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DAVID ADAMS reports on the recent visit of a World Council of Churches delegation to Kenya…

A top level international ecumenical delegation has met with key figures in the Kenyan crisis, asking them to move on from their dispute over the 27th December presidential election and seek out a compromise solution.

The seven member delegation – sent by the World Council of Churches – visited the strife-affected East African nation for five days in late January and early February.

DEEP IN DISCUSSION : The head of the ecumenical delegation Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick (right) with the Orange Democratic Movement’s Raila Odinga (left). IMAGE: Juan Michel/WCC


“Kenyans would like to see their political leaders affirming peace and sorting out their differences, for which a political compromise is needed.” 

– Canon Peter Karanja, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya.

As well as meeting church representatives, the group met with Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and the leader of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, Raila Odinga. President Mwai Kibaki was in Ethiopia attending an African Union summit at the time of the meetings.

The delegation’s head, Rev Clifton Kirkpatrick – stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church in the United States and president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches – said the delegation was not in the country to “judge poll results”. But he also noted that there while it’s true there is no peace without justice, “it is also true that there is no justice without peace”.

Canon Peter Karanja, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, said it is essential that issues of human life and dignity are separated from the “search for political justice”.

“Kenyans would like to see their political leaders affirming peace and sorting out their differences, for which a political compromise is needed,” he said.

Meanwhile this week the Red Cross in Kenya were reported as saying that more than 1,000 people have now been killed and more than 300,000 people left homeless as a result of the violence which broke out following the disputed December 27 election.

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been leading mediation efforts in the nation and has managed to bring President Kibaki and Mr Odinga together for talks which were set to resume this week. The possibility of power sharing between the two parties involves were expected to be among the possibilities being discussed.

Earlier announcing the visit of the WCC delegation, Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches and himself a Kenyan, said the scenes of violence and destruction in Kenya – described as the worst crisis in the nation in 45 years – portrayed a country that ”one would hardly recognise as Kenya”. 

One of the members of the WCC delegation, Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, general secretary of the World Young Women’s Christian Association, said many of those affected by violence and forced from their homes have been women and children. 

“Their needs were not only shelter and food, but health care, including access to HIV and AIDS medication, security, including protection against sexual abuse, as well as counselling for the trauma they are undergoing”.

The World Council of Churches’ delegation spent two hours with representatives of both parties during their visit during which time they “made the case” for Kenyan churches to be full partners in the mediation process.

But the council said this was met with “expressions of disappointment” regarding the role of churches during the electoral process with the parties voicing a range of complaints including that the churches had failed the parties by taking partisan positions.

Canon Karanja has acknowledged embarrassment about this among church leaders and added that they have tried to take responsibility.

“A deep process of reflection has taken place after the election, and the crisis has encountered the churches united in their call for peace and reconciliation,” he said.

‘Living Letters’ delegations have already visited Sri Lanka and the United States as part of the WCC’s ‘Decade to Overcome Violence’. About 40 such visits are expected to take place before 2011.


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