Kenyans going through hell, Catholic bishops tell government

Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops Chairman Rev Martin Kivuva Musonde (center) flanked by other Catholic Bishops addressing the press in Nakuru on November 9, 2023. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Against the backdrop of the escalating cost of living, rising insecurity, poverty and inequality levels, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) has sounded the alarm over the very survival of the nation.

The 27 Catholic bishops and archbishops, in a collective statement issued in Nakuru City yesterday, outlined 12 issues of concern, which they want addressed to keep alive the hopes of Kenyans.

Speaking a day after President William Ruto delivered his State of the Nation address in Parliament, the pastoral statement raised several wide-ranging issues that do not sit well with Kenyans.

The bishops took time to draw the attention of the Kenya Kwanza government to the rising cost of living, poverty and inequality levels that authorities need to address urgently.

In their hard-hitting statement read to KCCB chairman Archbishop Martin Kivuva, the bishops unanimously agreed that the state of the nation was bad. “We are concerned over the high cost of living as we continue to witness the rise of the cost of fuel, the cost of basic commodities and added demands from the care for the family, in school fees and healthcare,” read the statement.

The bishops said the harsh economy is greatly affecting those in the lower income bracket and the miserable, adding to the enormous strain brought about bye Covid-19 pandemic and drought.

“Parents find it challenging to provide for their children’s education, healthcare, and overall well-being, limiting opportunities for personal and societal growth,” they said.

They pleaded for a wider consultation and discussions among Government and other stakeholders, to review and study ways to mitigate the effects of the high cost of living.

Overtaxation, according to the bishops, is unfairly eating into the pockets of the common mwananchi.

They said they have appealed several times to the government, to reconsider the issue of over taxation that has led to anger among Kenyans.

“Many businesses are closing down or laying-off employees due to the immense drain to their resources and added tax burdens. There also seems to be a lack of sensitivity in the way KRA officials are harassing business operators in view of collecting more taxes,” they added.

They called on the government to respect the dignity of ordinary Kenyans. The bishops further stated that they were concerned over the plight of unemployed Kenyans, especially the youths.

They warned that if not addressed, the frustration would reach alarming proportions, with great social risk and dire consequences.

“We decry obvious corruption in public sectors, where cronyism, tribalism and discrimination seem to dictate the chances of employment. Fair employment is dwindling,” they said.

The bishops agreed that the state of education in Kenya was a cause for concern, aggravated by di-scoordinated and abrupt changes of policies in the entire system or in specific areas.

They condemned the withdrawal and reduction of university subsidies and Secondary School capitation, saying the same have created barriers for economically disadvantaged students.

“The situation has raised valid questions about the decision-making process within the Ministry of Education, prompting the need for transparency and accountability in their actions,” they stated.

Another issue raised was protection of the dignity of Kenyans, with proposed digital identification, seeming to indicate certain ambiguous components which need clarification and public engagement, before any implementation.

They said their observation was a violation of human dignity, especially the use of certain new technology including insertion of micro-chips or other digital elements to newborns.

“We are further worried about the data security of the information collected through digital methods, such as the iris-identification. It is unethical,” they said.

The bishops gave their take on three ongoing issues in the country; Bipartisan talks, security of Kenyans and the freedom of speech.

The 27 applauded all parties involved in the bipartisan talks, for having heeded to the plea of Kenyans, Religious leaders and many other people of good will.

They retaliated that the talks have given the country a lease of life, and renewed hope for peaceful coexistence.The bishops, however, called on those involved to have the interest of Kenyans at heart and invited Kenyans to support and contribute to the initiative in their own capacity.

“We believe the substantive discussions can be further expanded to include stakeholders and religious leaders to ensure acceptance and ownership by citizens,” they said.

On security, the bishops noted with concern the increased incidents of insecurity and loss of lives with re-emergence of armed criminal groups.

They spoke on recent uncontrolled conflicts in Sondu on the Kericho-Kisumu border, Lamu and Baringo-Samburu border in spite of the presence of Security officers.

They demanded the government to come clean and give an explanation over the shocking loss of over 400 lives in Shakahola, which to date has no explanation.

“The alleged ritual deaths, and possible human organ harvesting has had no response from any responsible agencies. This is a major scandal for our Nation at this stage of our independence,” they lamented.

On freedom of speech, the bishops called out politicians who had abused the freedom and used it to spread hate speech and demean their fellow Kenyans, fueling division and animosity.

First, they condemned corruption both within the systems of leadership and among Kenyans, calling it a devastating sickness.

“Unfortunately, we do not seem resolved enough to rid ourselves of this great monster. As the Church continues to advise Kenyans to commit themselves to eradicate this menace,” they said.