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Message of the Catholic Bishops of Kenya

Message of the Catholic Bishops of Kenya
22 May 1992

 

This short message, published in the daily newspapers after a Press Conference given by the Bishops, was the fruit of an emergency meeting held by them. Their meeting with the President did not seem to have had much impact because there was no visible improvement of the situation. The most important issue is that people felt that the Government was not in control of the situation or did not have the will to change the situation. If this is true, the Bishops question the legitimacy for the current Government to remain in power. Muti-party is still pure talk and not a reality.

  1. Suffering, despair, poverty, death are matters which directly concern everyone, irrespective of race, religion or politics. One does not have to be a Christian to be moved by suffering of an kind.

  2. "Jesus saw a great throng and he had compassion on them and healed their sick," and later, when it was evening, Christ ordered the disciples, "you give them something to eat." [1] It is with Christ's commission that we, as disciples of Christ, fulfil the duty of helping those in need.

  3. The current situation of our beloved country, Kenya, calls for all of us to offer our hearts and minds to reverse the tragic trend of events. As Catholic Bishops in Kenya, at an emergency meeting in Nairobi on the 21st of May 1992, we have come to consider the present situation, especially in the light of our meeting with His Excellency, the President, on the 30th of April 1992.

  4. The 18 Bishops, gathered together, come from all parts of Kenya, and we have been talking about what we have seen with our own eyes and about reports from reliable witnesses. At this stage we cannot accept that what we stated on 30 April were rumours or the work of opposition parties, etc.

  5. The Government must listen and act without delay and in accordance with the Constitution. Whether our Government leaders accept it or not, the overwhelming majority of thinking people of Kenya have now accepted that the Government is not in control or has not got the political will to change the existing situation. If these ideas are true, then the Government has no legitimate claim to remain in power and should consider the good of the people as their first consideration.

  6. The present picture of Kenya is one where leaders are completely discrediting themselves by all the accusations and counter-accusations, by inciting bad feelings against tribes or group or parties without any respect for truth or brotherly feeling.

    The media and the common talk of the people is full of examples of the lack of justice from the courts, corrupt administration officers, brutal police actions, arbitrary arrests, hypocritical assurances about security, trained warriors in large groups who are seen by everyone except the Government servants. Whilst not every allegation is true, there are so many cases that the generally held conviction, in spite of Government-controlled Press and radio/TV, is that unless one is supporting the ruling clique in the Government, then one cannot expect justice, peace or security.

  7. We do not claim to know all the answers; we do not side with any party-we look at the situation from the point of view of a peace-loving citizen, who assumes that he/she can live in any part of Kenya with the full protection of the law and the forces which enforce the law. As a consequence of the first-hand experiences of our people, only a blind leader can deny the need for drastic action.

  8. There are, as a result of all these events, very sad consequences. All the evil tendencies in man are coming out: revenge, mob injustice, hateful feeling for others based on tribe, looting, torture, cruelty, etc.

  9. Whilst the source of the trouble seems to lie within the Kalenjin tribe, we realise that the ordinary Kalenjin has nothing to do with the troubles and is just as opposed to the clashes as the others. They have also suffered death and destruction. The sad part of all this is that Kalenjins were dwelling peacefully with others until outsiders and certain political leaders embarked on a campaign of destabilisation.

  10. Another result of the original trouble has been the displacement of hundreds of families, a breakdown in education, health services, economic activities, etc. Additionally, there seems to have been a dramatic increase in banditry, robbery, murder and other crimes in other parts of Kenya.

  11. Why do we not have the Kenya we remember? Surely the present leadership cannot ignore the causes. So many commissions, law cases, etc., which have never seen the light of day, show how there has been no commitment to Justice, Truth, Accountability and Transparency.

  12. What the Bishops said to the President remains true, even though it was regrettably leaked to the Press. It was regrettable that there was a breach of protocol, but we stand by and are willing to repeat every word we spoke. We earnestly request the President to consider very drastic changes to meet a truly tragic situation, because it threatens the whole future.

  13. At this point in time we do not see much improvement, and nothing will really improve until those responsible for the cynical campaign of upsetting the whole country are completely removed. It is not only that. It will be necessary to help all those people who have had their homes burnt, shambas [2] destroyed, and cattle robbed. What is the Government doing about it? Those affected have not had any word about any adequate programme of rehabilitation and compensation.

  14. In these days of multi-party politics, the people do not see a practical commitment to its implementation. We read of political prisoners, unfair tactics used to stifle any party other than KANU, denial of ID cards to non-Government supporters, etc. People are aware of their rights and they do not recognise a freedom that depends on so many police, GSU and special agents. Freedom cannot exist when there is so much Government-sponsored misinformation, where even a Parliamentary Commission on the clashes is pre-empted by Government statements.

  15. This renewed and passionate appeal to our Government leaders on behalf of so many Kenyans, who have been murdered, robbed, imprisoned unjustly, driven to despair, bitterness and revenge, is one made by the Catholic Bishops of Kenya in fraternal union with many religious leaders and people of good will throughout Kenya.

  16. Even at this last hour we know that the present leadership could change its heart and policy in view of what has been stated by the Churches on many occasions and also now. We can only repeat the heart-rending cry of our people -"Give us freedom from injustice, fear and violence. We are dying."

  17. The Government alone cannot meet the challenge. All of us Kenyans have a personal responsibility for our attitudes, words and actions. Our help is in the Lord and, therefore, we have arranged for a National Day of Prayer and Intercession for Kenya and its people. The Feast of Pentecost, Sunday, 7 June, will be the occasion on which the Catholic Church will gather in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Eldoret, to plead for God's blessing on Kenya and its rulers. All Church leaders, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, are invited to be with us to confess our solidarity before our God and with our Country and its future.

  18. The Catholic Bishops are also inviting all people to offer nine days of prayer in preparation for a new Pentecost, which Kenya and its leaders and people so badly need. Our Christians have already shown practical sympathy for the victims of the clashes. We invite all parishes throughout the country to make a generous contribution to our brothers and sisters in distress through the Diocesan offices involved.

    Parishes should contact the Dioceses before sending their help. A collection for the victims will also be made on Sunday, 7 June, at Eldoret. That Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, will be a fitting occasion on which to implore the Holy Spirit to pour out His Wisdom and Love on all of us, Leaders and followers.

Questions for Reflection and Sharing

  1. What is wrong in the Government controlling press, radio, and TV? (Cf. No. 6)

  2. The Bishops complain about the lack of truth, accountability, and transparency. Is that a defect to be found only in Government Offices, or is it also present at other lower levels? Can you give some examples?

  3. Catholic Bishops invite in this message all Church leaders of other religions to pray together with them. Does this mean that "all religions are the same," as goes the popular expression? What is the meaning of such an invitation?

Notes

[1]Mt 15:14-16
[2]"fields, plantations"