kenya settlement

By Ecumenical News International
January 9, 2008

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu says he has great hopes that a peaceful resolution can be reached between Kenyan parties engaged in a violent conflict after disputed presidential elections - writes Fredrick Nzwilli.

"There is a great deal of hope since the ODM [the opposition Orange Democratic Movement party] and the government have indicated they are open to negotiations, with one strong condition on the part of the government that the violence will have to end first," Tutu told journalists.

Archbisop Emeritus Tutu met President Mwai Kibaki, and the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town said the Kenyan leader had indicated he was ready for a coalition government if the opposition accepted his terms.

The violence began after it was announced that Kibaki had won in what was seen as a close vote in the election for president held on 27 December.

The South African cleric arrived in Kenya on 3 January after a call from Mvume Dandala, a former leader of South Africa's Methodist Church and now general secretary of the Nairobi-based All Africa Conference of Churches. Dandala is among church leaders seeking to play a peacemaking role in the country's conflict.

"The faith community is engaged here, and that is positive in a way," said Tutu. Asked about perceived fears among some Kenyans of a military coup, Tutu said, "There is no sense here that you are on the verge of a military coup. I am hopeful, more hopeful."

In the violence that has claimed more than 300 lives, the National Council of Churches of Kenya has said four churches - two in Nairobi, one in Eldoret and one in Kapsabet - had been burned down.

"There is nothing as distressing as reading about people being burned in a church. We have been there and we know how bad our sisters and brothers in Kenya are feeling," said Tutu.

Peter Karanja, the council's general secretary, said, "Such sacrilegious acts not only defile holy places of worship, but also invoke the wrath of God against the actual perpetrators and indeed the whole nation. We call upon the people of Kenya to respect all places of worship and help reconstruct the destroyed churches."

Kenya's Anglican archbishop, Benjamin Nzimbi, said it was unfortunate that churches had been burned down. Speaking to Ecumenical News International, he warned, "Genocide starts with a few killings before it spreads. It is our prayer that the churches will raise their voices to call for real peace."

"Some people who hate some denominations have taken advantage of the violence to burn churches. Those torching churches and the people inside are criminals, with no reverence to God. It is mockery of Christianity. We urge them to refrain," said Nzimbi.

Jesse Mugambi, a Kenyan theologian and a member of the World Council of Churches Working Group on Climate Change, said, "It is a tragedy to confuse democracy with anarchy. Freedom of expression necessarily implies the respect of others to express themselves."

[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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