By Jibril Adan and PPS
Tourism minister Najib Balala has said Muslims were "misled" into not supporting President Kibaki in the last General Election.
Speaking at a luncheon hosted by Kibaki for Muslim leaders, Balala said Muslims had since realised that Kibaki meant well for them and that they would work with him.
The luncheon, at a Nairobi hotel, which was initially supposed to be held at the end of the holy month of Ramadhan, is part of President Kibaki’s administration’s plan to reach out to and endear itself to Muslims.
Balala was also said to have assured Kibaki of the support of Muslims for his government.
"Muslims have been divided before but now more than ever before we are united and we will back your government," he is reported to have said at the meeting where journalists were not allowed in.
Balala was the focal point for Muslims in ODM during the last general election and he vigorously campaigned for his party leader, Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Attempts to get Balala on telephone were unsuccesful as his phone was turned off.
During the meeting, Muslim leaders reprimanded US ambassador Michael Ranneberger "for acting as though he owns Kenya" and asked President Kibaki to summon him and demand that he stops meddling in the internal affairs of the country.
The leaders, who were hosted by President Kibaki at a Nairobi hotel to mark the end of Ramadhan and Sita, said Ranneberger needed guidance on what is permissible to comment on in the course of duty.
The meeting came only weeks after Ranneberger hosted Muslim leaders to a dinner at his Nairobi residence as part of his efforts to endear his country to Muslims in Kenya.
"We told Kibaki to summon the ambassador and tell him what his roles are in this country," one of the leaders who attended the meeting revealed to The Standard. "He should be told what he can talk about and what he cannot interfere with."
Ranneberger has been caught in the crosshairs of Government functionaries since the US State Department wrote directly to some 15 politicians informing them that they would be barred from visiting the US if found to be working against reforms.
Kibaki has responded by writing to US President Barack Obama to express his displeasure, while Foreign Affairs Moses Wetangula said the diplomat had over-stepped his mandate, and Kenya would review its relationship with the US.
Ranneberger has also been accused by some leaders of misinforming Obama, whose father was a Kenyan, of the true situation in Kenya.
The leaders also thanked Kibaki for policy announcements he made a few months ago when he reiterated that the Government would change how it deals with Muslims.
Kibaki had promised that a High Court station would be established in Garissa to ease access to justice for residents of Northern Kenya. This would be the first such station in North Eastern province.
He also promised that no Muslim girl child would ever be denied education for wearing hijab in school.
"We thanked him for the commitments he made when he received the Sharawe report," ODM nominated MP Sheikh Mohamed Dor who also attended the luncheon said.
The report was compiled by a committee established by Kibaki to look into grievances by the Muslim community and he has promised to implement all the recommendations.
The leaders also presented Kibaki with a number of other issues for which they requested his urgency intervention.
Some of the issues raised were the slow processing of passports for Muslims even though the Government has on several occasions said that action would be taken to ensure that all citizens are served in the same way.
Freedom of worship
Sheikh Dor also said that they requested him to give land titles to the Nubian community resident in Kibera, Manyatta Arabs in Kisumu and others in Lamu district who cannot show ownership for land they have lived on for years.
Leaders who spoke at the luncheon included Sheikh Dor, Defence Minister Yusuf Mohammed Haji, National Muslim Leaders Forum Vice chairman, Al Haji Murigu and the Chairman of Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims Prof Abdulghafur El-Bussaidy. National Heritage and Culture Minister William ole Ntimama also spoke at the function.
Kibaki said the Government would continue upholding freedom of worship and forge stronger partnerships with religious organizations.
Kibaki applauded the Muslim community for their "commitment to the wellbeing of the country and for their contribution to national development".
"As Kenyans we have a common purpose. We must, therefore, join hands to promote peace and cooperation among ourselves in order to build a strong, stable and prosperous nation," Kibaki said.
He assured all citizens of his Government’s cooperation in their activities aimed at supporting national development.
Congratulating the Muslim community for successfully going through the Ramadhan, the President thanked them for the commitment they demonstrated to the less fortunate in society through donations during the month.
"I urge all Kenyans to emulate our Muslim brothers and sisters and similarly assist each other," the Head of State said. Several ministers, assistant ministers and religious leaders from other faiths also attended the luncheon.
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