Church leaders cry out for help

Published April 1, 1998


Kenya’s church leaders have called for the United States and Britain to bring pressure to bear on the Kenyan government to ensure that the recent tragedies in Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia are not repeated in Kenya.

The church leaders’ call for outside pressure demonstrates their sense of alarm as Kenya’s ethnic, social and economic problems worsen, following the re-election of President Daniel arap Moi’s government last year.

Relations between the government and the churches have been tense for several years, but have deteriorated rapidly in the past month. Immediately after the December election, church leaders tried to urge Kenyans to accept the election results, but their hopes for improvement in Kenya evaporated quickly as ethnic violence broke out last month, resulting in more than 200 deaths. The church leaders said the government was implicated in the tribal violence which, they suggested, was directed against ethnic groups who had supported the opposition parties in the election.

Ethnic Kikuyu children weep for their dead parents during a mass burial for 19 people killed during tribal clashes in the Rift Valley in Kenya, late January. More than 50 people have been killed in the Rift Valley area in an upsurge of bloodletting that pits Kenya’s largest tribe, the Kikuyu, against the Kalenjin and the Masaai. [RNS/Reuters] Immediately before an ecumenical service in Nairobi in February for 272 people killed in ethnic violence, prominent church officials said the government lacked the “moral legitimacy” to lead the country. They called for the scrapping of the forthcoming review of Kenya’s constitution, and urged that the government set up a “constitutional conference” to discuss the future direction of the nation.

Signatories to the statement included Anglican Archbishop David Gitari and Bishop Joseph Wesonga, Professor Zablon Nthamburi, a leading Methodist, Dr Jesse Kamau, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, and two leading Roman Catholic bishops – John Njue and Cornelius Korir.


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