Kenya's crisis is Africa's too, says inter-church body

By Ecumenical News International
January 29, 2008

The Nairobi-based All Africa Conference of Churches is pleading with Kenyans to see their current political crisis as not only a national one, but as one in which the whole African continent is looking on in sorrow at the formerly peaceful country - writes Fredrick Nzwili.

"In the name of Christ, in the name of Africa and in the name of the vulnerable, especially those who we see scattered by this crisis everyday, we beseech you brothers and sisters in Kenya to sit down together and resolve this problem," said the AACC. Africa's biggest church grouping issued a statement signed by its general secretary, the Rev. Mvume Dandala, on 24 January.

"The joys of this nation have become our joys and therefore its pains, our pains. It is thus impossible for us not to agonise with all Kenyans in this hour of crisis," said Dandala, a Methodist from South Africa. "We cannot underplay the standing of the Republic of Kenya in the eyes of the African populations, and the contribution that Kenya has made to peace and stability in many countries in this continent."

The AACC said it was for this reason that earlier in January it had arranged for Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is a former AACC president together with its current president, the Rev. Nyansako-ni-Nku from Cameroon and Brigalia Bam, former general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, who is the current chairperson of South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission, to pay a "solidarity visit".

Dandala noted that, "As a South African, I can never forget that when my country was on the precipice, it was a Kenyan in the person of Prof. Washington Okumu who brokered peace among our chief protagonists at the time. Kenya has been in the forefront in helping to stem bloodletting in Sudan and Somalia."

He asked, "How then can Kenya stand so steadfastly on the grounds that the assistance from the international community in its hour of need simply amounts to unmerited interference?"

A similar sentiment had been expressed in an editorial in the Nairobi-based Daily Business newspaper on 13 January. It wrote; "For a country which is increasingly becoming host to foreign business and political interests, the intervention of international missions is seen as the only key that might unlock what has been a stalled process."

Dandala said the African community was dismayed that Kenya could reject gestures of goodwill extended to it.

"We urge Kenya to acknowledge, accept and embrace the goodwill overtures of their fellow Africans," said Dandala. "We urge the Kenyan church in particular to stand firm for the appropriateness and value of such accompaniment by their fellow Africans.

"If anything, the theology of the body of Christ urges us to be available for one another, not only for those who share at the common sacramental table, but for the world for which Christ died. There is no desire within the African community that such accompaniment should in any way undermine the sense of sovereignty or the sense of pride of this great nation."

Separately, in a statement issued in Geneva on 24 January, the World Student Christian Federation's Africa region called on Kenyan political leaders "to resolve their differences and restore order, peace and tranquillity to the once example of a growing democracy in Africa".

[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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