Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has dismissed calls by the National Council of Churches of Kenya for fresh elections, charging that the churches were spreading populist politics that could ruin the country - writes Fredrick Nzwili.
"That is the height of hypocrisy," said Odinga in the capital, Nairobi. "There are no conditions for free and fair elections."
The Rev Peter Karanja, the NCCK's general secretary, had the day before said Kenya was facing a crisis of leadership and bad governance under President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga.
"The impression and expression of most Kenyans is that they have a moribund president and an ineffective prime minister," said Karanja.
But Odinga said the government had undertaken tremendous work against great odds.
"We took over when the global economic environment was in recession and farmers were unable to plant during the post poll crisis," Odinga said. Kenya needed to evolve institutional reforms that would facilitate a free and fair election, the prime minister stated.
Kibaki, a Roman Catholic, and Odinga, an Anglican, agreed on a coalition government a year ago, after mediation by former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan following weeks of violence that came after disputed elections at the end of 2007. About 1,500 people lost their lives in the unrest and another 300,000 were driven from their homes.
Karanja had pointed to constant wrangles in a "bloated" coalition government.
But Odinga said Kenyans are not used to such forms of cross-party administration. "That's the characteristic of coalition governments. Sometimes we do not agree, but [we] consult and reach a compromise," he said.
Odinga said the churches had failed to give leadership during the post-election violence that preceded the setting up of the coalition.
Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa, the general secretary of the (Muslim) Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, also opposed the demand for fresh elections, saying, "It's true that the government has not performed to the expectation of Kenyans, but that does not mean we should go to the polls."
[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.]