(Vatican Radio) Kenyan bishops are “very worried” that widespread violence will flare up in the country as tensions mount before this summer’s general elections.
In a wide ranging statement, the Kenyan Bishops Conference attacked political parties for being unable to conduct “clean and transparent” primaries to nominate their candidates ahead of the August 8 election.
Listen to the report by Richard Marsden:
Chairman of the Conference, Bishop Philip Anyolo: “The fear of widespread violence erupting cannot be ignored.
“We are already witnessing that communities are beginning to be suspicious of one another, investors are wary of investing in Kenya, foreign tourists and other visitors are cancelling their visits to the country due to security uncertainties, lenders employ a wait and see attitude, and the general economy of our country has stalled.
“Many Kenyans seem to have lost confidence in the capacity of institutions, bodies, individuals and even their own leaders.
“Let us bring to an end this circus of election violence and chaos that engulfs the nation before and after every election.”
This year’s poll comes nearly a decade after disputed elections in 2007, when up to 1,400 people were killed and 600,000 lost their homes.
The bishops’ statement, coming at the end of their recent plenary assembly, attacked the evil of politicians bribing citizens to vote for them and urged voters not to let corrupt people be their leaders.
Bishop Anyolo said: “We want to state clearly that the greed that we are seeing, the lust for power and the uncaring attitude and arrogance that is displayed by those who have access and control our patrimony, be it at the national or country level, will be our undoing as Kenyans.
“Consequently, let us not touch their money when they come to bribe us to vote for them.”
The bishops said they were “deeply disturbed” by civil unrest in several regions of Kenya where conservationists and herders have clashed. They particularly highlighted the situation in parts of Laikipia, where “acts of banditry and a state of anarchy” are taking root.
Expressing concern about a prolonged drought in the country, the statement criticised political leaders who misuse the little available resources.
“This culture of greed and self-centeredness is worsening an already bad situation. Suffering Kenyans are being pushed to the brink of despair,” Bishop Anyolo added. The statement urged county and national governments to work together to ensure food security.
The bishops provided a list of qualities that voters should look for election candidates, such as being “God-fearing”, morally upright and committed to the common good. Another list told people not to vote for bad leaders who “promote war like activities” and “whip up negative ethnic emotions.”
Bishop Anyolo asked Kenyans to pray “that our elections will be peaceful and that God will give us the wisdom to elect good leaders – men and women of integrity.”
(Richard Paul Marsden)