Protesters block a road in Nairobi on 7 July Protesters block a road in Nairobi on 7 July 

Kenyan bishops urge respect for laws ahead of general elections

The Kenya Bishops’ Conference highlights the importance of keeping the public peace and respect for the rule of law, as the country prepares for its general elections set to take place in August.

By Benedict Mayaki, SJ

As Kenyans prepare for general elections scheduled for 9 August, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) has enjoined civil servants in the country to abide by the law and remain faithful in their service to citizens.

“We count on our civil servants to be faithful and law-abiding during the forthcoming transitions and focus on service to citizens, and not so much about positions in the new Government,” the Bishops said in their weekly Sunday message, read by Fr. Kevin Ndago on behalf of Bishop Salesius Mugambi of the Meru Diocese.

The Bishops further encourage the civil servants “to ensure that people with bad morals do not take advantage of the period of transition to steal public funds and property.”

Appreciation of civil servants

The KCCB expressed their appreciation of the civil servants who work in the background to ensure the smooth running of government systems, and urged them to be non-partisan in the execution of their duties.

In particular, the Bishops point at those in key ministries, including healthcare and education, encouraging them to ensure continuity in their ministry even if “elections disrupt government operations in many ways, including delivery of service to the citizen.”

Campaign challenges

The Bishops further reflected on the challenges associated with electoral campaigns, with emotions shown in support of preferred candidates. They invited citizens to embrace civic education while shunning people who incite others to break the law.

“We should not only operate within the law but also go beyond it. Our conscience tells us what is right and what is wrong,” the Bishops said.

“Not knowing the law is not an excuse, as we have the higher law,” they insist, adding that we have “God’s law and conscience that speaks to us.”

Putting a stop to corruption

The KCCB went on to speak up against corruption in Kenya, noting that it should be curtailed in all it forms.

They highlight that many break the law in a bid to “seek personal benefit,” including by disobeying traffic rules, overloading vehicles, overspeeding, forging documents and engaging in covering for one another.

“This is why corruption thrives in our country, because we use corruption to short circuit the law,” the Bishops said, noting that the rich and powerful enjoy impunity even if they “incite others or use character assassination or personal insults.”

The KCCB, in this regard, calls for change from within and in groups, urging Kenyan citizens to stop “covering anyone who disobeys the law”.

Joint responsibility of keeping the peace

With less than a month away from the elections, the Bishops invite Kenyans to work together to keep the peace within the country.

“The keeping of peace starts with each of us rejecting anything unlawful, especially the rampant bribery during the campaigns,” they said, cautioning Kenyans against “unruly public behaviour” and calling on them to reject “incitement to unlawful acts.”

The Bishops also stated their opposition to the tactics employed by political leaders who divide the citizens along lines of political parties, ethnicity, class or religion. They further urge the law enforcers to bring such persons who promote division among Kenyans to justice.

The Catholic leaders then reminded citizens that “Keeping law and order is not a duty reserved only to the police, national government, administration and the courts.” Rather, citizens are to “work together with these agencies to pre-empt any form of public indiscipline that might rob us of the peace and quiet we need as we vote on August 9.”

“We must commit totally to defend and safeguard peace before, during and after elections,” the KCCB stressed.

13 July 2022, 12:05