Clerics and Orange politicians from Nyanza on Thursday called on President Uhuru Kenyatta not to reopen old wounds following his statement on Wednesday linking opposition chief Raila Odinga to the 2007 election violence.
Bishops Mwai Abiero of the Anglican Church of Kenya and Washington Ogonyo Ngede said Mr Odinga was not involved in the violence.
ODM chairman John Mbadi, Treasurer Timothy Bosire, Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga and Senator Moses Kajwang’ accused President Kenyatta of inciting hatred against Mr Odinga.
Mr Bernard Ndege, who lost family members in the violence said the President’s statement was ill-timed as the country headed for another election.
President Kenyatta’s comments were made during his tour of Kisii on Wednesday. He said of Mr Odinga; “Alikua katikati ya vita. Yeye ndio aliwasha moto (He was at the centre of the violence. He is the one who lit the fire)”.
The clergy, under the Nyanza Council of Church Leaders said the speech “did not portray the President as a symbol of national unity but a political activist”.
“It was very disappointing to the peace-loving Kenyans as this is seen as a way of reigniting controversy over the post-election violence that occurred nearly 10 years ago,” said Bishop Ngede, the chairman of the Nyanza clergy.
Mr Bosire, who is the Kitutu Masaba MP, accused President Kenyatta of inciting the Abagusii against Mr Odinga
“Uhuru is inciting Kisiis and causing fear, entrenching hatred as we head to elections, a matter too dangerous to bear, considering his (President’s) latest outbursts and alarming statements of division and negative politics,” said Mr Bosire.
The MP said Mr Odinga was not to blame for the violence and had no hand in the chaos “that is why he was not indicted by the International Criminal Court”. Mr Ndege, who lost 11 family members in Naivasha, said the President’s statement came as a shocker to the internally displaced and other victims.
“It was probably the most reckless statement, from the President to invoke our memories on a matter of such magnitude. At a time when we were undergoing healing, the Head of State ignited emotions,” Mr Ndege told the Nation by phone.
“IDPs in some parts of the country, including Nyanza and Western, have not been compensated, yet you had the audacity to make such a statement in this region. It was quite absurd,” he said.
Bishop Obiero cautioned against any efforts to reopen the debate over the violence, which claimed 1,133 lives. He asked the President to tone down his rhetoric as the country heads to the August elections.
“The President’s utterances are unnecessary and divisive,” said the Anglican cleric.
President Uhuru on Wednesday said Mr Odinga, who disputed the presidential results, orchestrated the “40 against one” campaign which resulted in the violence.
Mr Kenyatta, on his second day of campaigns in the Kisii region on Wednesday, maintained that Mr Odinga had a hand in the chaos.
He told a gathering of leaders at Nyanturago Stadium in Kisii on Wednesday: “Raila was at the centre of the 2007 chaos in which Kenyans fought but he blamed it on (William) Ruto”.
But Mr Odinga accused the President of fishing for any cause to reignite his re-election campaign, adding that the Head of State knew the truth about who was responsible for the chaos that followed the elections.
On Thursday, Mr Mbadi said Mr Kenyatta’s remarks bordered on incitement.
“We do not expect President Kenyatta to make such utterances. He should be investigated by the national cohesion team,” said Mr Mbadi.
The ODM chairman said that the Jubilee administration should prepare for mass action in August if polls will not be credible and transparent.
“Let him know that we are bound to call Kenyans for mass action if they try to rig the election in August,” he said.
Homa Bay Senator Kajwang’ faulted the President for not using his Kisii tour to unify Kenyans and instead making remarks that can easily divide the country along ethnic lines.
“President Uhuru’s remarks are a sign of defeat. He should not use inciting language in his desperation,” said Ms Wanga.
Mr Wandayi claimed the President had failed to unite Kenyans and to resettle IDPs who were affected by the 2008 post-election violence.