Kenya: End Harmful Political Coronations, Say Churches

The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) South Rift region has urged Kenyans to end the practice of coronating politicians as tribal leaders in ethnic and religious shrines, saying the events are harmful to national cohesion.

The clerics, led by South Rift regional chairman Rt Rev Ernest Ng'eno, want the events halted to tame political balkanisation ahead of the 2022 General Election.

"The NCCK conference recalls with terror the trauma of elections-related violence that Kenyans have experienced in the past and we do not wish for a repeat of such chaos. Therefore, we call for an end of political coronations to safeguard cohesion and integration in the country," he said.

The church conference, held on Tuesday to discuss issues affecting the country, brought together church leaders from Baringo, Bomet, Kericho, Nakuru, Narok and Samburu counties.

Their call comes as a bitter split has rocked President Uhuru Kenyatta's political backyard, with new players battling to take charge of the Mt Kenya region,14 months before polls.

The most recent coronation, that of National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi as Mt Kenya spokesman at the Agikuyu Shrine of Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga, Murang'a County, has caused sharp divisions and triggered confrontations between leaders of Mt Kenya East and Mt Kenya West.

Similar coronations last year of Deputy President William Ruto and Kanu chairman and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi by elders from the Talai clan, which is part of the larger Kalenjin community, also sparked divisions among leaders from the Rift Valley region.

Give BBI time

The church leaders also called for a shift of focus from proposals to amend the Constitution through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), saying that can be done after the August 2022 elections.

"We understand the BBI process is going through a judicial process, awaiting determination by the Court of Appeal. However, since the Constitution amendment touches and controls the lives of all Kenyans, they must be given adequate time to effectively participate," said regional manager David Njuguna.

"For this reason, we urge the promoters of the BBI to postpone the process until after the 2022 general elections. It is not possible to hold a referendum and an election at once."

The leaders argue that as the fate of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill awaits the conclusion of a court process, the country should shift from its focus on the 2022 elections.

The leaders also want the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to make adequate preparations ahead of the 2022 polls.

"We demand that IEBC urgently puts in place plans to register the more than 4 million Kenyans who have attained majority age between 2017 and 2021.The electoral body should also among other things commence a programme of monthly briefings to the nation on the preparations done in readiness for the upcoming elections," the leaders said in a joint statement.

In preparation for the 2022 polls, the clerics have also urged Parliament to process and enact essential legislation, including the Political Parties Primaries Bill, Referendum Bill, Campaign Finance (Amendment Bill), Representation of Special Interest Groups Bill and Gender Parity Bill.

"We urge Parliament to move swiftly and make the legislations for a free, fair and verifiable elections in 2022," Rt Rev Ng'eno said.

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