THE Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd Benjamin Nzimbi, has called for the votes in the Kenyan election to be counted again, in an attempt to halt the violence that has left an estimated 600 people dead.
The move has been rejected by the Opposition Democratic Movement, which is simply calling for the President, Mwai Kibaki, to step down. None the less, the Churches are united in their call for a measured response to the political crisis.
This was echoed by the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Desmond Tutu, who visited Kenya last week at the invitation of the All Africa Conference of Churches and the National Council of Churches of Kenya. A government spokesman said that foreign intervention was not welcome; nevertheless, Dr Tutu met President Kibaki and opposition politicians. “This is a country that has been held up as a model of stability,” Dr Tutu said, on his departure. “This picture has been shattered. This is not the Kenya we know.”
Archbishop Nzimbi was himself criticised by one of his bishops, the Rt Revd James Ochiel, Bishop of Southern Nyanza, in the heartland of the opposition leader Raila Odinga. In a letter copied to all Anglican bishops and their US mission partners, Bishop Ochiel said that the Archbishop and other national church leaders might have saved the country from violence by confronting President Kibaki with the truth.
“You have a strategic advantage by virtue of your offices in Nairobi, which many of us cannot access at this time,” he said. “I do not want to exaggerate the depth of bleeding in Kenya, which you are aware of. My only question is where in the scriptures did the prophets, of whom you are, sit on the fence by withholding the message from the Lord?”
The death toll in the Assemblies of God church near Eldoret is still not known, given the ferocity of the blaze. Other churches have since been attacked, including an Anglican and a Lutheran church in Kibera, Nairobi.