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Religious leaders rip Kenya vote to withdraw from world court

Roman Catholic Archbishop Okoth of Kisumu Archdiocese and the chairperson of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops' Justice and Peace Commission, said the withdrawal will breed impunity and injure human-rights protection. Photos by Fredrick Nzwili

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) With Kenya’s president and his deputy facing trials at the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands, parliamentarians here have voted to withdraw the country from the court.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Okoth of Kisumu Archdiocese and the chairperson of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops' Justice and Peace Commission, said the withdrawal will breed impunity and injure human-rights protection. Photos by Fredrick Nzwili

Roman Catholic Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth of the Kisumu Archdiocese and the chairperson of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, said the withdrawal will breed impunity and injure human-rights protection. Photos by Fredrick Nzwili

But the Roman Catholic Church and the National Council of Churches of Kenya view the move as “misguided.”

Catholic Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth, head of the bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, said the church fears the withdrawal will breed impunity and injure human-rights protections.

“We urge our MPs to desist from passing motions that would inflict grave harm on the country’s present and future,” Okoth told a news conference in Nairobi on Sept. 10, the day the trial opened for the president’s deputy, William Ruto.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s trial begins Nov. 12. The two leaders face charges of crimes against humanity following the violence that erupted after the 2007-08 elections. More than 1,300 people died and about 650,000 were displaced during the violence.

“The government must cooperate fully with the court to enable it to complete its process,” said Okoth.

Earlier, Crispus Yankem, communication manager for the National Council of Churches of Kenya, said his group’s support for the court had not changed. In 2009, the council dispatched a petition signed by one million people urging the courts to investigate Kenya.

The country’s evangelical churches and the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims back the withdrawal.

Sheikh Adan Wachu, general secretary of the Supreme Council, said local courts should try the leaders, since Kenya is a sovereign state.

“We thought the court will deliver justice,” said the Rev. Wellington Mutiso, head of Kenya’s Baptist churches. “We feel it has since been politicized.”

About the author

Fredrick Nzwili

Fredrick Nzwili is a journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. For more than 15 years, he has written about religion, politics, peace and conflict, development, security, environment and wildlife. His articles have appeared in international media organizations among others; The Tablet, The Christian Science Monitor, The National Geographic and Kenyan local newspapers; The Standard and the People Daily.

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