[Ecumenical News International, Nairobi, Kenya] Faith leaders in Kenya called for calm after the International Criminal Court in The Hague committed to trial high-ranking politicians for crimes against humanity in connection with violence following elections in 2007.
Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, fellow presidential candidate William Ruto, cabinet secretary Francis Muthaura and radio journalist Joshua Sang will be tried for an orchestrated campaign to displace, torture, and kill civilians. More than 1,200 people died and around 650,000 were left homeless in clashes in the Rift Valley, Nyanza, Nairobi and Central provinces.
“We call for sobriety and restraint as Kenyans engage in discussion and interpretation of the decision and its ramifications,” said the Rev. Peter Karanja, an Anglican priest and general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, in a statement on Jan. 23.
The council in 2009 urged the court to investigate the violence, following failure by the government to establish a local justice system to deal with the causes.
The unrest began as clashes between supporters of presidential candidates Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga.
Kibaki, the current president, who is of the Kikuyu community, was declared the winner, while Odinga, currently the prime minister, from the Luo people, alleged the vote had been rigged. The clashes ended after Kofi Annan, the former U.N. general secretary, brokered a peace deal, in which the two agreed to form a coalition government.
Ahead of the announcement, Christian and Muslim leaders had called for peace, expressing concern that the violence could recur.
“We should never allow what happened in 2007 to repeat itself again. We must accept one another and live in peace,” said Cardinal John Njue in Kajiado, near Nairobi, on Jan. 22.
Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala urged citizens to remain calm and allow the law to take its own course. He called for acceptance of the outcome and support for the court’s process.
Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa, organizing secretary of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, said, “I urge Kenyans to accept the outcome. This should not be used to say that those who have been indicted are guilty,” he said.
The faith groups had been leading peace and reconciliation work. Peace committees in the villages urged the communities to forgive each other.