10 June 2021, The Tablet

Kenya bishops demand election before referendum

Kenya bishops demand election before referendum

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta
Baz Ratner/Reuters

Catholic bishops in Kenya are warning against using a controversial referendum to postpone next year’s general elections, as politicians continued to tangle over the government-backed Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that aims to rewrite the constitution.

In a major embarrassment to President Uhuru Kenyatta five High Court judges last month ruled the BBI “irregular, illegal and unconstitutional”. 

 “We demand that the August 22 elections proceed as provided for in the constitution, and no thought of postponing it to a later date should be entertained,” Archbishop Martin Kivuva of Mombasa and the new chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) said in a late-May statement.

BBI’s critics say it is a means of confining power to Kenya’s political elites.

The rising violence and insecurity in the country is also a major concern of the bishops. In Kapendo area in Baringo County deadly attacks by bandits have left scores dead and displaced hundreds of others from their homes, they say.

“The government has an obligation to provide security to all citizens. The state of anarchy must be stopped,” said Archbishop Kivuva. 

“The extra-judicial killings, kidnapping and dumping of bodies in forests and rivers is abhorrent. We risk perpetuating a culture of intolerance and death.” 

The country is still coming to terms with the killing of Mohammud Bashir, a Somali – American businessman whose body was found dumped in a river in central Kenya after his disappearance early last month. In April, the bodies of two men of the four who went missing in Kitengela area in Kajiado County were retrieved from a river in Muranga central Kenya. According to a report titled, A Brutal Pandemic, compiled by 18 Kenyan civil society organizations 157 people were killed or disappeared in 2020. 

Meanwhile, the bishops are urging the government to respond urgently to the emerging drought in parts of the country to avert a humanitarian disaster. According to the bishops, 1.4 million people in arid and semi-arid areas were already experiencing a severe drought due to failed rainfall.

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