, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 19 – Religious leaders in Kenya on Wednesday raised concerns over high cost of living and growing poverty levels when they met former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Speaking after the closed door session, National Council of Churches of Kenya Secretary General Reverend Canon Peter Karanja urged the government and the international community to help Kenya ease the harsh economic times.
“We have raised matters concerning poverty and the rising cost of living. We would like to see efforts made by both the government and the international community to bring relief to Kenya in a manner that eases the pressure on the cost of living,” he asserted.
He said the high poverty may provoke emotions likely to lead to violence: “This maybe the next source of insecurity because you can push the society only so far. Poverty and idle youth are precipitate ingredients for violence that happened in 2007 and therefore something needs to be done.”
He complained that the high cost of food, fuel and other basic commodities had made it very hard for most Kenyans who struggle daily to just put food on the table.
Together with other religious leaders they also informed Annan about the falling value of the Kenyan shilling: “The cost of living remains the biggest worry for a majority of Kenyans.”
He further said they shared with Annan their concerns over tribal articulations by the political class which has already embarked on campaigns for the 2012 general elections.
“We are concerned about the evident mobilisation by politicians along ethnic lines. A politician who depends on a tribal bloc is a liability, we want to see those who aspire to lead Kenyans make an effort to win popularity without invoking their tribal affiliations,” he advised.
Canon Karanja expressed fear that politicians were fuelling tribal differences in the country and called on them to be sensitive of peace and bringing Kenyans together.
Other discussions included the establishment of a local tribunal and their support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) process.
The church announced its support for the establishment of a local mechanism to deal with other perpetrators of the post election violence.
Canon Karanja said it was crucial for Kenya to give justice and punish perpetrators who are not under the investigations of the ICC.
“We appreciate the ICC process, we are watching keenly the process going on there. The only problem is that ICC is dealing with people charged with the highest responsibility but thousands of people were involved and justice will not be done until the perpetrators are brought to book through a local mechanism,” he explained.
They also shared with Annan their concerns over tribal articulations by the political class which has already embarked on campaigns for the 2012 general elections.
He further said there was a lot of work to be done to bring Kenyans together and address the differences that led to the post election violence as he emphasised on the importance of ensuring that is done before the next general election.
Annan later met Internal Security Minister Prof George Saitoti, representatives of the international community and the civil society.
On Tuesday he met the Prime Minister and is expected to meet the President to discuss the reform agenda as stipulated by the mediation team that saw the realisation of a coalition government after a disputed presidential poll in 2007.