Catholic bishops accuse State of seeking to cripple church's firms

Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops from left, Philip Anyolo, Maurice Muhatia, Anthony Muheria and Martin Kivuva during a press conference in Nairobi on April 11th 2024. They called on the government to clear pending NHIF debts before transitioning to SHIF. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

The Catholic Church has accused the Kenya Kwanza administration of establishing policies targeted to weaken its role in society.

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) cited the proposed Basic Education Bill 2024 and Universities (Amendment) Bill 2024 as some of the moves by the government to curtail their contribution in the country.

The bishops also listed increased work permits for missionaries and outstanding National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) debts owed to Catholic-owned hospitals.

Archbishop Maurice Muhatia of Kisumu said there has been deliberate intent by the government to reduce and undermine the role of the Catholic Church, and indeed all Faiths as safeguards of morality in society.

“We have continued to complement the government’s efforts in a spirit of collaboration and partnership. Unfortunately, we, as the Catholic Church, are noticing changing dynamics of the relationship between ourselves and the government,” said Muhatia during a meeting in Kisumu where he was elected as the new KCCB chairperson.

He termed the proposed Bills as a dilution the role of sponsors in the education sector and in Catholic-run schools and universities.

According to Muhatia, there has been a gradual attempt to wrestle the management and role of churches in schools.

“In fact, it is a breach of the original arrangement between the Church and the State on how Church-founded education institutions were to be managed,” he said.

The bishops protested that the Universities (Amendment) Bill 2024 grants the Cabinet Secretary for Education unilateral power of dissolution and merger, conversion or amalgamation of private universities without reference to the owners.

“As a major stakeholder in the provision of education, we, as a Church, have a right to actively engage in the overall management and supervision of all our private and Catholic-sponsored schools. Most of these were born out of the initiative of the Catholic Church,” said Muhatia.

 The bishops also protested the increments of work permits charges for missionaries from Sh15,000 to Sh150,000 translating to 900 per cent increment.

“Missionaries generously contribute in all ways, and even many are buried in our soil. Many missionaries continue offering great services of charity, and social work with great sacrifice. We request that their work permit be zero rated,” said Nyeri Archbishop Anthony Muheria, who was elected KCCB deputy chairman.

On the ongoing protest by private and Faith-based hospitals over huge unpaid NHIF debts running into billions, the bishops said the amount owed to hundreds of the catholic –run dispensaries and hospitals by NHIF has accrued to over Sh2 billion.

“The effect is that most of our hospitals are crippled and not able to operate optimally, and therefore offer services to the needy. In fact, many are now unable to procure medicines and pay salaries,” said Muheria.

The bishops expressed concerns that there is no guarantee to pay the long standing debts as NHIF transitions to the new Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF).

“Our enquiries on whether our debts will be honoured have been met with mere promises and no legal guarantee. This is not only unfair but totally unjust,” he said.

Muheria added, “We demand from the government to promptly clear the NHIF debts owed to all facilities that have provided medical services under the NHIF scheme before the transition to the new SHIF.”

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