Churches urge end to Kenyan violence

.- Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan was scheduled to start a mediation mission in Kenya, even as violence flared once more, Vatican Radio reports.

An organization of African churches has also urged Kenyans to seek peace. 

Despite these efforts at peace, dozens of protestors set fire to a government office building in a fight following an opposition-organized memorial service for victims of the violence that followed the disputed December 27 general election.  Cases of rape and sexual violence against women have doubled in some areas of Kenya, as perpetrators in gangs travel unpunished.

Notre Dame Sister Mary O’Brien, speaking from Nairobi, talked to Vatican Radio about the crisis. 

“Koffi Annan arrived last night and I think many people are hoping that he will make it possible with his team to get some negotiation at the highest level.  One of the most hopeful signs to me is the number of people and organizations who are saying ‘Let us have peace!’”

Sister O’Brien noted that the violence was in part ethnically motivated, but also said that some violent agitators were looking for valuable land to confiscate.

“Many, many people are suffering very much.  Many have lost everything,” she told Vatican Radio.

“Undoubtedly, there has to be a political solution,” Sr. O’Brien said.
 
The Nairobi-based All-African Conference of Churches (AACC) issued a statement expressing “deep and profound sorrow” over the Kenyan violence, urging the country to return to its high stature as a successful African democracy.

“We cannot underplay the standing of the Republic of Kenya in the eyes of the African populations, and the contribution that Kenya has made to peace and stability in many countries in this continent,” the letter said.

The letter exhorted the conflicting parties to accept international help and arbitration, saying, “We urge Kenya to acknowledge, accept and embrace the goodwill overtures of their fellow Africans. We urge the Kenyan church in particular to stand firm for the appropriateness and value of such accompaniment by their fellow Africans.”

The failure to establish a peaceful government in Kenya, the AACC wrote, affects all of Africa:

“If Kenyans see this crisis as simply just one of their problems that they will in time resolve, let it be said that the rest of the continent is desperate, for if it happens thus to Kenya, how about the rest of us, what hope do we have?”

The AACC, praising Kenya’s past commitment to democracy and the rule of law, urged the opposition to trust the courts in arbitrating the conflict.

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