CRS says agencies won’t evacuate amid rising tension

NAIROBI, Kenya – A church aid worker said Catholic aid agencies in Kenya will not evacuate their staff, but he expressed concern over the increasing insecurity across the country.

“We will continue to keep a close eye on security issues and take action accordingly,” said Ken MacLean, Kenya country representative for the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Relief Services.

MacLean told Catholic News Service Jan. 30 that “CRS has staff members monitoring the situation in four of the most affected towns – Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret and Kericho.”

Insecurity is at times preventing field visits, he said. But CRS, Caritas Kenya and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development will not evacuate their workers, he said. CAFOD is the aid agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales; Caritas Kenya is the local affiliate of Caritas Internationalis, an international umbrella group of Catholic aid agencies.

MacLean added that the Interreligious Forum, with which the Catholic aid groups work, has recommended strongly the implementation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission with the aim of addressing the underlying issues related to the violence.

“We ask Kenyans to choose peace and patience as the country’s leaders resolve the political crisis,” he said.

More than 800 people have died and more than 250,000 have been forced from their homes since the Dec. 27 presidential election; international observers claimed the election was rigged. Although some media have reported the violence is related to ethnic tensions, many Kenyans say the violence is related to an economic divide.

In a Jan. 29 statement, CRS said the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance committed more than $2.8 million for emergency relief and reconciliation activities.

“Relief efforts will reach an estimated 190,000 people, with CRS working directly with church partners and local dioceses to carry out the response as well as coordinating efforts with other international aid agencies and local community-based organizations,” CRS said.

Bishop Cornelius Arap Korir of Eldoret told CNS he was concerned with the reported escalation of the violence.

“The humanitarian response from both the Christian and secular world has been very positive. We can at this juncture only hope that this will continue until we are through with this exercise of feeding and caring for the needy,” he said.

Peter Kimeu, CRS’ regional technical adviser for partnership, global solidarity and justice, said: “The violence must stop now, and President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga are key to stopping this violence. They must each reach out to their followers and demand an immediate end to all violent acts.”

Kimeu told CNS Jan. 30, “These two leaders must also take extreme care in their statements, choosing words that can pave a road toward peace instead of inciting Kenyans with new questions, frustrations, anger and resulting violence.”

Kimeu expressed hope that political leaders and their mediation teams would be truly committed to the peaceful resolution of Kenya’s crisis. Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been working with both sides.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.