KENYANS DESERVE A PEACEFUL, SECURE AND COHESIVE NATION
March 24, 2021
KENYANS DESERVE A PEACEFUL, SECURE AND COHESIVE NATION
REV CANON CHRIS KINYANJUI
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING CONSULTATION WITH THE CABINET SECRETARY FOR INTERIOR AND CHAIRPERSON OF THE NATIONAL COHESION AND INTEGRATION COMMISSION
MARCH 24, 2021
JUMUIA CONFERENCE AND COUNTRY HOME, LIMURU, AND ON ZOOM
Archbishop Timothy Ndambuki, Chairman of the NCCK, members of the NCCK Executive Committee, and our honorable guests Dr Fred Matiang’i, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government, Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, the Chairman of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, partners, friends, staff, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure and great honor to welcome you to this meeting of the Executive Committee. To refresh our minds, I remind us that the NCCK was founded in June 1913, making this institution 50 years older than the nation of Kenya. For more than a hundred years, the NCCK has continuously worked to achieve that which is best for the people of this nation.
In this commitment, we continue to be inspired by the word of God recorded in Jeremiah 29: 7 in which God told the people:
Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
Understanding this scripture, we do know that when the lives of Kenyans are safeguarded, the lives the members of our families and churches will also be safeguarded.
It is for this reason, Honorable Cabinet Secretary, that the NCCK persistently speaks about and focuses on issues to do with peace and security in the nation.
B. Elections As A Violence Trigger
Honorable Cabinet Secretary, Over the last four decades, elections have proved to be the leading trigger for conflict and violence in Kenya. The trauma from the 1983 and 1988 elections that were characterized by state-driven violence as dissent was forcefully suppressed was one of the prime motivators of the demand for constitutional change in 1989 and 1990. Kenyans could not imagine another election under those same conditions.
The next elections, in 1992, were preceded by wave of politically motivated tribal clashes that were primarily aimed at displacing sections of populations expected to vote for unfavourable candidates. The NCCK established the political motivations of the clashes in publication that we called “The Cursed Arrow”. Similar violence, albeit reduced, was witnessed just before the 1997 elections.
Five years later, the euphoric wave that swept the National Rainbow Coalition into power contributed to the peaceful nature of the transitional 2002 elections. Nonetheless, there were localized cases of violence in parts of the country.
The 2007 elections, coming shortly after the breakup of the Rainbow Coalition in 2005, brought upon the country the worst experience of violence since the war for independence. This Executive Committee recalls with sadness that the gravity of the violence would have been greatly reduced had the state taken seriously the warning we and other actors gave some politicians were mobilizing people for violence. There seems to have existed a mistaken belief that the state had adequate machinery to suppress any violence. This was proved wrong as peace was restored through an internationally driven dialogue process that led to the establishment of the Government of National Unity.
The inability of the state to unilaterally suppress violence was again manifested in 2017 / 2018 when it took dialogue leading to The Handshake between The President and the Former Prime Minister to end the violence that was raging across the country. The fact that the violence was largely between the state and civilians, and not between tribes as had been the case previously, continues to trouble our hearts. It is a stark reminder that the power that the state wields by virtue of legally holding the instruments of violence is waning, and if this trend continues, the next episode of violence will be of nightmarish proportions.
C. The Youth Factor
Honorable Cabinet Secretary, Brothers and Sisters,
We all need to be alive to the fact that Kenya is approaching the next electoral cycle from a very precarious position. The statistics arising from the 2019 Census point out to the stark reality that today, more than 80% of Kenya’s population is aged 35 years and below. The 15 – 34 year olds are estimated to be 17.8 million, making them 35% of the national population. This is way above the 20% mark that is universally used to mark a youth bulge. According to the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD), “if a large cohort of young people cannot find employment and earn satisfactory income, the youth bulge will become a demographic curse, because a large mass of frustrated youth are likely to become a potential source of social and political instability”.
One of our biggest concerns, Brothers and Sisters, was succinctly captured by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) when they observed: “… for most countries, Kenya included, economic growth lacks the desired social transformation. Despite Kenya’s impressive economic growth, four out of ten people live in extreme poverty; and the poorest 10 per cent of the population receive only 2 per cent of the national income.” Indeed it is a great fear to consider that today, one million youths join the labour force every year in Kenya, but only one out of six are likely to find a formal job.
This large population of youth not in school and not in wage-earning employment is cannon fodder for mobilisers of violence.
It is worth noting that a large section of this youthful population have not participated in previous elections, and their leanings will not be influenced by the same beliefs that drive the older Kenyans. 2022 General Elections are a cauldron of unknown and untested possibilities, one of which could be violence.
Another consideration we need to have, Brothers and Sisters, is that Kenyans who experienced the 1991/92 clashes as four and five year olds first participated in the 2007 elections, and these were highly violent. And now, those who experienced the 2007 violence as four and five year olds will be participating in the 2022 elections for the first time. Will the cycle be repeated? It is worse when you consider that this group of young people have witnessed two episodes of serious elections related violence, in 2007 and in 2017. We are therefore approaching 2022 with a huge portion of the voters primed to associate elections with violence. The threat of the next elections to the peace and security of this nation is very high.
D. Issues of Concern
It is for this reason, Honorable Cabinet Secretary, that the officials of the Council requested you to deliver a Keynote Address to this Executive Committee meeting. In our invitation, Bwana CS, we requested you to touch on 15 areas of concern to the people of Kenya. These issues are:
- Learning from the recent by-elections, what is the National Government planning to do to counter the emergence of radicalized youth groups?
- How does the government intent to hold political parties and actors accountable for incitement and violence right from party primaries, during campaigns, during voting, and in the post election period?
- In 2017, the Police were accused of using excessive force, and especially employing lethal weapons despite the country investing heavily in non-lethal riot and crown control tools. What does the National Police Service plan to do different this electoral period?
- During the recent by-elections, police officers were accused of open bias in the enforcement of the law. What does the Service intend to do to rid itself of this characterization and win public trust?
- How does the National Government plan to mobilize and motivate Kenyans to ensure peaceful, security, free, fair and credible referendum and General Elections? What platforms does the government have available for NCCK to work with the state to report and prevent crime especially during the election period?
- What role does the Cabinet Secretary anticipate the church will play in promote peace, security and national cohesion?
- During Covid-19, the National Crime Research Center reported a huge rise in intimate partners assaults and cases of domestic violence. What are the areas the state and the church can partner and collaborate? How can we address the challenge of masculinity and the boy child?
- NCCK has county and regional committees across Kenya. How can the National Government Administration Officers (NGAO) work and link up with the NCCK regional and county officials to address national security and peace efforts
- In Coast Region, many elderly people are being killed by their children and families on accusation that they are old, have grey hair and therefore are witches and deserve to die. How can NCCK and the state work together to eliminate these crimes?
- The operations in Kapendo and other places that are disturbed have largely not succeeded because they do not involve the church leaders. How can we roll out a programme to reach out and find lasting solutions?
- Kenyans all over the country are concerned about national debt, high taxation and economic recession exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. How can the church play a role in creating awareness on these national concerns and separate the truth from the lies?
- Kenyans express concern that persons accused of corruption end up as elected leaders at the national and county level. Why is the state unable or unwilling to vet persons seeking election? Suspects are charged but cases are never concluded. How come the cogs of justice, law and order in Kenya favour the corrupt? Why is impunity and corruption becoming the currency of elected leaders in Kenya?
- When the state classified essential services, the ministers of religion were left out. Why does the state exclude religious leaders in this manner? When will this matter be rectified and redressed?
- The docket of Interior and National Coordination deals with the operation of all state and arms of government. How are you ensuring a smooth working relationship among these national government organs? Kenyans have witnessed disputes among the three arms of government and worse still, state departments, ministries and agencies disagreeing to the level of taking each other to court. Why is the state allowing such high level of indiscipline in its rank and file and what is being done to redress these matters?
- The government has announced that the Covid-19 vaccine is safe for Kenyans. How come the President, Deputy President and Cabinet Ministers have not set an example for Kenyans by taking the vaccine?
Honorable Cabinet Secretary, what we are asking is, are we ready to engage Kenyans in an effective manner to ensure that there is peace, security and national cohesion before, during and after the referendum and the next General Elections?
E. NCCK Intervention
Honorable Cabinet Secretary, Brothers and Sisters,
We in NCCK, being cognizant of these issues and the concerns for peace and security around the coming electoral cycle, have on our part put in place a structure to play our role. We are in the process of establishing a Digital Central Depository Unit (DCDU) to monitor elections related conflicts and violence. The Unit will document and analyze the reports received, and disseminate the information to all key players. We hope in this way to contribute to peace before, during and after the elections, and do hope that the government agencies will be partners in this process. The nationwide structures of the member churches will be the primary source of the data received and analysed at the Depository Unit.
At both national and local levels, the NCCK will undertake regular review and analysis of the state of the nation to identify emerging issues and how to address them. These scenario building sessions will inform the advocacy agenda of religious leaders at all levels so that we publicize issues of peace, security and national cohesion.
In addition to these, Brothers and Sisters, the NCCK member churches are committed to use their platforms to preach peace, security and national cohesion. Over the last month, seven Regional Committees have met and in their public communication, they have committed to hinder access to the pulpit by political actors. We have also committed to avoid asking political actors for donations since they in return ask to speak to congregations from the pulpit.
Further to these, we have in the meantime developed a Civic Education Handbook on the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2020. Our purpose is to help all Kenyans understand the proposed amendments and their implications so that they make informed choices during the referendum. I request to share with you a few copies for your use and to share with your colleagues.
As I conclude, Honorable Cabinet Secretary, I remind us of the inspiration and guidance given to us in Romans 12: 18
If it is possible, as far as it depend on you, live at peace with everyone.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification (Romans 14: 15)
I now welcome you, Honorable Cabinet Secretary, to make a Keynote Address to this Executive Committee meeting.