The Anglican Church yesterday rejected President William Ruto’s proposed taxation measures, saying it was a sign that the government was “increasingly proving insensitive to the plight of the majority of Kenyans” whom they said were sinking deeper into economic hardship and distress daily.
In a hard-hitting statement, the Members of the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) also faulted President Ruto’s government for what they said was the creeping in of tribal and regional appointments in the public service.
“There is glaring tribalism and cronyism, particularly with regard to public appointments. There is an apparent lack of accountability and transparency in our institutions. This is not acceptable. Let all institutions and government agencies be impartial and efficient, and not simply beholden to political influence,” the bishops said in a statement read by Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit.
The bishops also asked that the bi-partisan talks between teams representing President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga be expanded to include faith-based organisations. They added that they were willing to help thrash out issues that will not be agreed upon by the committee co-chaired by George Murugara (Tharaka, UDA) and Dr Otiende Amollo (Rarieda, ODM).
“The bipartisan Parliamentary talks seem to have started on a shaky foundation. We call on the parties to overcome suspicion and unwillingness to engage. For the greater good; and in the interest of a cohesive nation, we urge that all pertinent issues of concern be placed on the table and discussed,” the bishops said.
Finance Bill 2023
In their statement, the bishops said the Finance Bill 2023, which among other things proposes a 3 per cent statutory deduction—to be matched by the employer in the same percentage, but capped at Sh5,000 a month—to the Housing Fund, if passed, will burden a majority of Kenyans and called for it to be subjected to thorough public scrutiny before it is tabled in Parliament.
“It defies logic that despite the obvious financial constraints, the government has not communicated a way forward on budget deficits, delayed payment of salaries and pensions, and indications of skewed priorities,” the statement reads.
“Excessive government spending and mismanagement of public resources seem to take precedence over the basic needs of citizens. We call on the government to establish a clear structure that will curb wasteful public spending and be sensitive to the crippling debt situation and the dire economic hardship faced by ordinary citizens, which is worsening by the day.”
The statement comes barely a week after public sector unions also rejected the bill and threatened a mass strike if it is passed by parliament.
The bishops also rebuked the government for “not doing enough to curb wasteful public spending or improve the deteriorating level of public services in all sectors”. The government, they said, had failed to empathise with the economic hardships faced by the majority of Kenyans.
“The government is increasingly proving insensitive to the plight of the majority of Kenyans who are sinking deeper into economic hardship and distress on a daily basis. With high levels of unemployment and poverty, Kenyans are struggling to make ends meet, businesses are struggling, families are breaking up and economic hardship is contributing to high levels of mental illness, depression and even loss of life,” Archbishop Sapit said.
Commenting on the Shakahola tragedy, which has so far claimed more than 140 people believed to have starved themselves to death “to meet God” on the basis of teachings by Pastor Paul Mackenzie, the bishops rejected calls for regulation of religion. They said the church can regulate itself under umbrella bodies.
However, they said the church would support a law to curb religious extremism or cultic practices in order to promote religious freedom.
“The Church will consider and support legislation that will curb the spread of extremist or cultic practices but must protect and promote religious freedoms for all our citizens,” read the statement.
The bishops also asked the government to pay Sh2 billion owed to faith-based hospitals that have provided services under the National Health Insurance Fund.
Further, they called on the operation to rid the counties of Baringo, Samburu, West Pokot, Turkana and Marsabit of banditry and insecurity to be “done with a human face and with utmost care not to violate human dignity and rights of Kenyans”.