Kenya: No room for hateJuly 7, 2010
African Synod Proposition 9: The spirituality of reconciliation
“‘God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting us the message of reconciliation...So we are ambassadors for Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 5:19, 20) Reconciliation involves a way of life (spirituality) and a mission. To implement a spirituality of reconciliation, justice and peace, the Church needs witnesses deeply rooted in Christ, nourished by his Word and by the sacraments … The Synod Fathers recommend that:
- the memory of the great witnesses who gave their life in the service of the Gospel, who promoted the common good and defended the truth and human rights, be preserved and faithfully commemorated;
- Church members develop a sense of responsibility for their actions and an ongoing ‘metanoïa,’ which can regularly be celebrated in the Sacrament of Reconciliation; and
- the celebration and adoration of the Eucharist, prayer and meditation on the Word of God, deeply establish the Church-Family of God in the Lord and give her the strength to be ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world.’”
In June, a Kenyan court charged three members of Parliament with inciting hatred due to their inflammatory statements about possible unrest during the upcoming referendum on the new constitution, around which there has been heated debate. The men’s trial will be held in August. Due to the tragic aftermath of previous elections, many in Kenya are insisting on stricter regulations against public language that is recognized as provoking aggression between ethnic groups; there is great fear that the upcoming vote on the constitution will lead to violence.
The following statement was signed for the Kenya Human Rights Network by George Nyongesa, national coordinator of Bunge la Mwananchi, a grassroots political movement, on June 21, the day of the court charge:
“Today we have been in to court to dramatize our intolerance of divisive politics, to witness the steps towards curbing and stamping out irresponsible utterances meant to incite Kenyans and to show solidarity with the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and the Kenya police as they demonstrate that they are serious to hold to account those who breach the principles of freedom speech to engage in hate speech.
“This court case against such high profile personalities is a welcome move for Kenyans especially the small people of our society who today continue to wallow in untold suffering as a result of the hate politics of the 1992, 1997 and 2007 general elections. It is the re-occurrence of the reckless talk and bravado of insinuation and impunity by the political class recently witnessed in our media that … warn[s] us that we have a long way to go towards achieving a united Kenya.
“Kenyans who have lost their limbs, their lives, their loved ones and their livelihoods are attentive to ensure justice is done and seen to be done to perpetrators of events that led and if left unattended to may lead up to a repeat of heinous crimes against Kenyans by fellow Kenyans.
“It is unacceptable that at a time in our history, when we are in the process of dialogues towards building a new Kenya that is united, democratic, and just, there would be retrogressive forces amongst us that through their utterances stir up emotions that divide us on tribal or political lines. It does not matter who engages in this, and our law enforcement arm must move with speed to hold them to account. We are watchful of the case that is in court, and we want to keep up the pressure to make sure that those culpable do not escape justice.
“As Kenyans who are committed to attaining long lasting peace and unity in Kenya, we have come together as a consolidated movement to identify, clearly define, and to outlaw from amongst conversations and statements that disparage fellow Kenyans and serve no purpose than to incite Kenyans against each other. We are committed to clearly and impartially delineating what is unacceptable speech by any person, be they Kenyan or otherwise, be they grassroots or elite, be they the governed or the governor, without fear or favor.
“We are also committed to ensuring that this is carried out impartially and justly - without witch hunting or malicious character assassinations or imperious prosecution of perceived dissenters by the status quo. Our involvement in guarding the society against the vitriol of hate speech is not a once-off campaign targeting certain individuals, but we are looking to cascade this into a huge movement of Kenyans who are spreading unity and social cohesion.
“We want to use this opportunity to warn fellow Kenyans to guard themselves from individuals that engage in act of impunity to incite people and plant seeds of discord. Let us all be vigilant to identify retrogressive elements amongst us whose words will clearly betray their underlying interests. Let all Kenyans be fearless in defending the peace and if we spot hatemongers, let us name and shame them and hold them accountable to the full extent of the law.”