Kenyan bishops call for peace as elections approach

 The Kenya Episcopal Conference has appealed to Kenyans to resist the urge to violence as the country prepares for General Elections. This move by the Church came at a time of high political tensions in the country. At a press conference at the Kenya Catholic Secretariat in Nairobi on Friday the Bishops cautioned: "Violence, in all its forms is a cowardly act, is an unacceptable to us and must be rejected. They urged all political parties and their candidates to "adhere to the electoral code of conduct so as to eradicate electoral violence." They blamed recent acts of political violence in various parts of the country on the illegal militia groups, which police failed to act upon. In a statement entitled 'Let My People Free' which was read to the media by KEC Chairman Archbishop John Njue, the Bishops said: "We suspect strongly that these militia operate with the full knowledge and sponsorship of the authorities. Indeed, it is our pastoral duty as shepherds to exhort concerned state agents and people of goodwill, to shun violence and to live up to the expectations for which we voted the government for." They said they were aware that "the current tensions in the country are a result of failure to accept divergent views and an open rebellion by masses on apparently imposed political leaders." They asked the sitting Parliament "to enact the new constitution even if this will be the last task it will accomplish. The Constitution of Kenya Review Commission has already presented a draft constitution, and promise a new law by December 12, 2002. On the stand-off between the government and teachers that has resulted in the latter going on strike, the Bishops appealed "for goodwill and dialogue so that the salary award is reinstated and that an amicable solution is found to avert a major crisis." The strike by more than 240 000 teachers in 20 000 schools is in its third week. The Bishops acknowledge that the teachers "are on strike because the Government has not honoured a 1997 covenant, five years later." The government insists it does not have the money to honour the deal. In the countdown to General Elections expected at the end of the year, the bishops called upon the public-funded Kenya Broadcasting Corporation to "be really impartial in the coverage of political party activities," adding: "The media in general must take up their responsibility of informing and educating the public so as to engender a mature political culture and sound choices. The Police force must be impartial in ensuring public order." The Bishops announced that they would hold a service at the Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi on November 9, 2002 "so that we can together pray for peace in our beloved country. God is for us and we must ensure that those against us are not allowed to prevail." source: Catholic Information Service Africa

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