World churches body to monitor Zimbabwe elections

By Ecumenical News International
7 Mar 2008

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev Samuel Kobia, has told his UN counterpart, Ban Ki-moon, that the ecumenical body and its member churches in Africa are planning for the monitoring of elections scheduled in Zimbabwe on 29 March 2008 - writes Peter Kenny.

In a statement released after Ban met Kobia on 3 March at the invitation of the WCC leader, the world church body said that in private talks, the UN general secretary had said the WCC had played an important role in the democratisation of his home country, Korea.

The WCC also said it had reached an agreement with Ban for the United Nations and the WCC to work more closely on several global issues, particularly climate change.

"We would like to maintain a close partnership with the WCC," Ban was quoted as saying in the WCC statement. "You have high moral power and what you are doing is based on your Christian beliefs."

Their discussions touched on democratic electoral processes with references by Kobia to Kenya and to the upheaval in Armenia after recent disrupted elections. "I want to thank you for helping in Kenya as you did," said Kobia, who is also a pastor of the Methodist Church in Kenya.

Ban spoke of plans to place a focus on issues of intolerance which have led to some of the struggles and violence surrounding electoral processes. "This is another area where the WCC can make a contribution," said the UN secretary general. "The world has suffered for too long with intolerances."

Kobia said WCC work on inter-religious dialogue and cooperation helps understanding and tolerance between people of different faiths. He also announced that the WCC and its member churches in Africa were "planning for monitoring" of the Zimbabwe elections.

Separately, the acting Anglican bishop of Harare, Sebastian Bakare, had told church, civic and opposition leaders who gathered in Harare on 25 February to pray for peaceful elections that lawlessness and violence perpetrated by those entrusted with ensuring law and order were destroying Zimbabwe.

Zimbabweans will on 29 March choose a president, parliament and local councils. The Zimonline non-governmental news agency reported, however, that observers say a repressive environment in which intimidation and organized violence against perceived government opponents leaves little likelihood for the polls to be free and fair.

Bakare was quoted as saying that chaos in the run-up to the polls was promoting anarchy.

"The environment of lawlessness is destroying us," the bishop stated.

Bakare was part of a three-member committee of senior bishops that met President Robert Mugabe and main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in 2007 in a failed attempt to broker dialogue between the political rivals.

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With acknowledgements to ENI - www.eni.ch

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