SSPX news & events

In Kenya, The Bishops Mobilize Against a Possible Civil War

August 28, 2017
Protest in Nairobi, Kenya, August 2017.

The bishops of Kenya deplore the post-election violence in the country. The Episcopal Conference refuses to take sides between the different protagonists, and wishes to act as a mediator in this ethnic conflict in order to avoid an actual civil war.

The situation remains extremely tense in Kenya ever since the contested results of the elections in the beginning of August, when outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta was reelected for another term with 54.3% of the votes.

In several shanty towns of Nairobi, but also in the west of the country, over a dozen people were killed on Saturday, August 12, 2017 alone.

According to the Kenya Human Rights Commission, the riots killed at least 24 people throughout the country. The coalition of the leader of the opposition in Kenya, Raila Odinga, appealed to the Supreme Court on August 18 to contest the results of the presidential election that they claim was rigged.

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops reacted on August 18, denouncing the post-election violence in the country.

In their declaration on August 18, the 26 members of the Episcopal Conference declared that “to lose even one life because of elections is abominable”.

As for the results of the contested presidential election won by outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta over his principal rival Raila Odinga, the Kenyan bishops, while refusing to take sides in a conflict whose causes are mostly ethnic, invited any parties that feel they have grievances to take to the legal means provided in the Constitution to defend their rights.

The Episcopal Conference applauded the decision of the opposition’s coalition to take the matter to the Supreme Court. “It is only by respecting and having recourse to the established Constitutional institutions that we, as Kenyans, are able to enhance and strengthen the rule of law and the democratic process in our country”, declared the bishops.

While they await the Supreme Court’s verdict, the bishops of the country have called on the government leaders to show self-restraint in their declarations and actions, and to avoid any imprudent statements or behavior that could arouse tensions and division.

For the record, the largest ethnic group in Kenya is the Kikuyu, to which the reelected president belongs. Speaking Bantu, they mostly live between Nairobi and the Aberdares, a mountain chain that covers around 100 miles in west-central Kenya.

The other community in conflict with the Kikuyu is the Luo peoples: opposition leader Raila Odinga is one of them. The Luo live in the east, to the north of Lake Victoria, in the province of Nyanza. They can also be found in Tanzania, Uganda, the Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and South Sudan, where they originally come from. The Luo community is the largest non-Bantu ethnic group in Kenya. They played an important role in obtaining the country’s independence.

Moreover, in Kenya, a country with a Protestant majority and where Islam is very much a minority, ethnicity is further complicated by social difficulties, including poverty, famine, increasing marginalization within the Kenyan society.

The Catholic Church, which represents a little over 23% of the population, intends to act as a peacemaker, in the hopes of easing the tensions in the country and avoiding a possible civil war.