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Our Hope for Unity, Peace, and Liberty

Our Hope for Unity, Peace, and Liberty
Statement of the Catholic Bishops of Kenya
24 April 1993

Elections took place on the 29th of December 1992 in a peaceful way save for rare local incidents and some irregularities reported afterwards by the observers. However, by and large, the elections could be called fair and free, and the Bishops congratulated the people of Kenya for their discipline and civic behaviour in a short message (5th of January 1993). The KANU party was openly the winner over the majority of a divided opposition. President Daniel Arap Moi was elected for a new period of five years by one million and a half votes. The opposition together got more than three million votes and they got 88 of the 200 seats in parliament. Contrary to what the Bishops had suggested earlier about the need of mutual collaboration between political parties, the President counted solely on his own party in forming his cabinet, and the opposition was simply marginalized from the Government.

It was expected that the "tribal clashes," politically inspired and oriented, would have ceased after the victory of KANU. It was not the case. By the time this Statement was written, there were clashes in many locations, especially in the Rift Valley Province. The displaced people were still living in makeshift camps or in Church compounds. This time the Bishops give concrete figures and places.

What was more alarming and constituted the immediate motivation for the Bishops to produce this Statement, was the attitude of some politicians and members of Parliament, such as the Vice President Hon. George Saitoti and Ministers Hon. Ole Ntimama and Hon. Joseph Kamotho, as well as other Members of Parliament mentioned by name in the Statement, whose declarations seemed not only to condone the current violence but to incite it.

It was hard to accept that after the multi-party elections Kenya was in such political tension that the Bishops were afraid that it could become another Somalia. But they were not far from the reality, because the ruling party, once confirmed in its victory, felt stronger than before. On the other hand, the defeated opposition parties did not draw a lesson from their divisions and continued taking part in petty politics instead of looking for union and collaboration. The expectations of the Kenyan people, expressed in the words of the National Anthem chosen as the title for this Statement, were far from being fulfilled. The Letter was given at the Holy Family Minor Basilica on 24 April 1993.

    Introduction

  1. The above words taken from the Kenya National Anthem reflect our concern as the Catholic Bishops of Kenya. We greet the people of Kenya with an Easter greeting of Hope even in our present sad situation.

  2. The whole story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection is very relevant to our situation. Unhappily we are going through a dark valley of fear at present. Fortunately we are certain of the victory of Truth and Goodness in Christ. That is why we are calling on all Kenyan citizens to be patient, to continue keeping peace, and peace will come. If civil strife begins, it will not stop; it will destroy us all.

  3. We have to ask ourselves why this situation continues after there were peaceful elections, which clearly showed the desire of the people for peace and development. Even after it was indicated that there was much corruption and manipulation, the people overall did not react with violence. Furthermore, the economy has deteriorated alarmingly, making it difficult for the average person to live a decent human life. Now is the time for all to come together for the greater good of the country.

  4. Our Greatest Concerns

  5. Our concerns are in three areas:

    a) The Continuing "Tribal Clashes" in Some Parts of the Country; the Insecurity, Violence and Banditry in Others

    Clashes have occurred and are continuing in Burnt Forest, Narok, Molo, Muhoroni, Turbo, Koru, Londiani, Sabaot, etc.

    The pattern is tragically the same in other places. People have lost their lives, limbs, property, but have received no protection. Thugs who have attacked them are fully armed, but the ordinary citizens are not allowed to possess arms to protect themselves.

    Petty regulations and measures are used to harass certain non-KANU supporters, e.g., closing markets, denying trading licenses, arbitrary change of boundaries, etc. In changing boundaries, certain communities have found themseIves illegally in other Districts.

  6. b) The Failure to Rehabilitate Thousands of Displaced People Who Are Victims of Previous Clashes
  7. The present situation of the displaced people is very disturbing. Just to mention a few examples:

    • In Elburgon there are still 3,500 people in camp.
    • In Kamwaura, 200 people.
    • In Koru and surroundings there are about 1,297 families displaced who are living in shanties awaiting to be resettled in their own land.
    • Ramasha area in Kisii District, 138 families.
    • Gekano area, Rosiaga, Nyangusu, etc., 500 families.
    • Since the clashes started, over 3000 families have been affected in Eldoret Diocese as follows: Uasin Gishu District, 1287; Nandi District, 1155; Trans-Nzoia District, 1331, and Elgeyo Marakwet District, 40.
  8. People want to return to their own farms they legally squired; they have lived in these farms for many years; they have lived together with other groups for many years, even intermarried; they have no other places to go.

  9. The ordinary wananchi (citizens) are ready to reconcile and go back to live together with their neighbours, yet they cannot return because of insecurity. The Government has been claiming that security has been restored so people can go back to their farms, and yet this is not true. For example, recently the Provincial administration in Nakuru claimed that security has been restored in the Province, yet people have since been killed in Narok, Marakwet, etc.

  10. The Administration has urged people to go back to their lands, but they have been driven away and in some cases killed. The same thing can be said for Elgon, Koru, Londiani, and Burnt Forest areas.

  11. c) The Inflammatory Statements of Certain Politicians, Who Not Only Go Unpunished, But Are Publicly Defended by High Officials of the Government and KANU.
  12. For example:

      Hon. Saitoti, Hon. Ntimama and Hon. Biwott at the Elgeyo Marakwet rally on Saturday, April 3rd, called upon the people of Rift Valley to rally together and defend themselves against an imminent attack, which they claimed was being brewed by some leaders of the opposition.
    • Not long ago, Hon. Chepkok stated that unless people accept Moi, clashes would not stop. The same thing has also been stated by the Nandi "Youth for KANU 92" Chairman and Hon Shariff Nassir.

    • At the Narok rally, again the Hon. Ole Ntimama, in the presence of President Moi, called upon the Maasai to defend themselves against the outsiders. In the same meeting the President himself told the people living in Narok to sing the Maasai tune.

    • Hon. Kamotho stated at a public rally that the Government knew all those who were behind the clashes. The same Hon Kamotho, while addressing teachers from Eastern Province in Machakos, stated that the Maasai Morans who beat people on the inauguration of Parliament on 23 March were sent by KANU.

    • Again, Hon, Ntimama said at another time that he knew the factory where the guns were being made.

  13. Such statements which are very serious have never been reported to proper authorities. Neither has the Government followed the matter, which shows neglect of duty. This is not seen in cases of statements from the Opposition. In similar circumstances, other members of the public who have made critical statements have been arrested by the police who then made thorough investigation into the matter. We can cite an example of Dr. Josaphat Karanja and Mr. James Orengo who, when they stated that the Government was about to be taken over by the military, were dealt with, with utmost severity.
  14. We feel That There Is Destructive Fanning of Ethnic Hatred by the Leadership in the Government

  15. Examples:

    Some time back at a public rally called to stop clashes, the President called upon the Luhya and Kalenjin to live together as they always did. He said they should flush out people who brought trouble between them and he illustrated his talk by giving a story the rabbit, the elephant and the hippo:

    The rabbit told the elephant that he could defeat him in a tug-of-war. The elephant thought that it was a big joke but he accepted the challenge anyway. Then the rabbit went to the hippo and put the same challenge. So he got a big rope and tied one end on the leg of the elephant and the other end on the leg of the hippo. Then the tug-of-war started. When the elephant was pulled down to the river and saw the hippo, then he knew who the trouble-maker was.

    Who Was the Rabbit?

      Recently Kamwithi Munyi told the people of Embu that they should get rid of the Kikuyus who had dominated them for so long (Weekend Mail, 22 April).
    • On 14 March, Hon. Nyachae also in a public meeting told a crowd that Kisii town should be rid of all non-Kisii people.

    • We also do not see any good motive in the so-called Kitengela declaration passed by KANU rally on Saturday, April 17, 1993.

  16. These statements have increased the insecurity and fear of people in the country, and yet the Government has not taken any effective steps to restore confidence. On the contrary the President has openly declared that the very people mentioned are loyal to him.
  17. After the elections, everybody thought that the Government and the Opposition would sit together and embark on the serious work of restoration of the worsening economic situation but, alas, is has not been so. It seems that, although the elections were over, the leadership in the Government and KANU were still intent on campaigning to win people over.

  18. Where Are They Heading?

  19. These facts lead us to question whether the leadership in the Government and KANU want conflict, confusion and fear to continue! Does the leadership in the Government think it can stay in power only through the principle of divide and rule with an environment of fear and intimidation?

      Does the leadership in Government have the country at heart, or just a certain section of the country?

      o Does the leadership in the Government plan to isolate the Rift Valley as a separate state?

    • Is there simply a plan to take revenge against one or more ethnic groups by the leadership in the Government?

  20. Sins of the Fathers

  21. These are the hard questions which must be asked at all levels in the country:

    First of all, we appeal to all people of good will to pray over these questions, discuss them in their communities, and let their members of Parliament know their wishes for their country. Politics is too important to be left only to the "official" politicians.

  22. Secondly, we ask the members of Parliament to put aside petty issues and useless ultimatums like the one recently issued by the FORD-Asili Chairman, Hon. Kenneth Matiba, and discuss the real issues affecting the country, especially those related to security and the economy. We have been disappointed that the Opposition parties have not come together and taken the lead in these matters.

  23. Thirdly, we ask the Government leaders to reflect deeply on what kind of future they are building. From the example of the neighbouring countries, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda and Ethiopia, we know that violence breeds violence, and the sins of the fathers are visited in a vicious and tragic way on the heads of their children.

  24. In the Gospel of John we read: "The Truth shall make you free" (Jn 8:32).

    During this Easter season, we Christians add "alleluia" as a sign of hope and joy. May we reject the lies which are so shamelessly uttered leading to violence and despair, and take up courageously the burden of truth, which leads to peace, justice, unity and joy.

  25. At the moment, Kenya is really experiencing the suffering Christ before his crucifixion. He was condemned to suffer and die because the rulers of the day wanted power at any cost, even the death of the innocent. As he experienced, we also have our "Pilates" not ready to fulfil their duty out of fear, out of self-interest. We see our own "Roman soldiers" venting their strength on the powerless because of orders from above. Alas for the irresponsible cries of the mob! Alas for the indifference of many who are not concerned with the fate of unfortunate brothers and sisters who at this very moment are herded in various compounds, homeless and hopeless. The history of human cruelty is repeating itself in Kenya now.

  26. But history will also repeat itself in the triumph of truth and justice if we follow Christ faithfully. He told Peter to put away to sword to prevent his arrest: "Put your sword back in its place. All who take a sword will die by the sword" (Mt 26:52-53).

  27. We beg our people not to allow anyone to incite them to violence. Self-defence is legitimate within reasonable limits, but never attack no matter how much provoked. Once two parties use violence, we shall be in a "Somalia" situation. We ask the Government to recognise how desperate the situation is for our unarmed citizens, seeing no help coming from them.

  28. The country is under great tension. Let everything be done by all parties, all leaders, men and women of goodwill to build up understanding, tolerance and acceptance. According to the Constitution there are no tribal tunes which have to be sung in order to live in any part of Kenya. Let us be inspired, guided by and pray our National Anthem which reminds us that God is indeed our Ruler, Father and Teacher, and we are all his children and willing to live together in unity, peace and liberty; while "justice be our shield and defender."

  29. National Day of Prayer

  30. In solidarity with the people of Kenya who have suffered and are still suffering because of the ethnic clashes, various forms of violence, banditry, insecurity, famine and poverty, we, the Catholic Bishops of Kenya, announce that the month of May, which is dedicated to Our Lady Queen of Peace, be a month of prayer for Peace and Reconciliation. We further announce that on Sunday, 25 April 1993, there will be a Holy Mass for Peace and Reconciliation concelebrated by the Catholic Bishops at Holy Family Minor Basilica at 11.00 a.m.

    We invite our entire Christian community and all people of goodwill to join us as we pray for our country. We bless you and remain, Yours devotedly in Christ.

Questions for Reflection and Sharing

  1. In almost all their pastoral letters and messages the Bishops invite us to prayer. Is it implied that prayer is the "magic" solution to solve all human problems? What would be the Christian meaning of prayer in circumstances of political and social problems?

  2. Racial and tribal discrimination can lead people to violence, but there are other forms of discrimination that can happen in daily life without necessarily fighting; they are not less unjust. Can you give some examples?

  3. Have you ever prayed on the words of the Kenya National Anthem?