AFRICA/KENYA - Country plagued by chaos: the bishops intervene to advocate dialogue and peace

Thursday, 20 July 2023

Nairobi (Agenzia Fides) - Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, respectively the capital, second and third largest cities of Kenya are in the midst of large and violent protests against a series of taxes introduced by the government of President William Ruto. The protests began on July 19 after Raila Odinga, leader of the opposition Azimio la Umoja (Declaration of Unity), launched a three-day protest. Schools and businesses have been closed, public transport halted and police in riot gear. According to the local press, the Azimio coalition had called on Kenyans to take to the streets, armed with pots and ladles, to demand that the government revise the finance law and "feed the country". Already last week, 13 people lost their lives in clashes with security forces and more than 20 others were seriously injured. The Bishops of Kenya (KCCB) immediately reacted by asking that the bipartisan negotiations, which failed, be resumed in a different context, with the participation of religious leaders and other leaders and bodies. "We believe that there is no problem, no matter how difficult, that cannot be resolved through dialogue. We must at all costs avoid the loss of human life. No more blood must be shed", the Bishops said in their heartfelt appeal to President Ruto and Mr. Odinga. “It is imperative that the government actively listens to the plight of Kenyans, provides clear and honest explanations for broken promises and prioritizes policies that alleviate socio-economic burdens,” they insisted. “A lot remains unclear about government policy and direction; for example, education, health, the plight of the poor, strategies to improve employment, etc. "We know that criminals are mingling with protesters to vandalize property, rob people, injure and even kill. Police should prosecute them to ensure peaceful protests are held within the law." To the situation of chaos that is degenerating in the country are added the victims of the so-called "fasting sect" who, according to local media, have exceeded 400 dead, after the police exhumed other followers from mass graves in the forest of Shakaola, in the coastal hinterland of the country (see Fides, 26/5/2023). (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 20/7/2023)