Catholic bishops join calls for Ruto, Raila talks

Archbisop Martin Kivuva

Catholic bishops, led by Archbisop Martin Kivuva (seated, centre) address journalists in Nairobi on July 18 over the ongoing protests in the country.

Photo credit: Kennedy Amungo | Nation Media Group

Catholic bishops have joined the list of groups calling on President William Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga to engage in dialogue.

The religious leaders demanded that the collapsed bipartisan talks resume and involve religious leaders and other eminent persons and bodies. They also called for the repeal of the Finance Bill 2023, which they said was an unbearable burden on Kenyans.

Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops chairman Archbishop Martin Kivuva said they had made every effort to appeal to the two leaders to find a peaceful resolution to end the standoff.

“We call on the leaders and the country to embrace non-violence. Kenyans and our leaders must be willing to listen to each other for the sake of peace in our country. We now make this passionate appeal to President William Ruto and Raila Odinga to give dialogue a chance,” Mr Kivuva said.

He added that the recent demonstrations resulted in significant negative consequences including injuries, property damage and loss of lives and expressed concern that the protests could escalate over the three-day period.

Mr Kivuva called for local solutions to the current problems facing the country, through cooperation and constructive dialogue.

“We propose a consensus-building convention under the auspices of religious leaders, with multi-sectoral participation, to identify the major issues affecting our country and chart a way forward,” he said.

Nyeri Archbishop Anthony Muheria said they strongly condemn the police brutality against innocent demonstrators.

“We want to underline this issue and express a firm stance against such acts of violence and abuse of power,” he said.

The archbishop charged that instead they should deal with criminals who disguise themselves as protesters.

Mr Muheria said the high cost of living has put a strain on individuals and families, making it difficult for them to meet their basic needs and maintain a decent standard of living.

“We therefore call on the President to repeal the Finance Act and initiate a process that seeks to achieve the same objectives within the current economic context,” the Archbishop said.

Ngong Bishop John Oballa said the government must listen to the plight of Kenyans as many feel unheard and overlooked.

“To rebuild trust and address people’s concerns, it is imperative that the government actively listens to the plight of Kenyans, provides clear and honest explanations for unfulfilled promises, and prioritises policies that alleviate socio-economic burdens,” he said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua condemned United Nations Human Rights spokesman Jeremy Laurence for lying about the security situation in Kenya in relation to the ongoing protests.

In a statement on July 14, Mr Laurence said that there was “widespread violence” and “unnecessary or disproportionate use of force” and that 23 people had been killed and dozens injured in the demonstrations.

 In a press briefing, Mr Mutua described the allegations as false, adding that his ministry had lodged a complaint.

“This statement was not only inaccurate but misleading and appeared to have been written in support of a propaganda campaign by people opposed to the democratic will of the people,” he said.