Tuesday, September 8, 2009

“Let Us Save Our Nation!”

The Catholic Church in Kenya has singled out internal and external insecurity, environmental degradation, food insecurity, plight of the internally displaced persons, impunity and corruption as some of the most pressing issues that need redress to save the nation from further agony.

In a press statement delivered at Maria Polis Centre in Nairobi on September 8, 2009, His Grace Archbishop Zaccheus Okoth, the Bishop Chairman for the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) termed it as “worrying” the increased border conflicts between Kenya and her neighbours notably Somalia, Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia, while internally, Kenyans “have become hostages” of insecurity.

“Organized violence has destroyed African identity. This is occurring through incitement, exploitation by the political elite and the inability by a majority in making a living from day to day, with about half the population living below the poverty line,” said the archbishop, adding that the government has responsibility to ensure all people living in the country are safe and secure.

On food security, while urging Kenyans to practise good farming methods, the bishop called on the government to empower farmers through subsidies. Likewise, he advised the government to pump water from water bodies to arid and semi arid areas for irrigation, while providing framework to ensure prices of basic food commodities are within reach of all Kenyans.

He urged the government to come up with a humane policy to resettle Kenyans living in the Mau forest and other water catchments and embark on re-forestation, while saying that the two years given for the Mau task force to oversee that persons living in Mau catchment moved out of the forest as time “too long”.

A complex of an estimated area of 273,300 Ha, Mau Forest in the Rift valley province is the largest water catchment area in Kenya. 25 percent of the forest has been illegally excised for human settlement (with many beneficiaries being high ranking officials and members of parliament in the current and past government).

The complex has been at the centre of controversy as section of political leaders from Rift valley are opposing efforts to remove the settlers till ‘all persons are compensated’, while the government has categorically indicated that only those with genuine title deeds for land less that 5 Ha will be compensated.

While urging the government to act on the plight of IDPs, the Archbishop Okoth said for meaningful reconciliation and healing, there must be restorative justice for the victims.

“There is no ‘either or’ debate. Kenya must have a special tribunal to deal with those who bear greatest responsibility for atrocities committed during the 2007/2008 Post-election violence (PEV), and the masterminds and financiers should go to the international Criminal Court,” said the Archbishop.

During the said violence, over 1000 Kenyans were killed while over 300,000 more were internally and externally displaced from their homes/ lands. Most of the IDPs are still in temporary camps, a year and half later.

The archbishop said transitional justice is only possible where accountability, truth recovery, institutional reforms and reparations are availed.

While commending the Kenyan cabinet for ratifying the national land policy, Archbishop Okoth urged the government to also implement fully recommendations from various Commissions (of inquiry) and task force committees, singling out Waki Report (on Commission of inquiry on Post election violence (CIPEV)), Kriegler report on 2007 elections, and Ndung’u report on Land issues.

Others include Ramsley report on Police reforms, and Akiwumi report on ethnic land clashes.

The Archbishop spoke against ‘continued wrong decisions made by (Kenyan) leadership without further reflections on the consequences on the citizenry of Kenya including extra-judicial killings, ad hoc creation of districts, looting of public coppers, land grabbing and rampant corruption’.

Archbishop Okoth said the CJPC is carrying out constitutional education for the public, while calling upon Kenyans to engage meaningfully in the process towards a just and democratic constitution.

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