Endemic corruption, cost of living major worries for clergy

Kakamega Catholic Bishop Joseph Obanyi. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Kenyans from all walks of life flocked to churches across the country to usher in the New Year, with joy and optimism, amid the challenges posed by economic downturn in the country.

From churches to entertainment joints, Kenyans gathered to celebrate the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024 with prayers, music, laughter, and fireworks.

Religious leaders called for peace and reconciliation while preaching messages of hope to the congregants. They also prevailed upon the flock to spread love and hope as they welcomed the new year.

They appealed to Kenyans to commit to being ambassadors of peace who will not divide the nation along tribal lines.

The church leaders in Western Kenya also took issue with President William Ruto’s administration and asked him to end runaway corruption in government, reduce punitive taxes, and lower the cost of living.

Kakamega Catholic Bishop Joseph Obanyi while preaching during a mass service at St Joseph’s Cathedral in Kakamega yesterday said corruption should not be tolerated in the new year.

“You cannot preside over a country where there is massive looting of the public coffers at a time Kenyans are facing hardships due to the high cost of living and punitive taxes,” said Obanyi.

He went on: “In Kenya now, for a youth to get a government job, he or she must sell ancestral land or a cow to bribe those overseeing the recruitment process. When they finally get the job, what will stop them from stealing?”

According to Obanyi, corruption is killing the moral fabric of the society and Kenyans must deal with it with the same energy we deal with criminals.

“If you have been given responsibility, do not use it for selfish gains. Serve with diligence so that God can bless the work of your hands,” he said

“I am told right now some people are accumulating wealth to use during the 2027 General Election to defend their political seats. We must be just and work for the people who put us in the positions we hold today,” he added.

He asked Kenyans to remain resilient amidst hard economic times, saying ‘Don’t lose hope and never give up because God is on our side’.

Apostle Ken Baraza of New House of Grace International in Kakamega told Ruto to stop blaming former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s regime and come up with policies that will revive the economy.

“Let’s stop the blame game, what’s killing the country are greedy leaders, corruption, tribalism and nepotism. This is the dragon that’s swallowing the nation,” said Apostle Baraza, arguing that one canot heap blame on someone who is not in office.

He said” “We cannot rely on the past to develop the present but reduce punitive taxes, spur economic growth, and preach peace, the government should also desist from attacking the opposition when they check on its excesses.”

“The opposition has a constitutional right to correct the government. Do not call them ‘enemies of progress’ as what they are saying is the naked truth,” said Baraza.

Anglican Church of Kenya Maseno North Bishop Emeritus Simon Oketch said that ‘as we preach peace and reconciliation’ the government must know that Kenyans are suffering due to punitive taxes that have led to rising cases of criminal activities.

“People are depressed. They are on the brink of their property being auctioned as they can’t service their bank loans. School fees are waiting for them but they don’t have the money and yet more taxes are being imposed on them. This should stop,” said Bishop Oketch.

Oketch said that the only way to help Kenyans is to ease the tax burden strengthen the Kenyan shilling against the dollar and stop excess government spending on unnecessary things like foreign trips and unexplained allowances, adding that Kenyans must use the taxes we collect prudently.

Leaders from North Rift urged Kenyans to give the government time to address the high cost of living and chastised the opposition for their call for mass protests.

Eldoret Diocese Bishop Dominic Kimengich, while speaking during the New Year service at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Eldoret, called on those in authority to shun their political ambitions and instead work towards lowering the high cost of living.

“This is a special day. I know we passed through hard situations, the majority of people suffered a lot with some ending up losing their loved ones because of the cost of living. I can assure you that God will never leave his people,” said Kimengich.

Mengich further called upon the government and the opposition to embrace dialogue for the purpose of peace and tranquility in the country.

He added: “It is important for our political leaders to stick to their principles and provide adequate measures on food security. Let them forget the past and forge a new life for this country. Politics come and, go, but the country and its citizens remain.”

The Bishop further argued that there is need for both the national government and county governments to come up with mechanisms for restoring peace without engaging so much in their differences.

In Trans Nzoia, Free Pentecostal Fellowship in Kenya Presiding Bishop Joseph Munialo called on the President to address the concerns of ordinary citizens by alleviating the escalating cost of living.

Speaking in Kipsongo in Kitale, Bishop Munialo said many Kenyans are grappling with the harsh realities of a challenging economic climate.

“Kenyan citizens are yearning for hope amidst these trying economic times. The current administration must take tangible steps to demonstrate empathy and understanding,” said Munialo.

He specifically highlighted the necessity for the government to consider reducing taxes, providing a glimmer of financial relief for the hard-working citizens who are bearing the brunt of economic challenges.

Uasin Gishu Governor Jonathan Bii and Senator Jackson Mandago urged Azimio leader Raila Odinga to tone down his call for demonstrations.

The leaders also urged Kenyans to avoid being misled by government critics, arguing President William Ruto is keen on making sure the cost of living issue is taken care of.

“We are keen on uniting Kenyans, especially those living in this county,” Bii said.

“We don’t want people to divide us, that is why we are celebrating the new year together.”

He added: “It is unfortunate that we have an opposition who have lacked ideas. Instead of taking their issues to Parliament, they want to go to the street. Let us forget the past and work for the people of this country on the issues of economy.” 

In Nyanza, members of the clergy called for a better working relationship among leaders as the Country ushers in the New Year.

Bishop Robert Nyamwange of the House of Jesus The Bread of Life Ministries in Kisii said it is true that just like during the second famine cited in Genesis 26 after the first one, Jesus has declared 2024 a year of divine providence.

“God has packaged a new heart, a new Spirit, a new covenant, and a new name, and with it comes love, money, new relationships, and prosperity over our church, families, and our country.”

He added: “ To our leaders, know that to whom much is given much is required, the blood and lives of our people are in your hands may you serve the people this year and not your stomachs.”

Kisii County County Chaplain Pastor Robert Okindo said they pray for the country to maintain peace and tranquility.

“We need a seamless working relationship between the county and national governments. Public disagreements should be a thing of the past. May our leaders work as a team for prosperity,” he said.

Abraham Ododa of the Israel Assemblies Church urged Christians to stay safe during this festive season.

“We’ve had a very tough year but we thank God for making us reach here. As we begin a new year, we should remain peaceful and safe,” said Ododa.

In Kisumu, members of the clergy urged the government to work hand in hand with the opposition to avert the planned demonstrations.

According to Voice of Salvation and Healing Ministries Arch Bishop Winnie Owiti, the economic situation in the country is not conducive for street demonstrations.

“We’ve heard that the opposition is preparing to go back to the streets over the issue of the high cost of living. How I pray that the government will just hear the cries of the people and address the issues affecting the country. The issues of fuel and high taxation. Demonstrations in as much as it is a right will just worsen our economic situation,” she said.

She added: “The government should act fast and ensure there is peace and harmony in the country by listening to the ordinary mwananchi.”

Mombasa Anglican Church of Kenya Bishop Alphonse Mwaro Baya said there is need for government to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich and also ensure labour is properly compensated.

He said poverty was to blame for the spike in domestic violence and underscored the need for the government to address it as a matter of urgency.

Addressing the New Year mass, Bishop Baya raised concerns over tribalism in the country that has denied Kenyans employment opportunities in some places.

At the same time, Bishop Baya opposed a plan to bless same-sex unions saying it has no place in the church.

“As a church, we cannot bless the same-sex unions. This is against the scriptures and it has no place in the church,” he said.

On the environment, Bishop Baya urged Kenyans to heed the government’s call to plant trees saying it will mitigate against drought, and climate change and eventually enhance food security and alleviate poverty in the country. 

Nakuru Catholic Bishop Cleopas Oseso stated that Christians should live and maintain hope in God without despair despite the high cost of living and other challenges.

He called on the leaders to fulfill their promises made during the electioneering period to Kenyans such as easing the cost of living, and job creation for the youth.

Bishop Oseso criticised politicians for failing to adhere to their promises leading to frustration among youth and the high cost of living.

“Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. We pray that God inspires our leaders by giving them the wisdom to enable them to discern well on what is needed for the nation, let the leaders deny themselves luxuries for the sake of our economy,” Oseso added.

[Reports by Nathan Ochunge, Peter Ochieng, Isaiah Gwengi, Clinton Ambujo, Eric Abuga, Patrick Beja, Yvonne Chepkwony and Daniel Chege]