Comenting on the Building Bridges Initiative Report by The Catholic Bishops

They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them” (Jeremiah 32: 38 – 39).

1. Introduction

We, the Kenya Conference’ of Catholic Bishops, recently met to assess the State of the Nationupon receiving the BBI Report that was launched by the President and the Rt. Hon Raila Amollo Odinga at the Bomas of Kenya in November 2019. To this effect, we call upon all Kenyans to remember the words of our National Anthem: “Let all with one accord, in common bond united; Build this our Nation together. And the glory of Kenya, the fruit of our labour, fills every heart with thanksgiving.”

2. Message of condolence and Appeal

First and foremost, we wish to condole with families who have lost their loved ones through the fatal road accidents. We also condole with families who have suffered calamity in the on-going rains. We are saddened by the flooding situation in Kenya that has affected more than 300,000 people since the onset of short rains in October 2019. The reports from different agencies indicate that the flash and riverine floods have affected a number of Counties. On our part, we, as the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued on 26th November 2019 a local appeal in aid of the affected population. We have committed to collaborate with our Christians, partners and people of goodwill to complement the efforts of Government and other actors to cushion the communities from the effects of these floods. We call on the two levels of Governments to allocate adequate resources to address the immediate needs of people affected by floods, landslides, mudslides and hailstones. Further, we call on the Government of Kenya to declare this as a National Disaster to pave way for the international community to respond to this crisis. We also appeal to Kenyans to act swiftly and reach out to those affected with any support they can avail in their support. This is an expression of the solidarity we are all called to by our National Anthem.

Furthermore, there is need to undertake urgent measures to strengthen disaster preparedness in Kenya; this is in line with the principles of Agenda 2030 that call for integrating environmental support and protection in our work. Far too many occasions, we are merely reacting to disasters that have occurred, rather than foreseeing situations and acting to avoid these calamities. Let us all work together to increase our forest cover, promote agricultural practices that protect the environment. We should also document indigenous knowledge on community managed disaster risk reduction and build local capacities to act on early warning signs ahead of disasters. We should not allow our Country to lose so many lives again when we can prevent them.

3. Discussions on the Building Bridges Report

Following the release of the Building Bridges Initiative Report, we wish to recall to all Kenyans the spirit of the initiative. We have yearned and longed for a spirit of unity that goes beyond boundaries, and heals the ethnic conflicts often fanned by politics. The whole Nation and indeed each Kenyan, desires the creation of a harmonious and peaceful Country, where equality and justice prevail. The Initiative of the handshake seems to have had this desire as its goal.

We, the Catholic Bishops, have had the opportunity to interact with the BBI Report and appreciate the content. We have noted that the report provides a great opportunity for Kenyans to deepen dialogue and reach a consensus on how to achieve the following:

  1. reconciliation and national healing,
  2. restore and renew our national values, ethos and institutions to create a nation of integrity and competence,
  3. how to achieve economic recovery and reconstruction in order to address poverty, inequality, massive unemployment, high cost of living and enhance service delivery, and
  4. how to initiate redemptive constitutional, legal, policy, administrative reforms so as to achieve a progressive, peaceful and prosperous Kenyan Nation.

We wish to call on all Kenyans to study the content of the BBI Report and carefully seek objective explanations in order to understand the issues therein. Further, there is need to have a dialogue process on grey areas to obtain sustainable solutions for achieving the Reconciliation, Restoration, Recovery and Renewal agenda that our Country needs. The following form part of the areas that need further dialogue and consensus building:

a) The need to implement the previous Reports, namely, the TJRC, CIPEV, IREC and the 2008 Agenda Four as outlined by the Kofi Annan Panel report.  

b) The need to adequately address the problem of the winner takes it all that is identified in the BBI report but not conclusively addressed.

c) The calculation of national revenue based on the last audited accounts rather than on the current revenues and national budget.

d) How to handle people who have been alleged to have abused a State office yet vying for elective positions. This article 99 (3) of the Constitution contradicts the provision of Chapter 6 of the Constitution and the Integrity and Leadership.

e) The proposal that the IEBC Commissioners be nominated by Parliamentary Political Party Leaders.  

f) On ethnic antagonism, there is need to come up with clear mechanism on how to handle people involved in incitements, ethnic mobilization, hate-speech and violence; this applies especially to those who wish to contest in the elections.  

g) The high cost of carrying out elections, political parties’ nominations, and voter bribery in Kenya.

h) How to address the crisis as identified by BBI on the family, youth and society, and Gender Based Violence.

i) How to respect the principle of subsidiarity

j) The need to further dialogue and deliberations especially on how to make Institutions work effectively.

4. Going forward

Recognizing that the spirit of the BBI process is to reconcile and unite Kenyans, and foster co-existence and cohesion, and noting that the President has extended the tenure of the BBI Task-Force to enhance the dialogue, KCCB undertakes to:-

a) Call on all Kenyans to deliberately read the content of BBI report and to avoid politicizing and being divisive on the same. This is about our Nation and not individual interests

b) Provide a structured civic education to ensure that Kenyans make informed choices

c) Engage the political leaders and key sectors across the divide, including the private sector and other Non-State Actors, to develop consensus on the issues raised, and on the best way to carry the process forward.

d) Continue to provide the platform for mediation and diplomacy

5. Conclusion

We, therefore, invite a structured engagement with the BBI report in order to point out what constructive ideas will lead to transformation of our Country. This is a journey that has begun and which requires that we take steps together, believing in God to see us through to a peaceful, progressive and prosperous Kenya.

Finally, we call upon all road users to drive carefully and responsively as security and safety starts with you. As we prepare for the Christmas festivities, we take this opportunity to wish all Kenyans and people of goodwill a Merry Christmas and a Happy new year 2020.

May the blessings of God come upon our Nation and all Kenyans in this time of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Signed on 18th, December 2019 by

Most Rev. Philip Anyolo,

Chairman of KCCB

On behalf of all Catholic Bishops

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