Kenyan Bishops speak out on the ‘rule of fear’

Fear not, it is I, says the Lord.” (Matthew 14: 27)

Press statement by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops

Preamble

Our dear Christians, fellow Kenyans and all people of goodwill, we, the Catholic Bishops in Kenya, meeting at St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary in Nairobi, greet you in the name of Our Risen Lord.

We find ourselves in a situation of the ‘Rule of fear’ where our normal activities are being carried out in fear.

During our week-long stay here for our Ordinary Plenary Assembly, we have taken stock of the state of the nation, reflected deeply on the direction our country is taking and identified the following issues of great concern:

1. An Emerging Culture of Death

Our country is experiencing what can be described as an emerging culture of death. In the past few weeks we have lost too many Kenyans either through terrorist attacks, road accidents, robberies, suicides, illicit brews and in some cases famine. Just this week alone, more than 100 Kenyans have died after consuming illicit alcohol. Our people cannot board public transport or even go to the market and be assured of getting back home alive. The influx of guns and other dangerous weapons into the country is alarming. Suddenly, Kenyans cannot go to places of worship without fear. A country that has for years been called the oasis of peace in the region has become a terrorist playground. The current state of insecurity is unacceptable. One would think we are in a state of emergency.

We condole with the families of the bereaved and wish those in hospitals quick recovery, we are at a loss for words to describe our sense of loss. We once again remind the Government of its duty to protect human lives and reiterate our earlier call to his Excellency the President to consider reconstituting the intelligence arm of the country.

We urge all Kenyans to remain vigilant and cooperate with the law enforcement agencies and report all suspicious elements in the society so that quick action can be taken against those bent on causing harm or endangering the lives of the people.

Security is a matter that concerns all of us. We expect the rule of law to be upheld by all because violence begets violence. While urging for protection of security agents some of who are being threatened in the line of duty, we remind them to carry out security operations within the confines of the law. We further appeal to all leaders to refrain from utterances that may divide people along religious, political, or ethnic lines.

2. Corruption and Governance

We are disturbed by reports of grand corruption at the National and County governments levels. While we acknowledge devolution as one of the boldest moves to bring services and resources closer to the people since our independence, it is disturbing that the country seems to have also devolved corruption to the counties and selfish individuals are taking full advantage to line their pockets.

We are yet to see solid development at the counties despite increase in wages and personal emoluments straining the national budget which leads us to ask: was devolution meant to benefit a few Kenyans or everyone?

The Catholic Church warns that our earlier fears that the County Governments would be centres of ethnic profiling and cleansing where people from presumed wrong ethnicity are sacked in droves have been confirmed. We urge and remind all Governors and county Officials that such conduct is inhuman and dangerous for the counties and the nation and this cannot be tolerated.

The emerging trend where Members of the County Assemblies (MCAs) are threatening Governors and other County Government Officials with impeachment at the slightest provocation or when their interests are not met is too dangerous for our nation.

We warn that Kenya’s new system of governance cannot hold if the culture of intolerance, impeachment and dismissals continues. We appeal for more sobriety and professionalism in handling county governments.

Emerging reports that the Government is considering making a payment of colossal sums of money to the Anglo-leasing contracts are deeply saddening. It is fresh in our minds that government officials told Kenyans that Anglo Leasing was a ghost company, money that had been paid was refunded and no more payment was to be made. How long will corruption be allowed to thrive in Kenya? We urge the President to lead from the front bringing an end to this blatant robbery from poor Kenyans.

Corruption of our police force has made all efforts of bringing sanity to our roads and contain insecurity totally sterile. We call for dismissal and prosecution of all those involved in corrupt deals at all levels of government beginning from the top.

In the meantime, we appeal for a united front against corruption in the Central and County Governments, and urge all elected leaders to drop side shows and power games and concentrate on service delivery. The government must also address the link between corruption, illegal guns and immigrants; the direct link between rising poverty levels, unemployment and increase in crime.

“The poor and the poorest people are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode,” (Pope Benedict XVI, Africae Munus No 59)

3. Conflict in South Sudan

As a neighbour and sister country, the conflict in South Sudan is greatly disturbing. Tales and images of bodies of men, women and children littering villages and towns in Africa’s youngest nation can no longer be ignored.Many innocent lives have been lost and there is the real threat of this escalating into another genocide on African soil. The tragic happenings in Rwanda 20 years ago are still fresh in our minds and we should not let this happen again.

While sending our message of solidarity to the people of South Sudan through the Catholic Church in the country which has invested an unimaginable amount of money to improve the social and pastoral welfare of the people, we urge regional bodies and the international community to act and bring the warring sides together to reach an amicable resolution and help save lives.

4. Conclusion

Dear Kenyans and people of good will, speaking to you as the Catholic Bishops in Kenya at this moment when our country is faced with numerous challenges, we urge you to remain prayerful and vigilant. Be your brothers’/sisters’ keeper and let us work towards the common good.

We will, however, never tire of reminding the Government of its constitutional mandate to protect lives and provide basic services. This duty cannot be delegated or ignored.

Let us all submit to God’s will through unity of love and faith grounded in Christ Jesus who is our Lord and redeemer so that we can have a secure, prosperous country.

May the Lord guide you and keep you safe during this Eastertide and always.

Signed: His Eminence John Cardinal Njue

Chairman, Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops [and by the 22 other Catholic Bishops in Kenya]

Dated: Friday, May 9, 2014