The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Kenya Tribal Leaders Visit for Reconciliation Tour

At least 120 community leaders from different ethnic groups in Kenya are in the country to learn about Rwanda's reconciliation drive ahead of general elections in the neighbouring country.

The delegation comprises 30 leaders each from Kikuyu and Kalenjin, and 15 representatives of other communities and church leaders.

The week-long visit that started Monday was organised by the National Council of Churches in Kenya (NCCK) in partnership with the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) and the Protestant Council of Churches in Rwanda (CPR).

Speaking in Kigali, Rev. Andrew Karamaga, the general secretary of AACC, said referring to the last post-presidential election violence in their country, church leaders found interest in having ethnic groups know how Rwanda reconstructed itself after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

"The last election in Kenya ended in ethnic violence, especially in the Rift Valley region, and Kenyans want to avoid such a conflict in March. We want people to abandon ethnicity as Rwanda did and have peaceful polls," Rev. Karamaga said.

He said even if church leaders are not the ones who prepare or run for elections, they play a big role in the process as they have a big impact on their followers.

The delegation got details about the reconciliation process in Rwanda, heard witness accounts of forgiveness and messages of perpetrators who received forgiveness.

No more sectarianism

Amb. Bethuel Kiplagati, the chairman of the Kenya Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, said the visit will help them learn ways of sensitising their tribesmen against relying on 'blood'.

"After getting testimonies from Genocide survivors and perpetrators, we have learnt how to forgive. We have to be vigilant because what happened in Rwanda can also happen in Kenya," he said.

Local Government minister James Musoni told the delegation that it is good leadership promoting equality in Rwanda, adding that Gacaca initiative plays a big role in reconstructing the nation.

"One people, one nation has been like a device where segregation is penalised by Rwandan constitution," Musoni said.

He called upon Kenyans to reject politicians who promote sectarianism.

In 2008 Kenya elections, Rift Valley was at the receiving end of violence after presidential poll results.

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