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Kenya Religious Leaders Criticize Reform Progress


Religious leaders in Kenya have sharply criticized the country's coalition government for failing to tame corruption and to undertake reforms outlined in a power-sharing agreement signed last year to end months of post-election violence. The comments follow the release of an independent poll, which shows that the majority of Kenyans believe the government has done little in the past year to improve their lives.

The Inter-Religious Forum - a group representing Christians, Muslims and Hindus in Kenya - had requested the government declare Thursday a public holiday so that all Kenyans could pray for the nation.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga denied the request, but they agreed to meet with religious leaders to listen to their concerns.

The country's Anglican Archbishop, Benjamin Nzimbi, says he told Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga that they are failing to lead a clean, honest government, which has always been one of the top priorities for the Kenyan people.

In recent weeks, high-level politicians have been accused of various wrong-doings, including one scandal involving the diversion of corn from the state grain stores for financial gain. The corn was part of a consignment meant to feed an estimated 10 million Kenyans facing a severe food shortage.

"The corruption we have in this nation is leading us from bad to worse," Nzimbi said. " We always say there must be people who will still remain with their integrity and be true to the standards and policies. These are the people I really pray for, so that they may not get tired, but keep on working hard to bring this country to where it ought to be."

The criticism follows a report released earlier this week that said the majority of Kenyans believe their lives have become worse in the past year and have little hope the government will implement needed changes.

The report was prepared by the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation Monitoring Project, an organization formed to observe the implementation and progress of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act that laid the foundation for a power-sharing government in Kenya.

The signing of the accord a year ago ended a wave of deadly, post-presidential election violence in several parts of the country and raised hopes that broad reforms, including those that would address the underlying factors responsible for the violence, would be quickly implemented.

But the Monitoring Project's progress report describes a coalition government that has failed to lead the national healing and reconciliation process. Instead, the report says internal power struggles have left the government lacking cohesion. The authors say this, in turn, has led to lack of consensus in decision-making, keeping communities as divided as ever.

In an interview with VOA, Kenya's Assistant Information Minister George Khaniri defended the government's performance.

"We have done the best we could. Circumstances are difficult, as you know. There is the question of mistrust. There is the question of working with strangers. But under all those circumstances, we have tried and we have done well," Khaniri said.

The Monitoring Project says the public's perception of the government is that it is failing, and unless it can push through comprehensive reforms, the country faces more violence and an uncertain future.


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