Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kenyan churches call Kibaki "moribund"

Moribund |ˌmɒrɪbʌnd|
(of a person) at the point of death.
• (of a thing) in terminal decline; lacking vitality or vigour.

Kenya's largest church organisation branded the president "moribund" and the prime minister "ineffective" in the latest of a torrent of complaints against Kenya's coalition government.

One year after its creation to end the cuntry's post-election violence, the unity government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga is creaking under internal divisions and a public backlash over its performance.

Some civil society groups want a new election; protests against corruption, police killings and high food prices are springing up with the global financial crisis compounding economic woes; and ministers squabble daily in public.

The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), which represents 26 Protestant denominations comprising thousands of congregations around the deeply religious nation, weighed in with a statement bashing the government on all fronts. "The impression and expression of most Kenyans is that they have a moribund president and an ineffective prime minister," NCCK leaders said in the statement sent to media on Thursday. "In their hearts, Kenyans cannot understand how they can be going through an extremely difficult period, with no hope in sight, yet the president ... is extremely quiet about those issues, almost as if he has lost touch with reality." Raila Odinga, though charged with coordinating government ministries, "complains about the same people he is supervising instead of streamlining their operations," NCCK added.

While the church group was itself criticised for keeping quiet during last year's post-election slaughter, its statement echoed concerns currently expressed all over Kenya: A "bloated and non-performing" 41-minister cabinet was gobbling money that should go on development at a time Kenya says 10 million of its 35 million people are hungry, it said. "Hunger in Kenya has less to do with drought and more to do with lack of leadership, since it is man-made and orchestrated for personal gain," it said, referring to corrupt sales and hoarding in the maize and food distribution sectors.

Kibaki, 77, was pilloried by local media for holding his first news conference in years earlier this month not to address national problems but to denounce reports he had a second wife. Kibaki is a devout member of the Catholic church, which has also been critical of his rule. The president, who has an image for being genial but weak on misbehaviour by his team, has hit back this week in a speech daring rowdy ministers to quit or risk facing the sack. Kibaki recently announced a "Work for Youth" programme to generate 300,000 new jobs for young people, whose discontent is fuelling the ranks of the powerful criminal gang Mungiki.

The NCCK church group criticised the government for neglecting thousands of internal refugees from the post-election violence, allowing "sinful" legislators to get away without paying taxes, and dragging its feet on constitutional reform. "We call on Kenyans to rise up and demand that they regain leadership of the process," it said on the constitution review. We find it immoral that members of parliament ... spend most of their time peacocking around the country ... And while the MPs are getting their tax-free allowances to acquire the latest pleasures and luxuries, Kenyans are dying of hunger."

The NCCK urged a downsizing of cabinet and said Kenyans should demand a new vote. It is seeking one million signatures to demand post-election crisis mediator Kofi Annan reveals names of top suspects of violence who should then be prosecuted.

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