Kenyan churches appeal to global court on election violence

By Ecumenical News International
July 4, 2009

Protestant churches in Kenya have dispatched one of their leaders to the International Criminal Court at The Hague to deliver a one million signature petition urging investigations of post-election violence - writes Fredrick Nzwili.

"I will execute the instructions given to me as soon as possible," said the Rev Peter Karanja, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, on 2 July 2009 in Limuru, near Nairobi, while receiving 500,000 of the signatures.

He led prayers, dedicating the petition and signatures, which the grouping started collecting in March. The petition calls for immediate commencement of investigations and prosecutions for the violence that took place after elections in 2007. The violence spread to many parts of the country into 2008, after opposition parties said the government rigged the results.

"We are convinced that only an international tribunal or court … can legally and effectively prosecute and punish the perpetrators of the post election [violence]," said Karanja.

He added: "Our prayer is that this action will break the barriers that have hindered the administration of justice and break the systems that perpetuate impunity."

Karanja said prosecutions would mark a turning point for Kenya by shattering the belief that one can kill, maim and destroy property and get away with it. He said prosecution would put Kenya on the path of recovery and reconciliation.

The grouping of Protestant churches said it viewed the signatures as an affirmation that the Kenyan judicial system was incapable of dealing with the perpetrators. However, its position has appeared to differ with that of the Roman Catholic Church.

Some Catholic leaders have argued that a local tribunal would help Kenyans to overcome mistrust for their systems, including the judiciary.

"The right way to go now is with a local tribunal. The Hague may only try 10 or five suspects, which would not help the country a lot in dealing with impunity," the Kenya Episcopal Conference vice-chairperson Bishop Philip Sulumeti was quoted by the Daily Nation newspaper as saying on 17 June.

The government has been rooting for a local tribunal, but some political groups have rejected the plan, saying it will punish specific communities. A third option, which according to media reports is under consideration, would allow the High Court to establish special courts for the task.

[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.]

Keywords:violence | Kenyan | Kenya | election
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