Reconciliation: The missing link in healing Africa
Elias Mokua, SJ (AOR)
I am deeply concerned about the way the International Criminal Court (ICC) has so far handled the Kenya case in which the President, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his Deputy, William Ruto, together with a journalist Joseph Sang, stand accused of bearing the greatest responsibility for the Kenya 2007-08 post-election violence.
For one, the ICC was meant to be an independent, non-partisan actor in determining the perpetrators of the post-election violence. Recent developments at the ICC and statements coming from the former ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, however, suggest that the process to identify perpetrators of the violence was not solid enough. Either we have wrongly accused persons at the ICC or there is too much politics in the way Kenya is treated.
In my mind, the victims of the violence are the greatest losers of this travesty of justice if the accused had actually nothing to do with the deadly violence. It is another way of saying that the real culprits of the violence were never investigated. Moreover, at this point, there is no hope or even desire to find out who actually caused the death of over 1600 persons.
Once the cases crumble - as seems likely to happen- Kenyans living in cosmopolitan cities will begin to suspect each other and a whole cycle of inter-tribal hate might begin all over. The tensions that led to the 2007 violence have not yet been addressed and I am concerned that a major component of this - reconciliation -- has not even been thought of.
There is conflict in South Sudan, in Somalia, in Uganda, in Tanzania and in Kenya. Yet we citizens do not seem to worry about the ever present social indicators that point to future escalation of violence. Moreover, and to be specific, what worries me most is the rapidly increasing religious intolerance in Tanzania and Kenya and also in many other parts of Africa. For this reason, let me highlight the emerging religious tensions in Eastern Africa.
Religious Intolerance in Tanzania and Kenya
The 2013 general elections in Kenya were largely peaceful unlike the 2007election when violence broke out over a disputed presidential result. Nevertheless, whether peaceful or not, the recent presidential election result was challenged in the Supreme Court. The court upheld Uhuru Kenyatta's initial announcement as winner. The 5.1 million people who supported the loser, Raila Odinga, against Uhuru's more than over 6.3 million supporters are struggling to come to terms with the loss. In spite of the Supreme Court ruling, they believe it was unfair to their claims. Undercurrents are palpable.
In the midst of this development, most unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly evident that religious intolerance is taking root amongst communities. Tribal walls and blocks are being formed, albeit quietly. It is no longer a secret. Studies conducted, among other institutions, by Jesuit Hakimani Centre (JHC), suggest that tribalism is eroding the co-existence between various religious faiths. Moreover, the voting pattern from the previous general elections, including the 2013 election, point to a discomforting alignment of the religious faiths with their tribal lords. Indications for next year's general elections in Tanzania clearly show a divide between Christians and Muslims, each group wanting a president from its own religious faith.
The lay, in these countries, have voiced their concern about the trend through various platforms, including the recorded national forums that JHC has organized in the recent past, but there has been no clear response from the Church authorities. The credibility of the Church continues to slide when trends like this are not addressed before they harden and become chronic. The Rwanda genocide serves as a point of reference on religious ethnicity. The religious were said to have been part of the problem.
In Tanzania, the relationship between Muslims and Christians (specifically Catholics) is at an all- time low. A Catholic priest was recently shot dead in Zanzibar in what seems to have been an act of religious intolerance. Jesuits, in particular, have been targeted by Muslim extremists who released a CD claiming Jesuits are the brains behind Christian expansionism. Parishes in Tanzania have been targeted in the past but tensions remain high as Zanzibar, where mainly Muslims live, calls for secession. A similar pattern is emerging along the Coast with Mombasa Republic Council (MRC) claiming they too want secession so that the coastal region, under what used to be Mombasa Province, can become a country of its own. A few deaths have occurred following confrontation between MRC and the local police in the past year.
All these happenings leave me wondering if reconciliation will ever be achieved. There is a great deal of effort by local governments as well as the international community to support initiatives on ecology, climate change, human rights, poverty eradication and so forth. But is there anyone who cares about reconciliation? Being in the field, I realize that not even the Church has made any significant effort to place reconciliation above all other priorities, though most Church documents talk of reconciliation in such colorful language.