Kenyan Bishops, led by the Chairman of KCCB and Archbishop of Mombasa, Martin Kivuva Musonde, have appealed to Kenyan President William Ruto and Opposition Leader Raila Odinga to find peaceful ways of ending the seeming standoff between them.
The Bishops noted with pain that the recent demonstrations that have taken place across the country have resulted in significant negative consequences, including loss of life, injuries, property damage and trauma.
Protesters espcially in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, engaged police in running battles starting on Wednesday morning as they began three days of demonstrations against the cost of living and an unpopular tax law recently enacted by the government.
In response to the clashes, Kenyan Police launched tear gas canisters at demonstrators as residents largely stayed away from the Central Business District.
“There is no justifiable reason whatsoever to be violent. We know that engaging in peaceful protests and demonstrations allows individuals to express their grievances and concerns without causing harm to themselves or others. Can we truly hope against hope that demonstrations will be peaceful after the experience in all previous demonstrations? We are calling the leaders and the country to embrace non-violence,” the Kenyan prelates said.
Repeal the Finance Act
The Bishops called on the two leaders, President William Ruto and Raila Odinga, to give dialogue a chance.
“We demand that the failed bipartisan talks should be resumed in a different context that brings on board the religious leaders and some other eminent persons and bodies. We believe that there is no problem, however difficult, that cannot be solved through dialogue. We must, at all costs, avoid the loss of lives. No further blood should be shed,” the Bishops said.
The Bishops also called on President Ruto to repeal the Finance Act, which they said places an unsustainable burden on already distressed citizens, particularly the less fortunate.
“The high cost of living has created a burden on individuals and families, making it difficult for them to meet their basic needs and maintain a decent standard of living. We realise that many are struggling to afford essential goods and services, to secure stable employment, or are facing financial hardships that affect education and healthcare access,” they said.
Bishops condemn Police brutality
The Catholic Bishops strongly condemned police brutality inflicted upon innocent Kenyans during the demonstrations. They expressed a firm stance against acts of violence and abuse of power, adding that the police must instead deal with criminals disguised as demonstrators.
“Police cannot take advantage to brutalise innocent Kenyans. Such acts are unacceptable and must not be tolerated under any circumstance. Police brutality undermines the fundamental principles of human rights, justice and the rule of law,” they said.
While reminding the police of their professional conduct in dealing with demonstrations, the Bishops empathised with Kenyans affected by violence.
“We send our message of solidarity to those who were brutalised by the police. We acknowledge the pain, trauma, and injustice suffered by our brothers and sisters who have experienced violence at the hands of those entrusted with protecting the public,” said the Bishops.
Kenya’s 27 Bishops expressed hope that, despite the country’s challenges and uncertainties, citizens need to remember that Kenya possesses the potential to develop local solutions to address its problems. Adding that, citizens must not lose hope and succumb to despair.