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Bishops offer to help in mending division between Uhuru and Ruto

NATIONAL
By James Wanzala | September 16th 2021

Arch Bishop of Nyeri Anthony Muheria (right) consulting with fellow Bishops after addressing a press conference at Karen, on Wednesday, September 15, 2021. [Samson Wire,Standard]

Catholic bishops were last evening hinting at their latest bid to save what is left of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto’s broken relationship.

In an address to the nation, the Conference of Catholic Bishops said the discord between the pair did not augur well for the country and its prospects of peace.

By speaking at each other, and at cross purposes, Uhuru and Ruto are creating anxiety among the people and with it the potential to ignite political violence, the bishops said.

Uhuru and Ruto have not been seeing eye to eye of late, with their fall-out playing out in their public utterances, in decisions of their respective allies and actions of State officers. 

“We are deeply concerned that if this open disagreement between the president and his deputy is taken up by their supporters, the trickle down effect it could generate across the country will be dire to even contemplate.

“In a young country like ours, it’s important that there is unity among leaders as this gives confidence to the people,’’ said Archbishop Anthony Muheria.

The bishops declined to discuss the details of peace entreaties, whether they had started, and who was involved.

“We have always been very close to the two. They are our leaders and Kenyans. Remember also on the issue of the Handshake, there were people behind the scenes and we don’t announce it.

“We are only saying what is going on is not good, it sends bad signals,” said Bishop Martin Kivuva, the chair of Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Uhuru’s predecessor Mwai Kibaki nominated Archbishop Muheria to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) but he quit in 2011.

“We are offering ourselves once again. We have done it before.

“We will continue to do it and we are not tired. In the past, we have done it quietly and privately,” Kivuva added.

At the same time, the church warned against postponing elections, and dismissed attempts to topple Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission(IEBC) chair Wafula Chebukati and three commissioners.

They said a debate on postponing the August 2022 elections is sending confusing signals and would create needless apprehension among Kenyans and mostly, the political class.

‘‘We reiterate our position that August 2022 General Election must proceed as scheduled. Postponing it will only heighten political tension, anxiety and unrest,” said Archbishop Philip Anyolo.

“The government and IEBC should come out authoritatively and confirm the date for the next General Election and ensure that all constitutional amendments for holding the elections are put in place.’’ 

The bishops said political players should rally behind the now fully constituted IEBC which should also move fast and fill the vacant position of chief executive.

‘‘We wish to firmly state again that our places of worship and liturgy are sacred and should not serve as political arenas. The church is above politics. Consequently, we as clergy, and especially the priests, are to ensure that places of worship are not used by leaders to further their political agenda,’’ said Kivuva.  

‘‘Any politician who attends a church service must do so like any other worshipers and no special consideration should be made for him or her to propagate his or her political agenda or address the congregation in our places of worship.’’

The order comes as a blow to politicians who have in the recent past resorted to visiting churches on Sundays to speak with their supporters.

This is after President Kenyatta banned political gatherings to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Anglican Church of Kenya through Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit on Sunday banned politicians from speaking in their churches.

The Catholic bishops blamed politicians for campaigning when they are aware that Uhuru suspended public gatherings and Covid-19 cases are on the rise.

‘‘It is unfortunate that no action has been taken on all those leaders who are flouting these protocols.

“We wish to state that our political leaders are sending a wrong message to ordinary Kenyans and it is sad that the law enforcement agencies are not taking action on this recklessness by politicians,’’ said Archbishop Kivuva.

The bishops also urged Kenyans to consider the ruling on Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and the Referendum Bill as a huge step towards the entrenchment of constitutionalism and the rule of law in Kenya.

“Leaders now should not concentrate on the outcome of the BBI process but focus on addressing other matters affecting Kenyans, particularly as we approach August 2022 general elections,’’ Kivuva added.

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