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Independence and Peace

Independence and Peace
Pastoral Letter on the Occasion of the Tenth Anniversary of Independence, 12 December 1973
8 December 1973

This letter was written ten years after the independence of Kenya. Of the fourteen Bishops who signed it there were already even Kenyan Bishops, among whom was His Eminence Cardinal Otunga, Archbishop of Nairobi, who had been created a Cardinal by His Holiness Paul VI earlier that same year. These prelates are ,signs of the progress made by the Catholic Church since the previous Pastoral Letter, as the Bishops pointed out. Three new Dioceses had been created since independence as well as the Kenya Catholic Secretariat and St. Thomas Major Seminary in Nairobi. AMECEA opened its permanent Secretariat in the Kenyan capital (1964) and held its 1973 plenary meeting there.

Progress in the country, mainly in the field of economy and development, was also visible during this decade as is clearly acknowledged at the beginning of the letter. However, the insistence on Peace is not only based on "recent world events" that are not specified in the letter (See No. 9), but also reflects a political tension that was growing in the country among political leaders. Tom Mboya, co-founder of KANU and its first chairman when the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was still in prison, had presented himself as a powerful political figure. In 1965, he presented his famous Sessional Paper on African Socialism. For a country member of the Commonwealth contrasting with the majority of African socialist countries, this Sessional Paper was something so new that some saw in it a real threat. The fact is that Tom Mboya was mysteriously assassinated in a street of Nairobi in 1969. Though his murder was perceived by some as a political murder with the blessing "`from above," it was also interpreted by others as a tribal murder, since Tom Mboya was not a member of the Kikuyu tribe.

In 1966 under the pressure of the KANU conference at Limuru, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was ousted from the Vice-presidency of the Republic. Daniel Arap Moi was appointed Vice-president by Mzee Kenyatta. Odinga resigned and started his own political party, the Kenya People's Union (KPU), counting on the support of his own tribe, the Luo, who lived mostly in the west of Kenya. In the year 1969 Odinga published his book entitled Not yet Uhuru (Literally meaning: Not yet Independence) as a cry of opposition to the authoritarian way he judged Mzee Kenyatta was ruling the country. The consequence was that the KPU was banned as a political party and Odinga went to prison.

It was not only on the Luo side that political tension was growing. In 1971, there was an abortive coup d'etat, this time planned by the GEMA (Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association) in which there was a political trend opposed to Mzee Kenyatta. None of these events are mentioned in the Pastoral Letter, but if the Bishops are insisting on peace and cautioning against tribalism and nepotism (No.9), it is because there were grounds to fear instability in the country, a concern accentuated by the fact that the following year, 1974, was the year for the second general elections. The Letter was given on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the 8th of December, and meant to be read in all public churches on Sunday, 9 December.


  1. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of our cherished Independence, we, the Catholic Bishops of Kenya, wish to address to our Christian people and to all people of goodwill, words of greeting, hope and gratitude.

  2. Remarkable Progress


  3. With you we rejoice because of the progress and peace that mark the first decade of our Independence. The blessings our hard-won Uhuru has brought are many indeed. The general standard of living of our people has improved considerably. Educational facilities have been greatly extended. Social welfare and health benefits have multiplied.. The rule of law has been scrupulously upheld. Peace has been our constant blessing. Kenya's voice is heard with respect in the Council of the Nations. An admiring world regards our country as one of the most stable and progressive nations in developing Africa. These are no small favours. They deserve a big measure of gratitude.

  4. Mzee's Outstanding Role


  5. Here everyone recognises and is truly grateful for the unique and outstanding role played by His Excellency, the President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Without his wise leadership and the dedication of his Government, such progress could never have been achieved. The Freedom or Independence which we now celebrate anew is closely bound up with the freedom of God's children which is our common heritage. And so, it is to God we turn, with the gratitude of children, to thank Him for His unceasing goodness and by our gratitude to earn His continued protection and the wonderful "baraka" of peace.

  6. Church More Self-reliant


  7. During these years, which we now so justly celebrate, the young Church of Kenya has made remarkable strides. Just as a true national pride has shown itself in our people's striving towards a healthy self-reliance at all levels, so too in the growth of the Catholic Church we are proud and happy to note that the Church in Kenya is much more self-reliant now than it was ten years ago. Then there were two African Bishops, now there are seven. New dioceses have been established. The number of our major seminarians has shown a marked increase. More and more, sons and daughters of Kenya are taking over the control and animation of our Church affairs. Our Catholic laity have received a new status and impetus since Vatican II. Through the "Baraza la Waumini" and the Parish Councils, they are becoming more involved and active in the work of the Church in their own community. In the days to come, they will be more intimately involved in the liturgical life of our own people as certain functions, formerly the prerogative of the priest, pass into their hands.

  8. Ecumenical Awareness


  9. A new solidarity has grown up between us Catholics and our Christian Brethren. Through the introduction of the joint Syllabus and various initiatives undertaken in common, old tensions have dissolved, a new awareness of our common purpose has emerged and we are learning to pray together as people who acknowledge "One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism," thus hastening the day of true religious unity which is the goal of all ecumenical effort.

  10. Finally, the appointment of the first Kenya Cardinal earlier this year has stamped, as it were, the young Church of Kenya with the seal of maturity and adulthood.

  11. For all of these and many other blessings we offer the God of all goodness our deepest gratitude, especially in the daily prayer of thanksgiving, the Mass.

  12. Only Love Unities


  13. Ten years ago in our joint letter on the glad occasion of Independence we stressed the message of love, the very heart of the Good News, as being most fundamental to our survival and growth as a nation. That message is timeless. It is still valid today. Only love unites. Unity is the deep desire of all who seek to walk the path of peace. "Unity is strength," our Swahili proverb rightly insists. A nation united in purpose, in the pursuit of true ideals such as justice, truth and self-reliance, cannot fail to enjoy the blessings of peace.

  14. Christian Witness Muted by Selfishness


  15. But peace, as recent world events remind us so vividly, is a frail and fragile possession. So much in us and about us conspires against peace and unity. Progress would be destroyed by greed for power and unfair sharing of the wealth of the country. The forces of discord that unleash themselves in the bloodshed and destruction of war (in such sad and largely unpublicised wars, genocide, and fratricide as have taken a terrible toll of human life even in our beloved Africa in recent years) are hidden in every human heart. Too often they surface, to the great distress of others, in the frequently lamented evils of exploitation, tribalism, nepotism, injustice in all its sordid and selfish guises. Then, indeed, the Christian witness to which we are all pledged is muted and reversed by behaviour that our forefathers-as yet unaware of the Gospel and its challenge- would never have tolerated.

  16. Peace-A Daily Struggle

  17. It is pointless to deplore the disorder in our world, to insist that "peace is the work of justice," if we fail to pinpoint the part each of us individually plays in the campaign for peace. The battle for peace (and it is a daily struggle) is fought and won on the threshold of our individual lives-in the homesteads of parents who live together in mutual fidelity and love, in the factory where an honest day's work is done and is justly remunerated, in the business premises where the owner puts service to his fellows before profit to himself, in the classroom where teachers are aware that they fill the role of Christ who identified himself with children and threatened with dire punishment those who would scandalise them. Peace is not a far-away dream to be made an uncertain reality by globetrotting diplomats. Peace is a much nearer-home affair. Each of us is called to build and maintain the fabric of peace.

  18. Peace Is My Affair also


  19. There is no peace without reconciliation. Christ is our peace because He has reconciled us to God. That reconciliation continues daily in the life of each one of us through our love of God and one another. Already we have begun to celebrate the Holy Year which has as its theme: "Renewal and Reconciliation." There is a reminder here that we are all sinners, all constantly needing to repent, to renew our baptismal commitment, to be reconciled to God in Christ. And here precisely lies our contribution to the progress and true prosperity of our country. Each of us must say sincerely: "The peace of Kenya, my country, is in my keeping, is my affair also. I shall promote that peace, protect it and deepen it by my daily fidelity to Christ and to his saving values, by my spirit of forgiveness, by my readiness to help those in need, by being faithful to the law of my country, by thinking and doing in the spirit of "harambee."

  20. Peace-Supreme Harambee Project


  21. This may seem a small thing we ask of you and of ourselves. But it is much bigger than any harambee project ever undertaken. We are being asked to be the channels of Christ's peace to the world and to our people by building the ark of peace in our own hearts. That is our vocation. That is the challenge of the Christian code: "Love one another. .. forgive one another as God has forgiven you in Christ ... bear one another's burdens ... blessed are the peace-makers..."

  22. Peace-A Christmas Challenge


  23. And is not this a Christmas thought too? During these days of Advent, Bethlehem beckons and the light of that distant night shines out anew. And across our skies more vividly than any comet's glow is written the saving message: "Peace to men of goodwill." Men of good will, persons of integrity, with a keen sense of justice, open to the call of pity, generous in giving, noble in forgiving, faithful, gentle and kind... these are the people who are "the salt of the earth," who will build up our nation and will "edify the Body of Christ." These are the people we are all called to be.

  24. And that is our prayer and our hope-that all, leaders of Church and State and the people they serve, will gird themselves with renewed fervour and dedication to the task of unity and mutual understanding, to the task of justice and peace.

  25. Given on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December 1973, and appointed to be read in all public churches on Sunday 9 December 1973, a National day of Prayer.

    1. The Bishops highlighted the progress of the Church between 1960 and 1973. Can you say that the Church in Kenya has made progress since then. Give some concrete examples.

    2. At what levels could every citizen make Peace his or her own affair? Give concrete examples.

    3. Why did the Bishops call Peace "A supreme Harambee?"

    4. Is Christian witness still muted today in Kenya. In your own area?

  26. Questions for Reflection and Sharing