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Kenyan Churches Respond to Latest Violence

Posted on: September 3, 1997 12:17 PM
Related Categories: Kenya

Kenya's Churches have told the country's government to arrest the "masterminds" behind an outbreak of violence in the coastal town of Mombasa and the surrounding area following an attack on the town's Likoni Catholic Church on 22 August during which two people were killed.

More than 2000 people had taken shelter in the Likoni church compound on 13 August after a wave of violence broke out directed against "up-country" settlers from outside the region. The violence on 13 August cost the lives of nine police officers and at least 40 citizens who were either shot or slashed to death with machetes. The attackers have distributed pamphlets claiming they were fighting for self rule for the coastal region including Mombasa, and that "up-country people" should leave.

There is widespread speculation, however, that the killings and violence have been orchestrated by people in senior government circles in Nairobi and Mombasa to divert attention from a continuing debate about constitutional reform and to strengthen the position of the KANU ruling party in the region. Many of the new settlers in Mombasa support the opposition.

The Anglican bishop of Mombasa, the Rt Revd Julius Kalu, told ENI that the attackers who started the killings on 13 August "were a very organised group. It was not done by little people in the villages."

Stating that the government had both the duty and the capacity to stamp out the deadly violence in the tourist resort, the Roman Catholic coadjutor bishop of Nairobi, Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki said: "I cannot believe that Kenya's respected intelligence services were not aware of what was going to happen and its aftermath."

Referring indirectly to associates of the country's president, Daniel arap Moi, whose names had been mentioned in parliament as being behind the deaths, the bishop said: "Once many people consistently start pointing at you as a thief there is something - either you are a thief or a friend of the thief."

The government has also been criticised by Mutava Musyimi, secretary general of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK). Unless the attacks stopped, Musyimi said, "the churches would be constrained to conclude the government was unwilling to act decisively".

The attackers at the Likoni church escaped even though they had indicated in advance that they would attack the church.

Both Bishop Kalu and his Roman Catholic counterpart, John Njenga, had complained before the attack on the Catholic church that a government official - the District Officer for Likoni - had told the refugees in the church compound to leave the church grounds or be thrown out. Bishop Kalu told ENI: "We made it very clear to the District Officer the people had nowhere else to go."