The "No justice without life, for a peaceful Kenyan society" congress was held this morning in Nairobi.
Representatives of the Italian, the Swiss and the German embassies, a representative of the European Union, and over two hundred people –mainly young people– attended the congress. Before the speeches, the audience watched videomessages by pope Francis and by Desmond Tutu (the hall of conferences is named after him).
For more than two hours and a half the speakers discussed the issue of the death penalty. In the last days capital punishment has been debated widely after a court in Nairobi issued 5 convictions for the killing of monsignor Luigi Locati, vicar apostolic in the diocese of Isiolo, who was killed in 2005.
The audience raised many questions and a passionate debate followed.
Francis Waithaka, of the Community of Sant'Egidio in Kenya, highlighted the fact that the law in Kenya justifies a violent mentality, the lynching of old women considered to be witches being just one example of that.
The first secretary at the Italian embassy, Andrea Marino, thanked the Community of Sant'Egidio for its unremitting efforts to protect life and explained in great detail the role of Italy and of the EU in the struggle against the death penalty and for the defense of Human Rights.
Bill Pelke, founder of Journey of Hope, shared his experience and the big suffering all his relatives underwent. Then he illustrated the story of family members of murder victims who chose the way of Christian forgiveness and said vengeance gives no relief.
Martha Karua, former minister of justice, who attended several congresses of ministers of justice organized by Sant'Egidio in Rome, explained that the capital punishment is not efficient and its enforcement is against the respect for human rights endorsed by the new constitution.
A few years ago, during the discussion for a new constitution (at that time the minister was a member of the constituent assembly) not enough courage was found to remove it from the constitution. That would have been a courageous move which would have entailed fruits of peace and non violence. She then added that the State does not want or simply cannot awaken public opinion, though it is extremely necessary. NGOs like the Community of Sant'Egidio succeed in doing so. The former minister ended her speech by hoping the Community of Sant'Egidio will help the Kenyan government and parliament spread a new culture on the issue.
Andrea Trentini, a member of the representation of Sant'Egidio coming from Rome, spoke about the commitment of Sant'Egidio and the reasons against the death penalty. He pointed out that the death penalty results in a moral lowering of all society and he illustrated the dream that the death penalty becomes a memory of a barbaric past for our children, just as it happened with slavery or racial discrimination.
Tutah touched on the problem of extrajudicial executions by the police and on the legal ways to react to violence.
Waweru, from the Nakuru County Public Service Board and Security expert, spoke about the defense of human dignity and asserted that only God can take a man's life, as Christian teachings say.
Many issues were debated: life on death row, how you can have a victim forgive, how to change laws, lynchings and how to fight them, inequality as a cause of violence, terrorism and the inefficiency of the death penalty as a deterrent, injustice on the poor and how to work against the death penalty.