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Anglican Primates Protest Over Police Violence

Posted on: July 21, 1997 1:39 PM
Related Categories: Kenya

A gathering of Anglican archbishops from throughout Africa, meeting in Johannesburg this week, has heard a strongly-worded condemnation of the Kenyan government for using violence against demonstrators demanding democratic reforms.

At least ten people died last week after Kenyan security forces broke up demonstrations calling for reform. The security forces also stormed All Saints' Anglican Cathedral in Nairobi and attacked pro-reform supporters sheltering inside the building.

The violent clashes between the Kenyan government and pro-democracy demonstrators forced Archbishop David Gitari of Kenya to delay his trip to the All Africa Primates Conference, the consultation was told by the Archbishop of Central Africa, Khotso Makhulu.

"At this stage when the model of one-party states is no longer acceptable, we cannot tolerate to have a situation like in Kenya, where people holding peaceful meetings are being tear gassed and beaten," Archbishop Makhulu said at the opening of the meeting on Monday (14 July).

The Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and Primate of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, who is hosting the conference, said that recent occurrences in Africa led him to fear that the "naked face of tyranny" was appearing in new forms on the continent". His remarks were understood as a reference to the situation in Kenya.

Meanwhile, in a ceremony held in Nairobi on Sunday (13 July) at All Saint's Cathedral to cleanse the building following the action of the security forces, Archbishop Gitari warned Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi that the days of his rule were likely to be numbered.

Thousands of people in sombre mood filled the cathedral and its precincts as Archbishop Gitari led hundreds of clergy in the cleansing ritual which was also a memorial service for those killed in the disturbances.

"To defile a holy place is sufficient reason in the eyes of God to bring those in authority tumbling down", Archbishop Gitari told the congregation.

Those in the congregation included the radical Muslim cleric, Sheikh Khalid Balala, who had returned to Kenya 18 hours earlier from forced exile. Sheikh Balala, the leader of the Islamic Party of Kenya and a prominent campaigner for reforms, was stripped of his citizenship in November 1994 while on a visit to Germany.

"We were told Sheikh Balala would never come back to Kenya and now he is here with us in the congregation," Archbishop Gitari told the worshippers, who cheered at the mention of the sheikh's name.

"Now also the clamour for reforms is unstoppable," Archbishop Gitari added.

Timothy Njoya, a prominent Presbyterian cleric who was injured by police, said that if reforms did not come as demanded, Kenyans should be asked to hold a day of prayer instead of taking part in elections, which should be held before the end of this year.