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On the Eve of Elections

On the Eve of Elections
Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops of Kenya
6 November 1992

This was the last Pastoral Letter before the elections. The date was already known, but, as a matter of fact, it would not be the 7th as it was first announced, but the 29th of December 1992. This Pastoral Letter concentrates on practical recommendations to the voters, to the Electoral Commission, and th Political Leaders. Special stress is laid upon the participation of observers during the electoral process. The voice of the Christian Churches was heard because they were invited to send delegates in order to monitor the election process in many locations.

    Introduction

    "I will fear no evil, for thou art with me: thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" (Ps 23:4)

  1. With the assurance that the Lord is our Shepherd who never ceases to be with us and to lead us "to goodness and mercy," we as the Catholic Bishops of Kenya are united with all people of good will, with the Government of Kenya and its political leaders, with all involved in the growth of Kenya, in making our own contribution. We remind ourselves of God's concern and of the Truth and Love which should be our "rod and staff' which are our help "along the path of righteousness."

  2. Ever since the Elections were foreseen, in December 1991, the whole Catholic Church, including ourselves, has been praying and striving for a peaceful and positive outcome to the challenge of multi-party politics.

  3. Now that the Election Day has been announced - 7th December 1992, we are conscious of the crucial role which each individual citizen should play in choosing the leaders who will create the Kenya we want to live in. We wish to offer our own intervention, not to support or discredit any political party, but to bring the light of the Gospel into our decisions and to allow God to "lead us beside still waters and restore our souls." As shepherds of the Catholic Church we would wish to offer some advice to the voters, to the Electoral Commission and to political leaders.

  4. The Voters

  5. The Voters should:

      Use their votes for the good of Kenya as opposed to the good of particular party, group, or individual.
    • Vote for the candidates who have proved themselves accountable to God and to the electorate, for the common good in respect to rights of property, family, religion, security, education, health, etc.

    • Choose a representative who is courageous in defending Truth and Justice for all, who is completely honest in fulfilling public and private responsibilities.

    • Use their votes to make sure that the right person is elected. Not to vote may mean the wrong person being elected. If one cannot in good conscience vote for a candidate that meets the required standards one should not vote for that candidate whatever the consequences. Parliament should not have members who let us down morally and intellectually.

    • Vote according to their conscience, in accordance with the highest human values without allowing themselves to be pressured or dictated to by employers (even the Government), "god fathers," by bribes, threats, self-interest, etc. We should vote freely, we cannot accept "zones," sole candidates, family succession, etc.

    • Keep and respect the secrecy of the vote. Both before and after the vote, the voters should not state or expect others to state the way they voted. This is the only way that complete personal freedom is safeguarded.

  6.  

    The Electoral Commission

  7. While we, the Catholic Bishops, have grave reservations about many factors which so far have hindered free and fair campaigning, we would like the Electoral Commission to ensure the following without delay:

      Independent bodies (who may also be invited by "opposition" parties) be given full freedom to advise in preparations for the elections in all matters they consider necessary for free and fair elections.
    • These same independent bodies be given full freedom to monitor the elections at all stages. This is the only way they will be in a position to give a judgment on the elections which will be respected by all. Nothing should be hidden from them, indeed from anyone.

    • All parties should have equal opportunities to campaign. There should be equal opportunities to hold meetings without arbitrary restrictions. They should have complete free access to the use of Press, Radio and T.V. Political parties should be allowed to meet in all parts of the country and be protected through adequate security. The Police Force should keep the peace impartially in accordance with their motto, "Utumishi Kwa Wote" [1] and with the Laws of Kenya.

    • The Electoral Commission should be, and be seen to be, independent of any party, even the Government, in curing respect for the outcome of the elections.

    • The Electoral Commission should involve the various parties in making arrangements which are understood and accepted.

    • The Electoral Commission should treat the various party leaders with equal respect and build up a spirit of friendly and healthy competition. This mutual respect is essential after the elections are over. The winner and the losers must be able to still work together for the good of Kenya having accepted the verdict of the public.

    • The Electoral Commission has a very important educative role in teaching respect for others' opinion, tolerance, good will, transparency.

    • Urgent and joint consultations should be initiated immediately by the Electoral Commission to allow displaced Kenya citizens to vote in their own constituencies. It is difficult to see how great numbers of our people who have been driven from their homes, who live in miserable conditions in camps or on the charity of their neighbours, can be ignored. Their constitutional rights must be defended and this is surely a responsibility of the Electoral Commission.

    • The Electoral Commission should address itself without delay and with all its powers to serious complaints regarding the preparation for Election Day especially regarding the registration of voters, e.g., registration of youth who are under age, exclusion of people on ethnic grounds, etc.

  8. Political Leaders at all Levels

  9. Political leaders would make a positive contribution to fair and free elections if they would:

      Address themselves to the real issues, to their manifesto, so that voters could judge what ideas the parties and their leaders had on problems that really matter: cost of living, unemployment, lack of security, corruption, poor services in education, health, government offices, etc.
    • Reject violence in the strongest terms. They should respect Truth and their political opponents. They should learn to be tolerant with people who have different political opinions. People can differ without being accused of being traitors, dupes, fools, criminals, etc. There are several options in governing a country and all have a God-given right to express their opinions. In this connection, we deplore the fact that violence and recriminations are still going on at an alarming level despite the call of the President to stop. There can be no talk of free and fair elections whilst the present situation persists and we challenge the Government to rectify this threat to our future immediately and with all its moral and physical powers.

    • Educate their followers to be tolerant. It is only in that way that after the Elections Kenya will remain united and peaceful. There should be no talk of revenge, of noncooperation. Let them set an example which will win the respect of the whole world. Although we are convinced that many things could have been done better, that there have been injustices to the parties not in power, nevertheless, we are hoping that all will heed our appeal to the various sectors of our society.

  10. Our Final Prayer and Call

  11. Let everyone involved have in their hearts the desire that all will benefit and not just the party which wins. Let it be said not that this particular party won, but rather that Kenya won the Elections!

  12. We should appreciate the many things that have been done right, the love of peace of the majority of our people and the hope that we will have learnt many things from this first experience.

    Let us "with one accord in common bond united build this our nation together and the glory of Kenya the fruits of our labour fill every heart with thanksgiving."

    That God may be with us, especially in these critical times and during the Election itself, so that the outcome will be a step forward in our history, we ask that Sunday 6th December 1992 be a Day of Prayer in all our churches and we invite all who love and fear God to join us in our prayers.

    We bless you and remain always
    Yours devotedly in Christ

Questions for Reflection and Sharing

  1. Why are elections so important in the eyes of the Catholic Church?

  2. "I do not like any of the proposed candidates , therefore, I will no vote." Do you agree with this attitude? What can be done in that case? Is a blank vote the same as abstention?

  3. Do you know the duties and rights of voters in Kenya?

  4. What is the importance of having independent and impartial observers in the electoral process?

Notes

[1] "Service to All"