Noah Cheploen and Sophie Njoka @PeopleDailyKe
Catholic bishops and the government have hit out at proponents of secession, terming it a bad move for nationhood. The clerics urged the National Super Alliance (Nasa) to end the secession talk and their economic boycott, saying there were other ways to end the prevailing political stand-off.
Government Spokesperson Eric Kiraithe said Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi were using the secession issue to remain relevant after the completion of their 10-year two terms tenure in 2022.
Speaking after a meeting at St Mary’s Pastoral Centre in Nakuru, the bishops regretted the current state of affairs, saying the country is deeply divided and cited need for collective responsibility amongst all Kenyans of goodwill. Meeting under the auspices of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), the bishops drawn from all the 26 Catholic dioceses urged politicians to watch their utterance to avoid polarising the country further.
They said the fabric holding the country together had been stretched to the limit, adding that the resilience and resolve of Kenyans had been put to a stern test. “We’re seeing a nation divided down the middle by political and ethnic lines. The violence and police brutality reported in various parts of the country is scaring,” they added, saying violence cannot be a solution to problems the country is facing.
The bishops spoke on a day that the government warned that not even an inch of the country can be allowed to secede. Kiraithe said Joho and Kingi have been enjoying the trappings of power that they would wish to retain beyond 2022 and were, therefore, using the secession debate for selfish political gain. “You have heard of people wanting to be Sultans and all that nonsense.
People incapable of sweeping their streets or to authentically account for the money received from the central government are the ones now talking about secession. The secession talk is totally diversionary and it has a political agenda that might not be necessarily in the interest of the Republic of Kenya,” said Kiraithe. He asked Nasa leaders to ensure they remain within the law and warned them against disrupting peace in the country.
He said President Uhuru Kenyatta will be sworn into the office as required by the law if the Supreme court rules in his favour in the petitions filed against him and warned those threatening to stop the swearing in not to dare breach the law.
“The law is the law and Kenya has adequate capacity to enforce the law, what is legally binding to be done shall be done whether one or two people like it or not, therefore I would advise Nasa to remain within the law,” he said.
It was also a day that saw Nasa leader Raila Odinga direct counties in the opposition strongholds to begin debating motions to create the so-called people’s assemblies. As way of ending the statement and suspicion, the bishops challenged leaders across the political divide to drop hardline positions and embrace dialogue, adding that talking will bring together Kenyans of all walks of life.
They said the Catholic Church is ready to spearhead the process while also hinting at the need to amend the Constitution to cure “problematic areas.” The bishops maintained national dialogue should remain an agenda whichever way the presidential petition at the Supreme Court goes.
“We are asking the political class to mind their utterances and save the country from falling into civil strife and anarchy,” they said in statement read by KCCB chairman Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homa Bay Diocese. They blamed distribution of resources, corruption, poverty, hate speech and reckless utterances, negative ethnicity, poor management of elections and political intolerance for the prevailing animosity in the country.
“We have continually called for credible and peaceful elections and the need for Kenyans to elect leaders of integrity, but what we’re now witnessing is disheartening; the country is now threatened by disunity,” they warned.
The head of the Catholic Church in Kenya, John Cardinal Njue, attended the Wednesday evening meeting before leading the 26 bishops in presiding at a special mass for Eldoret Bishop Cornelius Korir who died last week. He will be buried today in Eldoret.
“We have to learn the way of non-violence and learn to handle our differences in an amicable and loving way. Stop using violence for violence begets violence,” said the statement that was also jointly read by Bishop Martin Kivuva (Mombasa) and Rev John Owaa. Bishop Alfred Rotich, former head of the Military Ordinariate in Kenya, urged Kenyans to shun hate speech and embrace peace, love and unity.