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Catholic Church wants plebiscite talks resumed after 2022 election

By Julius Chepkwony | May 28th 2021
Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops Chairman Most Rev Martin Kivuva (centre) flanked by other Catholic Bishops addressing the press at Marian National Shrine in Subukia, Nakuru County. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The Catholic Church has called for a shift of focus from the amendment of the Constitution through the Building Bridges Initiative, saying it can come after the August 2022 General Election.

In a statement on the state of the nation released at the Marian National Shrine in Subukia, Nakuru County on Wednesday, the church said as the fate of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill awaits the conclusion of a court process, the country should shift focus to the General Election.

Through their newly elected Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) Most Reverend Martin Kivuva, the church noted that the court process could drag for months, making it impossible to hold a referendum before the elections.

They were referring to a case filed at the Court of Appeal by proponents of the BBI, under the leadership of ODM leader Raila Odinga, seeking to overturn a High Court judgement that stopped a constitutional referendum.

At the meeting, Kivuva was elected chairperson of KCCB, replacing Philip Anyolo. Nakuru Archdiocese Bishop Maurice Muhatia was elected vice-chairperson. They noted that in order to ensure a democratic, constitutional and inclusive process based on the law and dialogues, any far-reaching constitutional amendment should come after the 2022 General Election.

Kenyans, the bishops said should pursue through parliament, some essential reforms to ensure a peaceful, progressive, and prosperous country in the lead up to and after the 2022 General Election.

“We demand that the August 2022 General Election proceeds as provided in the Constitution, and no thought of postponing it to a later date should be entertained whatsoever,” read the statement by all the 23 bishops at their Ordinary Plenary Assembly.

On the reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission they said the process should be expedited to avoid operational hitches that could affect the 2022 General Election.

They said it was clear that the government was reluctant to replace the commissioners who left. “The fact that it has taken years to replace the commissioners who moved from the institution signals our reluctance as a country to get our governance systems supported in a way that they can gain public trust,” they stated.

The 41 judges

The bishops also raised concern on the delayed appointment of 41 judges cleared by the Judicial Service Commission, saying it had created undue tension between the Judiciary and the Executive. The delay in the appointment, they indicated, had a far-reaching effect on the delivery of justice, and led to the increase in unresolved cases and high workload in the hands of few judges.

An amicable solution, they said, should be reached between parties concerned to address any area of contention and avoid crippling of the courts. With the appointment of Martha Koome as Chief Justice, they said it was their hope that the Judiciary would fully discharge its role as given in the Constitution of administering and discharging justice with impartiality.

The bishops said the attack on judges following the declaration of the BBI as unconstitutional was unacceptable and an affront to the independence of the Judiciary.

“Some of these reactions, especially the personalised attacks on the High Court judges, are uncalled for and are unacceptable in a civilised society,” stated the clerics.

They called for sobriety in all engagements over the decision of the court to avoid polarising the country at such a difficult time when the country is faced with the Covid-19 pandemic. The bishops called on leaders to uphold the rule of law and show respect for institutions.

They, however, said they found it painful that churches were closed to the public whenever there was a lock-down yet at the same time people were allowed to go to markets and other places without restrictions. They appealed to the leaders to avoid public gatherings that might endanger the lives of people.

Vaccine’s safety

In acknowledging vaccination as a measure to contain the spread of the virus, the clerics called on the government to ensure the safety of the vaccine, transparency and accountability in the procurement of the vaccine. “The procurement process of the vaccine should be as transparent and accountable as possible, as this country cannot afford a new round of embezzlement of resources intended for containment of Covid-19. We constantly decry the real pandemic of corruption that ails our country,” they said.

The clerics added that they were concerned by the stand-off between the ARV funding agency and the government of Kenya, and called for a speedy solution to the issues preventing the drugs from being released and distributed.

Political leaders were reminded of the sacredness of places of worship and urged to respect such.

“We wish that our churches and places of worship be fully respected by excluding anything outside worship from the sanctuary,” read the statement.


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