Churches welcome new political agreement in Kenya

By Ecumenical News International
February 29, 2008

Church leaders in Kenya have welcomed the announcement of a power-sharing agreement between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga as an important step to ending a two-month political crisis in the east African country - writes Fredrick Nzwilli.

"It is good news for Kenya," the Rev Peter Karanja, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, told Ecumenical News International on 28 February. "Any agreement signed between the top two portends good and peace for the country. It is a framework for starting the work on the real issues," Karanja said.

Celebrations broke our in towns across the country after a 28 February televised ceremony showed Kibaki and Odinga signing the agreement, and shaking hands with former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan, who brokered the deal.

Kenya's political crisis erupted after the 27 December 2007 national elections in which incumbent President Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential contest but which opposition leader Odinga said were rigged. About 1,500 people are believed to have been killed in the unrest that followed the elections, and at least another 300,000 driven from their homes.

Under the power-sharing agreement, Kibaki will remain as president and Odinga will become prime minister.

"Let the spirit of healing begin. Let it begin now," said Annan after presiding at the signing ceremony. "I want Kenyans to know compromise was necessary for this country. I urge Kenyans to support this agreement. The spirit of partnership is needed to bring peace and prosperity to the people of Kenya."

Anglican Bishop Gideon Ireri of Mbeere said Kenyans were eager to return to their normal lives. "It will give us a break from the violence and the chaos," he said, though he suggested that a constitutional conference might also be required to guard against ad-hoc agreements between parties.

Religious leaders from different faiths held a national day of prayer earlier in February, at which they admitted they shared culpability for Kenya's calamitous state of affairs because they were caught up in ethnic divisions that had polarised the country after the elections.

[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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