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On the Occasion of the 1988 Elections

On the Occasion of the 1988 Elections
Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of Kenya
December 1988

This letter was written on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Independence of Kenya, but its real context is not different from the context of the Open Memorandum sent by the Bishops to the President in November 1986, namely, the proximity of the fifth general elections (see the context of the document above). Despite the concerns expressed in the Memorandum and despite some claims coming from different sectors of the population, the "queuing system" of voting was maintained by the Government. Some citizens were "lawfully exempted," not to say practically excluded, from the exercise of voting. There was popular dissatisfaction. The Bishops were also concerned about the quality of the new candidates who might not be able to improve the situation in the country. This explains the stress of the Letter on the profile and qualifications for becoming a Member of Parliament.
  1. On the eve of 25 years of Independence, we, the Catholic Bishops of Kenya and Shepherds in Christ, take this opportunity address our Christian people and all people of goodwill concerning the forthcoming elections.

  2. Counting Our Blessings

  3. President Daniel Arap Moi has shown dynamic leadership many problems facing our fast-developing nation in an international situation which has introduced many strains not of Kenya's making. That Kenya has made great progress and enjoy peace and stability is a fact for which all Kenyans are truly grateful. Within Kenya we have not only witnessed an impressive record of progress but also many dramatic political and financial developments which show the need for improved honesty ant dedication among those who, at all levels, are responsible for policies and good management in order to make Kenya a land of Love, Peace and Unity. As representatives of the Church we express our appreciation of the fact that, even when we have had to differ on certain issues with the Government, we have been listened to.

  4. Support for the Government

  5. The President deserves the support of the whole Nation in his many efforts to build up what we all want: Love, Peace and Unity in Kenya. He has exposed, denounced and eradicated a lot of corruption, bribery and crime, as we read daily in the newspapers. However, these cases show us that these enemies of Kenya are still widespread and deeply rooted. As a Church we call for a better example from our leaders and from all those without exception, who are in responsible positions.

  6. During the Elections, we, the people of Kenya have the right to choose those who will represent us, and we must do our duty as citizens by choosing members of Parliament who will serve the country with justice towards all.

  7. Qualifications for Membership of Parliament

  8. We strongly advocate sending representatives to our new Parliament who are:

    1. People who consider themselves accountable to God and to their electorate, who consider the public interest rather than their own, who keep in touch with their constituencies, and who are faithful to their election promises.

    2. People who respect the rights of others with regard to property who do not use their position to amass property, especially land and money, unmindful of many who have little or none.

    3. People who promote partnership between Government, religious bodies and parents in all areas of development, but especially in education, where parents have shown a desire for increased religious influence in schools through genuine sponsorship, management, registration of schools, etc.

    4. People who respect religious beliefs, the importance of family life, the rights of the unborn child, and many other areas concerned with medical ethics.

    5. People of genuine integrity, moral courage in the cause of truth and justice, and who are competent for the posts entrusted to them.


  9. Elections 1988

  10. As Pastors we exhort you to preserve peace in implementing the arrangements made by the Government and in exercising your rights to vote freely.

  11. In order that Elections take place peacefully, it is necessary that all those who are responsible for the arrangements for Nominations and Elections must avoid all forms of manipulation and ensure that the Wananchi (citizens) can use their Constitutional right without undue or unfair pressures from any quarter.

  12. Certain sections of the community were lawfully exempted from taking part in the nomination procedures, e.g., the military, the Civil Service and the clergy. Other citizens may have important reasons for not queuing. It is hoped that some means will be found for them not to be excluded from their right to vote as might follow from the KANU Nomination Rules, regarding the 70 percent or more recorded votes (cf. Rule 31 (i) ).

  13. Right and Duty to Vote

  14. Ours is a Nation where we may freely choose those who will represent us, where we may now review the performance of our present representatives, weigh them in the balance of truth, justice and unselfish service, and, if we find them wanting, reject them and elect others in their place. This is our inalienable right.

  15. But this gives rise to another issue, viz., the character of the candidates themselves. There is little benefit in voting out the old if the newly-elected may prove equally disappointing. Our vote can help to eliminate the unworthy and improve the quality of the new Kenya Parliament. Once every five years the law puts this power in our hands. Let us use it wisely and bravely. Our vote is a powerful weapon for unity, an instrument of liberty, justice and peace. On our voting, on the quality of it, the discernment behind it, depend the progress and peace of our country.

  16. Integrity and Competence of Candidates

  17. The media has publicised much cheating by prominent people, many examples of complete disregard for the constitutional rights of the individual, cases where poor investors have been defrauded of their hard-earned savings, etc. All this shows us the need for great care in choosing people for responsible positions.

    Surely candidates for Parliament who do not respect God nor are guided by His Laws will not respect Kenya's interests. We are trying to get rid of bribery. Can we accept a candidate who gives bribes? Are we honest about the evil of bribery if we ourselves accept bribes? Where do we start?

  18. We should demand professional competence and moral integrity in our aspiring leaders. We must expect them to be concerned with the increasing gap between those who have and those who do not have. We expect them to feel the distress of so many who have a big problem about the cost of basic foods education, medicine, with the tragedy of unemployment, of youth, of serious problems with lack of transport, public and personal security, and so many other important concerns where we are all involved, and all must help the Government.


    All these are difficult problems for any Government to face but to solve them we need hard working and public-spirited members of Parliament, we need people of courage who will defend the truth and demand justice for the poor, for the ordinary Wananchi, and others.

  19. Need for God's Help

  20. What we have written is written with a sincere desire to keep supporting our Government in its tremendous and difficult challenges. We are sure that free elections will build a better Kenya where the Government is truly of the people. We believe that the more Kenya accepts God's Laws of Love and justice for all, the more He will bless Kenya. We unite with all our fellow citizens in prayer, on the eve of these historic elections, with the words of our National anthem:

    "O God of all Creation, bless this our land and Nation. Justice be our Shield and Defender, may we dwell in Unity, Peace and Liberty, Plenty be found within our borders."

Questions for Reflection and Sharing

  1. Why should the Church and every Christian be actively committed to the electoral process of the country?

  2. The State and the Church are mutually independent. Why did the Bishops ask political candidates to be accountable to God and be people who respect religious beliefs?

  3. Quite often good Christians, both men and women, keep away from proposing themselves as candidates for public offices. Why? Is this attitude correct?

  4. What kind of professional competence do you require of candidates?