Church group rallies Kenyans to ‘take back their country’

14 September 2018

The country must face up to problems, the National Council of Churches of Kenya says

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) greets the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, in Nairobi, earlier this year

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) greets the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, in Nairobi, earlier this year

KENYANS must “take back their country from the grip of ethnic-, grievance-, and fear-driven politicians” in the wake of the 2017 presidential elections, the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) has urged.

Dozens of people have been killed in clashes between protesters and the police since President Uhuru Kenyatta was re-elected, in August last year.

A legal challenge brought by the Opposition leader, Raila Odinga, was upheld in the Supreme Court of Kenya, which ordered a re-run of the election two months later (News, 8 September). The rerun was boycotted by Mr Odinga, and protests from his supporters prevented polling stations from opening in 25 constituencies. Mr Kenyatta won 98 per cent of the vote on a turnout of 39 per cent.

In the communiqué of its 63rd General Assembly, held at Jumuia Conference and Beach Resort, Kilifi County, last week, the NCCK, which includes the Anglican Church of Kenya, acknowledges the turbulence surrounding the two elections.

It states: “The period between 9 August 2017 and 30 January 2018 remains one of the most volatile and violent in our recent history, having witnessed violent clashes between demonstrators and security agencies on a daily basis. More than a hundred Kenyans lost their lives, and an unknown number were injured, some left with permanent disabilities.”

Earlier this year, President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga were photographed shaking hands, and have since jointly appointed a Building Bridge Initiative task force. The NCCK said that the move “provided relief for the nation, and gave Kenyans a chance to move on” from the elections.

The communiqué goes on: “However, the electoral process revealed the glaring reality that Kenyans have been unwilling to face up to the fact that the primary problem facing our nation is that politicians have successfully set themselves as the creators and solvers of every crisis we go through. Kenyans must reverse this trend and take back their country from the grip of ethnic-, grievance-, and fear-driven politicians.”

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It describes the initiative as “primarily a gentleman’s agreement” that is not inclusive: the body had left out key constituencies — most troublingly, women, young people, and people with disabilities — and had no structure for implementation, it says.

“It is inaccurate to imply that the entirety of Kenya’s problems are to be resolved through an agreement between two leaders only.”

The communiqué goes on to list recommendations in response to seven “dialogue issues” in Kenya. This includes remedying the election tradition of “cut-throat competition” that it says fosters corruption; prosecuting both old and new corruption; reforming the political make-up to include women, young people, and disabled people; reforming national security to end police corruption, judicial killings, and lethal force in crowd control; ensure tax justice; and strengthen devolution and governance.

It also urges the government to reverse the “skyrocketing cost of living” in Kenya, starting by reducing taxes and the national debt; and to review the Basic Education Act 2013, which, it says, “effectively grabbed and nationalised church-owned schools without consultation or compensation”.

It continues: “We further continue to reject the proposed Comprehensive Sexuality Education curriculum noting that at its core, it promotes unfettered sexual promiscuity, abortion and sexual aberrations.”

Finally, it recommends a law to protect people who are disenfranchised by the extractives industry. “It is our hope that extractives will be a blessing to our nation, not a curse.”

The communiqué is signed by the newly appointed chair of the NCCK, Archbishop Timothy Ndambuki, and the general secretary, Canon Peter Karanja.

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