A NATION CRYING FOR PEACE

Blessed are the peace makers…Mt. 5:9

Archbishop Okoth

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Justice and Peace Commission expresses our deepest condolence and sympathies with the families of Mpeketoni. We acknowledge the anger and desperation of Kenyans arising from the spiralling insecurity and rising tension in the country. The heinous killings in Mpeketoni that has claimed over 50 lives of Kenyans, a massacre that lasted five hours, sent shock waves across the country and beyond begging the questions: Where was the security? Where was the intelligence? Where were the police? What happened to the various road blocks? This is just another indicator of the overgrown insecurity; which has continuously repeated itself over and over again. Similar situations have been witnessed in Bungoma, Busia, Wajir, Mombasa and others. It seems our security agencies have failed to unearth and prevent a single attempt.

At this time, we remind ourselves that we are Kenyans. Not only do we have rights but also responsibilities to ourselves and to each other. It is our responsibility as Kenyans to be our brothers or sisters keeper. Our President has reminded us over and over again that “security is our shared concern. It must start from you and me”. Our country can only be secure if we appreciate our diversity, adhere to the rule of law, and respect each other. In Pope Francis words,…what we are called to respect in each person is first of all his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices. We are therefore called to think, speak and write respectfully of the other, not only in his presence, but always and everywhere, avoiding unfair criticism.

 

Political situation in Kenya

  1. While the Catholic Church acknowledges the reality of divergent opinion in human society; it is also conscious of having conflict management and the need for resolution mechanism as means to addressing the difference.  While all that abides, the current stand of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) and Jubilee Coalition is not healthy in promoting national peace, cohesion and national unity. The initial acceptance of national dialogue by the head of State President Uhuru Kenyatta was worth applauding, but its subsequent rejection by some of the Jubilee members is regrettable.  The continuous call by CORD for a national dialogue can only be appreciated if it will be beneficial for the country. The call for the national Saba Saba conference without government leaders will not auger well for the expected national cohesion, peace, stability and security for our Nation. Without prejudice to the article 33 of the Constitution, on freedom of expression; Kenya needs preliminary committees for consultation on each of the national issues and the composition of the committees should be balanced from each side of the political divide to establish the feasibility of the national dialogue. The committees in some circumstance can bring together all stakeholders including the religious leaders and private sector. The Jubilee government should make efforts to reach out to the opposition for the benefit of the country. We are appealing to the two political divides to display political maturity and to put the interest of the country before their own coalition’s interests.  All stakeholders are ready to meet with all those interested in seeking genuine dialogue for the sake of the common Kenyan.
  2. Kenya is witnessing a threatening political situation similar to the build-up to the 2007 General elections which culminated to the 2007/2008 post elections violence. We can never again as a county, take things for granted. The Church and the rest of Kenyans do not wish to see the same situation of 2007/08 repeat itself. We only have one Kenya, and we must guard it jealously.

 

Insecurity situation in Kenya

  1. We are witnessing numerous frightening challenges, including terrorist attacks, influx of refugees from embattled neighbours, entrenched corruption, re-emergence of militia groups/gangs, high cost of living, ethnic violence and general insecurity.
  1. From the outset, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops-Catholic Justice and Peace Commission reiterate its deepest concern over the deteriorating security situation which continues to impact negatively on the enjoyment of peace and human rights in Kenya. We join other Kenyans in expressing our heartfelt condolences and solidarity with the victims of terror attacks, brutal killings, ethnic violence and general incidences of insecurity.
  2. We are alive to the immense challenges that the government faces in combating insecurity and violent crime that continues to abound. While supporting the on-going efforts by the state to combat crime especially terrorism, it is worth noting that the greatest threat to our security is corruption in the security sector that has made it too easy for foreigners to penetrate our borders.
  3. It is notable that ethnic violence and killings that have been witnessed in the recent past (Wajir, and Kisumu-Kericho Counties) to mention a few, have undertones of political manipulation of ethnic identities, combined with economic drivers of conflict (such as inequality, poverty, land rights, unemployment and historical grievances which are easily exploited and have been at the root of ethnic violence in killings being witnessed today.

Recommendations

  1. In view of the foregoing, the Catholic Church recommends the following;
  • The national government to rethink its security measures and policing to match the ever dynamic insecurity challenges
  • The national government ought to reorganize and re-orient the national intelligences to focus more on collecting criminal intelligence as opposed to political intelligence.
  • The security organs ought to be pro-active to insecurity situation to prevent possible criminal activities than being reactive which often leads to arbitrary arrests, detection and abuse of human rights
  • It is important for the government to pursue and conclude the Police reforms agenda as informed by the constitution and the other relevant laws
  • The government should pursue ways and means to address some of the longstanding issues  including economic drivers of conflict (youth unemployment, poverty, exclusion, land rights and historical grievances)
  • The political class ought to work for Kenyans and to stop manipulating ethnic identity and fuelling conflict that sometimes lead to loss of lives
  • The government and the opposition coalitions should focus more on what benefits the Kenyan citizens in terms of peace, development and unity.
  • The government to reach out to the opposition to have amicable solutions to the current standoff. The government in response to reach out, ought to put in place committees on all national issues as a precursor to the national dialogue. The composition of the committees should be balanced; with a multi-sectorial approach that will bring on board the religious leaders, the private sector, civil society, Business based committees, Ethnic based committees and academicians.  These committees should visit some of the areas we have witnessed instances of rampant insecurity like areas like Mpeketoni, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Mombasa, Kisumu – Kericho borders, Busia, Bungoma, West Pokot/Turkana borders, Nairobi – Eastleigh.
  • Both the coalitions should be tolerant and accommodate each other for the sake of the Nation.  The Church and other stakeholders are ready to mediate.
  1. In conclusion, the Catholic Church wishes to state that the rising tension between the government and the opposition is causing panic and anxiety to the general public.  It is necessary for the government and the opposition to find other amicable ways and means to settle their differences. We appeal to all Kenyans to uphold peace at all times. Divided we fall and in unity, we stand.  May we dwell in Peace and Unity.

Issued by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops-Catholic Justice and Peace Commission.

 

Most Rev. Zacchaeus Okoth                                    

Chairman                                                                

Catholic Justice and Peace Commission      

 

 

Rt. Rev. Cornelius Arap Korir                       

Vice Chairman

Catholic Justice and Peace Commission      

 

Rt. Rev. Martin Kivuva Musonde                          

Member

Catholic Justice and Peace Commission

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