Bishops seek to unite Kenyan government and opposition over election tensions
A Kenyan bishop has challenged President Uhuru Kenyatta to meet with opposition leaders to resolve differences that have led to demonstrations in advance of 2017 elections.
Bishop Cornelius Arap Korir of Eldoret, chairman of the of Kenyan bishops’ conference Justice and Peace Commission, called for talks as weekly protests led by the opposition CORD alliance have turned violent in some locales.
Two people were killed on 6th June when police opened fire on protesters in Kisumu. Peaceful demonstrations took place elsewhere in Kenya, including the capital of Nairobi.
The CORD alliance wants to overhaul the country’s electoral commission, which its leaders have accused of favouring Kenyatta. Elections are scheduled for 8th August 2017.
The government has dismissed the complaints, saying the country’s constitution, rewritten in 2010, governs the electoral process.
Bishop Korir has met with opposition leader Raila Odinga, a former prime minister, and Issac Hassan, election commission chairman, in a bid to resolve the differences. He told Catholic News Service that it was necessary for the government to meet with the opposition because the demonstrations have led to growing tensions that could mar the elections.
Odinga and opposition leader Moses Watengula recently met with Kenyatta in Nairobi and reportedly both sides agreed to name a team of negotiators to end a stalemate.
Raila named five negotiators soon after the meeting. The government, however, refused to name its team. No future meetings are planned.
Raila announced that demonstrations will continue because the government was not ready to address existing grievances.
As tensions build, Bishop Korir vowed to continue to work to unite both parties in an effort to prevent the ethnic violence that exploded after the December 2007 presidential election. Bishop Korir welcomed thousands of displaced people into the Eldoret cathedral during the fighting.
“We all belong to Kenya and the opposition must be listen to since they have their supporters and for the sake of development then leaders must agree to work as a team and forget their political differences.” Bishop Korir said.
Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homa Bay, Kenyan bishops’ conference chairman, said the Catholic Church will push for dialogue between both parties. He told CNS that while the electoral commission was constitutionally formed, it must act on behalf of all Kenyans.
“We are concerned, as the Church, on the ongoing stalemate and as Church leaders we shall push for dialogue until a lasting solution is obtained,” Bishop Anyolo said.
Picture: Riot police chase protesters calling for the disbandment of the national electoral commission over allegations of bias and corruption, in Kisumu, Kenya on Monday 6th June 2016. While demonstrations led by opposition leaders in the capital were largely peaceful, police in Kisumu tear-gassed demonstrators who responded by throwing stones. (AP Photo/James Keyee).Tags: 2017, Bishop, Bishop Cornelius Arap Korir, demonstrations, elections, Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta