The Catholic Bishops of Kenya held their Plenary Meeting from the 8 to the 11 November 1994; at the end of the meeting, they published the following statement in which they voice their concerns on what they see happening in the Country.
In striving to fulfill the mandate given to us, we not only confined ourselves to the more obviously spiritual concerns but we also have borne in mind the words “He has sent me to announce the Good News to the poor, to proclaim release for prisoners, to let broken victims go free”(Lk 4). Such were the concerns that we shared in our reports from all parts of the country; whilst we did note some hopeful and positive initiatives from our Government and political leaders, we were left with the conviction that it had not yet made any substantial difference to the majority of our people.
Insecurity has now become so widespread and such a daily occurrence, that many of our people live in constant fear. Many not only suffer mentally but also innocent and peace-loving people have lost their homes, animals, crops, vehicles, means of livelihood and even their lives. In the few cases where the Government has taken action, the results have been surprisingly good. One wonders why the Government cannot help all its people, in all parts of the country with equal concern and effectiveness.
Whilst much can be done by the law-enforcement services of the Government, we as Church Leaders recognise a terrible breakdown of morality at all levels. One would have thought that the Ministry of Education would have stressed the strong religious feelings of our people. Instead, God is being squeezed out of Education. There is no need to elaborate because as leaders, we have spoken out at the highest level about the matter and so far have been ignored. Whilst religious education leaves people free, and some so-called Christians are a disgrace to their Church and do the work of Satan, nevertheless, the absence of religious education gives our young people the message that religion is not important. Other factors influence insecurity. Unemployment is an obvious one. The problem should be taken seriously if we are to avoid facing unprecedented social unrest and increasing violence.
The lack of integrity of some of our police and law courts, serves as pretext for mob justice which is to be deplored by all who are concerned with the future. The events at Korogocho should never have been tolerated by the Government but the fact that they have occurred takes away from the credibility of the fairness and impartiality of those responsible for security.
One only has to visit and talk to those people who were forcefully removed from their legally-acquired land, to those who were living in peace with their neighbors of other ethnic groups, to realize that there is a deep and justified fear. There are so many cases where politicians flout the law with impunity. These well-known leaders are totally ignoring the words of H. E. the President where he has repeated publicly the need for all people of whatever ethnic group, to be able to live in peace and harmony in all parts of Kenya. There is an obvious need for those in authority also at lower levels, to accept the calls for peace, love and unity for all citizens irrespective of politics, religion, ethnic origin.
The President’s visit to Maela was welcome and encouraging. In view of one long year of suffering, we hope that the words of the President will be taken seriously by the P.C., downwards. But Maela is only one of many camps of Kenyans who are dispossessed and displaced in their own country. Our bothers and sisters are still suffering, still camped in Burnt Forest, Thessalia, Kamwaura not to mention those scattered in other places but deprived of their rights to their property.
As those concerned for the good of Kenya we have to voice our opposition to the present situation in which the ruling party has all the rights, full support of the Government Administration and Government-controlled media whilst the Opposition parties are harassed, impeded and effectively deprived of legitimate political rights. Whilst asking for more freedom and tolerance for all, we deplore the selfish power-seeking struggles which are becoming evident among opposition leaders. They are losing the confidence of their followers and should concentrate on policies which are constructive and positive. The good of the country should come first.
Because principles and laid-down procedure are so important, we are disturbed to see so many decisions which should be made by the Parliament are made elsewhere. However good the intentions may be, such procedures erode the powers of our elected representatives and lead to many abuses and bad decisions. We are thinking of the question of creating new districts and of some of the directives of the Ministries, especially the Ministry of Education. In this line, we whole-heartedly support the call for a broadly based discussion in preparing a New Constitution.
In the spirit of the Good Samaritan, we cannot but help voicing our great concern about the high cost of living, even regarding basic foods. The failure of the health services also affects our people in an area of serious need. Suffering and death are the result. We are not economic experts but if those responsible for the present economic conditions make it impossible for “Plenty be found within its borders” as we sing in our National Anthem, then the Government should replace them with those who can solve the problem, not so much for the rich as for the poor.
On Education, the standards are falling daily. As Bishops, we visit schools and have well informed educational advisers. We found the statement of the Director of Education incredible. He has publicly stated that we have enough trained teachers in our Primary Schools (Daily Nation 7/11/94). The facts are the contrary and we have no hope of improving unless the number is increased and the morale of our teachers improved. The Catholic Church has a very good record in the educational field and having trained teachers to meet the real needs, we are surprised at the negative attitude of the relevant authorities.
Our daily papers are so full of allegations of political and ethnic discrimination - Parliament being one source of information - that again, we have to speak out once more. The Constitution of Kenya gives every citizen equal rights and duties in all parts of Kenya and in all spheres of life i.e. education, employment, religion, political affiliation, etc. The Government should be a shining example of impartiality.
Our stand at the Cairo Conference was supported by all those who recognised spiritual values, the dignity of marriage and the vital need for all children to have good families where their parents give them true love and care. We have now been informed that the Government intends to introduce sex education under the guise of family life education. This programme will be used in all Primary Schools and in Teacher Training Colleges. Inevitably, it will destroy family life and marriage by reducing it all to sex. Genuine love does not come into the picture.
There are many other concerns in which we are united with our people. We have only touched on a few, in order to encourage all Kenyans to hold firm to God and their religious beliefs and traditions. As the National Anthem invited us, let us “Build this nation together.” We take this opportunity of sending our prayerful good wishes to our faithful, our fellow citizens, to our Government leaders and to all people of good will. May the Spirit of Christ, living and active in each one of us, bring comfort in this Christmas season to the sick, the suffering, the poor, the displaced, the prisoners and so many who do not enjoy the blessings they should enjoy in this life. May God bless us all as we accept Him and also our brothers and sisters as His children.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
The Bishops of Kenya