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To Serve Peace Reach Out to the Poor

To Serve Peace Reach Out to the Poor
Message of the Kenya Catholic Bishops
14 September 1993

This message was given by a group of Bishops led by Most Reverend Zacchaeus Okoth, Archbishop of Kisumu and Chairman of the Bishops' Conference, in the name of the Kenya Episcopal Conference during a press conference attended by local and foreign press representatives on the 14th of September 1993. The text was the fruit of an emergency plenary meeting of the Bishops held earlier on the 9th of September. The title used by the Bishops is the same one used by Pope John Pope II in his Message for the World Day of Peace (1 January 1993). The message adds nothing new in content but it shows the increasing tension and even desperation of many Kenyans who saw how the socioeconomic and political situation of the country was dramatically deteriorating.

  1. The decision of the Government to impose strict security zones in the clash regions of Molo, Burnt Forest and Londiani has given a hope that it is willing and able to act. Obviously, the whole exercise must protect the innocent and lead to peace and justice being restored to those areas.

  2. The exchange of information only served to make us realise that it appears that never before in the history of Kenya have conditions been so bad for our people. Day after day the misery of the people increases, unspeakable values of society are destroyed whilst politicians from all parties struggle for power, votes and cheap publicity.

  3. It is necessary to repeat the main issues. They are not few. They are public knowledge and they are causing, even at his moment, suffering, bitterness, misery, despair and frustration, which should move everyone living in Kenya to great sadness. We hope the President shares in this sadness. What we have seen with our own eyes has made us weep.

    The main issues in words that do no justice to the reality of the situation:

  4. I. Security

  5. It is not only the clash situation in which groups of armed young men are transported from other areas to loot, burn, maim, kill and terrorise unarmed men, women, children and even grandfathers and grandmothers without the Government being able to prevent their activities, but there is a breakdown in security in so many areas. There is an alarming increase of banditry in rural and remote areas. Everywhere there is robbery, thuggery, murder, rape, highjacking. This is happening even in broad daylight. the police, except in some cases, are showing a very bad figure.

  6. II. Public

  7. The public is being deprived of many social services for its hard-earned savings, experiencing increased taxation, all because of the corruption, theft and mismanagement of billions of shillings. The public hears nothing but empty words about preventing and correcting such abuses... The relevant authorities appear incompetent and uncommitted to making improvements. Crime does seem to pay in Kenya. It is no wonder the public is tempted to theft, crime and general dishonesty by those who should give a good example. It goes without saying that the Goldenberg Affair should be thoroughly investigated and the laws of justice be fully implemented without fear or favour.

  8. III. Political

  9. All politicians and leaders should be made responsible for their statements. Those responsible for inciting ethnic clashes and ethnic hatred should be brought to justice. So far, well-known leaders have made "Peace, Love and Unity" a meaningless motto, yet the clashes are a concrete example of how political statements by high-placed leaders have caused untold and continuing misery which we are experiencing now. The Government is indicting itself by not arresting anyone inciting to violence, the opposition or its own top leaders.

  10. IV. Poverty

  11. There has never been so much poverty in Kenya as in these days. Kenya can certainly grow enough food to feed its people, but these days a terrible number of people are not getting enough food, and this includes many children. Not only is it an affront to human dignity, but such a condition is the breeding ground of social unrest and crime. The Government is still spending billions for luxury projects whilst the education, health and social service system has become a scandal to the tax-payer and a burden to the wananchi (citizens).

  12. We could mention many other issues, such as freedom of speech and political freedom, etc., but all this is well-known and has been stated many times. We are seeking urgent solutions. Our beloved first President and Founder of the Nation once told Church leaders to tell him when he went wrong. He even said that if they did not they would be failing before God and Kenya.

  13. It is these words, as well as the fact that we know the President H.E. President Daniel Arap Moi, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Kenya, that CAN change the situation. As President he cannot escape his responsibility. He cannot escape the judgement of History.

  14. May we respectfully point out that he has a multitude of really good people who will help him to put things right. Kenya also has many good and honest leaders who are sick of what they see in higher places. There is a treasure of good ideas and plans to make Kenya the Kenya we want, where all may enjoy unity, peace and liberty. The call is for ALL Kenyans of all Ethnic Groups to come together to offer their gifts, their know-how and goodwill to building up the Nation as before, a Nation which will be blessed by God because it is seeking the ways of justice, Peace and Righteousness.

Questions for Reflection and Sharing

  1. Social services in Kenya, according to the Bishops, have deteriorated to the point of becoming "a scandal to the tax-payer" (Cf. No. 7). Not to subsidise social services is a usual condition imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in their Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes (ESAP) in order to continue lending money to developing countries. What do you know about ESAP programmes?

  2. Do you think it is fair for the Government to put aside the money destined for social services in order to pay the interests of the external debt? What are the consequences of this policy for the common citizen?

  3.  

    "The exchange of information only served to make us realise that it appears that never before in the history of Kenya have conditions been so bad for our people." (No. 2) How can you explain this strong statement despite all the material progress made by Kenya in the last 25 years?