MEMORANDUM FROM RELIGIOUS LEADERS DURING AN AUDIENCE WITH HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA WITH REGARD TO THE STATE OF THE NATION
September 29, 2020
Your Excellency, today we are gathered here as representatives of Religious Leaders across our country, from diverse faith traditions and religions, and diverse Religious Umbrella bodies. We come consenting to your invitation because we have been looking forward also, to an opportunity and moment of a conversation with your Excellency.
We are here on behalf of the many Religious Leaders who would have wished to come, but we believe we can represent on their behalf, some of the major hopes and concerns that we have, as the moral conscience of our Nation, and give feedback from what we are witnessing in what we can call, the spirit that is now guiding our Nation”.
A country that veers off the “Spirit of God”, or that refuses to engage with the moral and spiritual voices of the moment, is a country without a soul. Our Nation Kenya, recognizes this in our constitution in the first sentence: “ACKNOWLEDGING the supremacy of the Almighty God of all creation…”. What we ask is that this acknowledgement be enacted in the actions of our citizens and leaders.
Your Excellency, as Religious Leaders we appreciate and thank the Government under your stewardship, for the leadership and guidance, in your transformative initiative under the Big Four Agenda of fostering socio-economic development and providing solutions to the various socioeconomic problems facing Kenyans as the four pillars of your administration.
We commend efforts by the Government under your leadership in addressing the COVID-19 crisis during this extra-ordinary time. We congratulate and thank you for your personal focus and resolve to contain the loss of lives, and in guiding the Country during such a difficult time. As Religious Leaders we place premium value to life and consider good health as both a human right and a basis for common good that can be attained by working together. These issues are of great value to Kenyans and can only be achieved with full involvement and support of each and every sector, interest group and all voices; as Religious Leadership of all faith-traditions, we are willing to work together with the Government to build a united democratic, secure, peaceful and prosperous Kenyan Nation.
The Religious institutions we represent have wide networks spread across the country through which we consult and receive feedback on issues that affect Kenyans. We are blessed that our Constitution recognizes God. This must be practiced and not merely quoted, so we should seek ways on how National processes can put faith and God at the center and not just when there are crises. This calls for the need for an organic collaboration of Religious Leaders and Religious bodies with the Government and Government structures. This will ensure there is smooth relations and institutionalization for sustainability. Institutionalizing these relations, especially in facilitating dialogue, and sustaining ethical standards will be a good contribution for the building of a harmonious Kenya.
After consultation among ourselves and our various followers through the different platforms we would like to share the following issues for Your consideration.
1. Reopening of In-Person Congregation Worship
Allow us first Your Excellency, to give you a brief update on the activities and progress pf the Interfaith Council.
As we presented in our First Interim Report we have continued to make good progress in the mandate of the Interfaith Council on the Corona Pandemic Response. After the production of the guidelines on 6th July 2020, we went ahead to disseminate, sensitize and induct the Religious Leaders in all the 47 Counties. The response was overwhelming, and compliance to the guidelines in the places of worship has been over 95%. This has enabled the safe reopening of the places of Worship. Our Religious Leaders have given a great example and continue to sensitize the people to live up to the Ministry of Health protocols even in the public spaces.
We are currently in Phase One of the Safe and Phased reopening of the Places of Worship. Even though we are not fully out of the danger of the Covid19 infections, we have noted the decline in the number of new cases and in the spread. We are therefore considering to progress to the Phase Two of the planned reopening schedule where we hope to welcome more of the younger and older members of our congregations.
However, we wish to raise our concern on a number of areas. Funerals continue to present a major challenge for infection spread. Although we are charged with the spiritual rite, many times the other elements seem to be determining how the Funerals are being conducted. We are seeking ways to collaborate with the Ministry of Interior, but the matter is made complex especially because the rules are flouted most by the leaders themselves and those wielding
positions in the Country. We believe we can reach a common course to contain this imminent danger of infection spread. At the same time, we need a social change by ensuring other types of gatherings, especially of a political nature, are also controlled, as it will be difficult to convince our people not to attend funerals while large crowds are gathering for political rallies at the adjacent venue.
2. Working towards National Accord and Strengthened Institutions
The words of our National anthem call on us to work with one accord, to have a common bond of unity that is the thread that builds this our Nation together. Each day, the Almighty calls us to the work of reconciliation and harmony with our brothers and with nature. For this to be achieved, we need to constantly seek ways of building consensus on pressing National issues so as to avoid unnecessary divisions and acrimony in our country.
There is a growing sense of tension and uncertainty in the country as a result of real or perceived disagreements within the various arms of Government and institutions, political leaders and communities. Despite these differences, we note that in order to nurture National accord and peace, spaces for dialogue and consultation among conflicting groups ought to be created and nurtured. This was the spirit we had at the beginning of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). Unfortunately, we sadly note, that the spirit seems to have changed, and there is an urgent need to recover it.
The political bickering and hurling of unsavory exchanges among our leaders are causing great anxiety among Kenyans. It is a sign of the growing intolerance in our Kenyan society that is fueled by the evil seed of hatred and pride, and a misconception of leaders that they own the citizens. Your Excellency, your legacy of a united and harmonious Kenya is at stake. We as Religious Leaders feel we may need to come in to summon and call out irresponsible and disrespectful leaders.
The Religious Leaders have always been a part of the reform processes in this Nation, to safeguard peace and objectivity. They were involved on all stages of our walk to multi-party democracy, our Bomas search for a new Constitution, our creation of a trustworthy IEBC, and in civic education for good leadership.
The processes of National discussion on all the delicate issues of BBI and possible Referendum ought to be fully consultative, where a true inclusive dialogue takes place. These discussions and dialogue must lead to unity and not division. Religious Leaders have always played a role of sobering discussions and we request that they be involved in an organic way in all these processes of reform that also include the re-building of the IEBC, the rebuilding of confidence in the Parliament and Judiciary. The opportunity of a referendum must be determined by the opportunity to create unity.
We believe Your Excellency that we can work towards a proper mature discussion of issues, a politics of respect and political hygiene. We sincerely plead with your Excellency, to challenge the Nation and especially our elected leaders to live up to the expectations of now desperate Kenyans. We on our part will support all efforts to make even our political space Godly.
Hatred, intolerance, selfishness, greed cannot build any worthy society and cannot be the basis to project the future of a Nation. Only tolerance, dialogue, forgiveness, love and peace can truly form a foundation for great Nationhood! We believe we must change the tempo and style of politics to salvage our Nation.
Your Excellency, we call upon you to continue to support and create an enabling environment for all constitutional public institutions for them to deliver their mandate to Kenyans. The Religious Leaders have a lot to contribute in addressing the perpetual problem of historic injustices, inequality of regions, marginalized sectors of society, Cohesion and National unity. Unfortunately, many of these processes have been totally hijacked by the political class. Unity cannot be forced upon citizens, nor can it come about through political conviction. It is something deeper that refers to the spiritual part of human beings.
3. Repairing the moral and social fabric of the Nation
i) Strengthening the family:
The family is the foundation of our society, and there is a great need to protect, nurture and strengthen the family as a basic social unit to address the current wave of violence and acts of violence within families. Towards this, we urge the Government and involved stakeholders to accelerate the development of the Family Policy together with its implementation plan. It is expected that the Family Policy will institute a life-long character formation framework and inculcation of values. Strengthening the family unit will in essence enable the country to address the prevailing moral decadence.
On our part as Religious Leaders, we will continue to partner with different stakeholders to enhance marriage and parenting capacity building, while establishing safe spaces for intergenerational consultations and dialogue.
Religious Leaders express grave concern on the concerted efforts to legislate on reproductive health rights including abortion on demand, normalization of underage sex and same sex parenting and commodification of the unborn children. The Bills in Parliament are an affront to the family and social order.
Religious Leaders call on the Government to intervene and withdraw the Reproductive Health Bills pending in Parliament and a clear engagement and meaningful participation be accorded to all stakeholders, including Religious Leaders.
Family, Sexual and Gender Based Violence:
The huge upsurge of family, sexual and gender-based violence and reported increase in the number of teenage pregnancies is very worrying to Religious Leaders and a wakeup call for all of us. Healthy functional families are the bedrock of a functional society and the building block of a stable Nation. When the family is under siege, the Government must know that the very foundation of the Nation is under siege. It is therefore imperative that measures are taken to foster an atmosphere where families can thrive, children protected and our women and girls can flourish without fear of predators.
For us to overcome this challenge, we ask the Government and especially, law enforcement agencies and the State Department for Gender and Youth to partner with us to:
a. Improve parenting, behavior modeling and family wellbeing b, Provide safe spaces within our places of worship and other institutions for girls and women that may be suffering extreme abuse and may require temporary refuge.
c. Accelerate the identification, arrest and prosecution of sexual offenders
d. Support to men, women and children suffering trauma with psychosocial support and trauma healing. We believe our experience on mental health issues have a lot to offer Government.
Extrajudicial Killings and Lawlessness by Police:
Your Excellency for a country that prides itself to be governed by the rule of law, it is very crucial that the persons responsible for law and order are themselves lawful and conduct their affairs within the confines of the law. As was seen during the initial stages of the Covid19 pandemic, which was a more graphic representation of what Kenyans daily endure at the hands of the police, there seems to be a widespread disregard of the rights of Kenyans by police and a propensity to go overboard and use excessive force even when it is not called for.
We sincerely believe that the current police reforms that have been undertaken over the years have failed to address the key issue of the attitude of police towards citizens and the divide between l‘askari and raja”. The police view raia as disorganized mob capable of and intent on mischief while the raia view police as a brutish unreasonable oppressor intent on extortion. These attitudes need to change and an attitude of mutual confidence and respect formed.
For that to happen, there is need for the attitude of the police to undergo a very thorough cultural change. This will require concerted efforts over many years. We the Religious Leaders are ready and willing to enter partnership with the National police service to transform the citizen-police relationship. This will require deep reflection devoid of public relations and superficial tasks of ticking the boxes. We shall be willing to forge a close working relationship with the police to seek such a partnership.
The Youth and Reopening of Education Institutions:
The youth and children in this country have been very negatively impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic by the closure of all learning institutions. The initial closure of our places of worship also meant these sanctuaries for our young people were no longer open. As we seek to find ways to better take care of our young people and encourage them to positive ways, there’s need to find ways in which our educational institutions can once again play their rightful role of engaging the youth. We seek further dialogue on this issue as we believe it is possible to safely and creatively open educational institutions, especially starting with tertiary level and proceeding progressively to ensure our youth are not consumed in negative vices.
As we open educational institutions, due consideration must be made of the economic hardship of our parents.
We as Religious Leaders intend to be more engaged with the young people even in more organized gatherings. We know their sense of despair because of unemployment, in spite of their education, and their economic inability to access entrepreneurship funds. While we sustain them with hope, we believe we can find collaborative ways with Government to facilitate their welfare and productive engagement in society.
4. Redemption of the Economy
Your Excellency, the Covid19 pandemic has exacerbated the very difficult economic situation of Kenyans. The closure of businesses and loss of employment is a global phenomenon that has hit both poor and developed Nations. Unfortunately for our Country, we lack the fiscal space to mount large enough economic stimuli and relief packages that have real impact on the lives of Kenyans. However, we are aware that your Government has tried to apportion some of the scarce resources for economic stimulus and relief efforts.
As Religious Leaders, we are increasingly concerned of the growing National debt and the debt servicing obligations that have the potential to interfere with and derail the recovery of the economy.
Your Excellency, there are key steps that should be considered alongside the various stimulus programs in order to revive and inject resilience into the economy. These include considering the lowering of interest rates, focusing on increased food production as in the Big Four Agenda; specific strategies that will spur the full operations of SMEs and manufacturing industries in order to boost job creation and reconstruction of the economy. We wish to note that these interventions can only work if corruption is also stopped completely from the public and private spheres of our Nation so that there is value for every shilling in our country.
We need an new organic economic growth model after the country survives probably the worst ever economic setback since independence. County Governments should be helped to become effective centers of productivity and wealth creation for all Kenyans.
- Corruption and Accountability
Corruption is on the lips of every Kenyan but unfortunately also in the hands of many Kenyans. Even calamity has become an opportunity to plunder the poor and fleece the Nation. Your desire to reduce corruption in Kenya is being compromised. There seem to be very few courageous leaders willing to truly be beyond reproach. Leaders are taking advantage of their positions to do business with Government and obtain contracts. We hear of bribes distributed to legislators.
We know we have a role in addressing the corruption in the heart of Kenyans, but we continue to be shocked by the double life of many leaders who seem fully believers in our places of worship but also fully corrupt in the public sphere.
We as Religious Leaders wish to request that the provisions of the law that bar any Elected person or Public Servants from having any other interests in businesses or supply tenders to any Government institution should be strictly enforced. Transparency and accountability enshrined in our Constitution must become part of our life stream. We also support the regular declaration of wealth of all Public office holders. We are ready to collaborate in efforts to root out corruption gradually from our Nation. Your Excellency, we believe that it is possible that any appointed public officer who has investigations or prosecution commenced against him or her vacate office by stepping aside to allow for credible investigations and prosecutions to be conducted. If found to be innocent, they should be allowed back to serve the public. We should start to build a culture of taking personal responsibility for subventions and abuses that occur or take place under one’s docket. This will truly give traction to the fight against corruption and the restoration of ethical conduct by public officers and officials.
- Restoring Dignity to the Institutions of Governance
In addition to our desire for National accord, dialogue and peace, one other National need is for gredibleecompetent and ethical institutions. As you have severally said Your Excellency, the hope for stability and greatness of our country is in institutions, values, and ethos as a country. The strength and vitality of the country is dependent on functional National institutions, especially those that guarantee functional governance and transition, arbitration of National disputes and maintenance of the rule of law.
Most institutions established under the 2010 Constitution have not lived up to the expectations of the people of Kenya. Whilst we encourage independence and autonomy of these institutions, the Judiciary, Parliament, County Government, Independent Offices and Commissions and National Executive agencies need a total re-orientation. They are all currently routinely accused of corruption, unethical behaviour, incompetence, other vices and negative attributes.
We the Religious Leaders are committed to support Your Excellency to truly renew and restore the dignity and nobility of all these institutions of governance in order to effectively address the pressing concerns of all Kenyans. Without credible and effective institutions, it is not possible to build a great and united, peaceful, just and prosperous Kenyan Nation.
Your Excellency, we as Religious Leaders thank you for this opportunity, and your graciousness to listen to us. We are ready and open to have continuous engagement with your office on any National issues whenever you find it opportune. We indeed serve the same people, and both have the responsibility over our Nation and peoples before God. Our Nation more than ever, needs your wisdom in these difficult times. We on our part promise you our prayers, for you and your collaborators in Government.
We now gladly await your remarks and advice.
God bless us all!
Signed for and on behalf of Religious Leaders
Nairobi, 25th September, 2020