Despite living in a makeshift camp, Ester Kabura has resumed her small business, selling tomatoes to other displaced persons at Moi Airbase , Nairobi. Kenya has been in turmoil since disputed elections on Dec. 27.
An Anglican bishop who chairs the National Council of Churches in Kenya said parliamentary discussion offers a chance to end the political crisis following the bloody unrest after elections at the end of 2007.
His call in mid-January came as leaders from the main faiths and Christian churches in Kenya united in calling for an end to confrontations that have resulted in more than 600 deaths, and in issuing a plea for all sides to seek peaceful methods to solve problems.
“After watching the opening of parliament, I think the legislators can provide an avenue to ending the crisis. We’re in this crisis because of our constitution. Dialogue can start here,” said Eliud Wabukala, Anglican bishop of Bungoma. “They could agree to amend the constitution to bring in power sharing arrangements that would be acceptable to citizens.”
Roman Catholic bishop Peter Kairo of Nakuru, whose diocese is in an area where violence has frequently erupted in recent years, referred in a statement on Jan. 17 to some of the underlying reasons put forward for the violent reactions following the election.
“Since the issue of land has led to many clashes and deaths since the 1990s, it is the duty of the government to come up with a clear national land policy that will address issues of settlement, proper housing, schools and other social amenities,” said Bishop Kairo. “The land policy should address the historical injustices of land and bring an end to this incessant fighting once and for all.”
Religious leaders are pressing President Mwai Kibaki, leader of the Party of National Unity, who was declared the winner in the Dec. 27 elections, and Raila Odinga, of the Orange Democratic Movement, who says the election was rigged, to settle their dispute so that the country can move ahead.
All the major faiths have come together under the Inter-religious Council of Kenya to urge politicians to bring a close to the bitter aftermath of the 2007 general elections. “We wish to let the politicians know that Kenyans are running out of patience with them. They must commit themselves to the good of the country, not their own ambitions,” said the grouping of Christians, Muslims and Hindus.
Clashes between police and protesters on Jan. 16 left scores of people injured, and Bishop Wabukala said such violence would only hurt innocent citizens without solving the problems. Tension remained high in the Rift Valley, Nyanza and western provinces, which are strongholds of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Mombasa, Boniface Lele, said, “The international community can facilitate dialogue. Demonstrations will not help.”