By The COAST Team
Religious leaders want the Building Bridges Initiative rallies stopped saying they have become divisive and threatening nationhood.
At the same time, the leaders have asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene and bring sanity to the ongoing public rallies meant to validate the BBI Report.
“The rallies have taken an ugly turn and if left to continue as they are, we are worried the very fabric of our nationhood is threatened,” they warn.
Citing the emerging political competition, the clerics express fears that ethnicity is being used with parochial tribal loyalties to drive a wedge among Kenyans.
Under the banner of The Dialogue Reference Group (DRG) in Nairobi, the clergies, in a signed press statement expressed disappointment over the political class that wants to tear this country apart.
“We recommend that the BBI rallies be put on hold with immediate effect so that Kenya does not slide into anarchy and disorder,” they say suggesting that civic education take the centre stage.
The leaders reminded wananchi that the BBI was established to unite and not to divide the country into tribal cocoons with the end results of chaos as witnessed in the 2007/08 post-election violence.
According to them the national debate on BBI is taking a ‘we against them’ mantra and this is heightening political emotions that can be a precursor to the outbreak of violence or chaos in the country.
“There seems to be a determination by the political actors to push the country into the abyss that will be completely averse to the letter and spirit of the words of President Kenyatta and his counterpart Raila Odinga after their March 9th, 2018 handshake,” they said.
The clerics attribute the current confusion and discord to the ignorance of Kenyans most of whom are lest aware of the contents and recommendations in the BBI Report.
“Political leaders should stop whipping emotions for or against BBI but instead involve the public in sober and mature validation exercise devoid of insults or disrespect of one another,” they say.
They urged wananchi to personally read the document keenly before engaging in discussion or debate so as to effectively participate in the current discourse without insinuating the principle of supremacy of one ethnic group over the others.
Supporting the holding of a referendum, the clergy call on an institutionalized robust reform process that is objective, inclusive, issue based and non-divisive.
They cautioned Kenyans to guard against the 2005 – orange/banana – debate that ended in sparking the post-election violence two years later during the 2007 general election.
In their view, any amendments of the 2010 Constitution should be pegged within a structured dialogue process that genuinely seeks and receives the views of every Kenyan without discrimination.
They asked the Senator Haji’s Steering Committee to take charge and control proceedings of the validation exercise to bar those bent on creating mayhem during the organised public hearings in different regions.
“The current situation where the formal validation of the Report has been subsumed by the diversionary rallies organized by political actors is contrary to the structured dialogue that the Task Force was meant to shepherd,” they added.
At the same time, the leaders want the President to initiate the process of filling the existing positions of four commissioners who resigned from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
They cautioned that political leadership against making last minute changes of the electoral body as they did just before holding the 2017 general election that had acrimonious presidential results.
According to them Kenya deserved to have a properly constituted IEBC to undertake the constitutionally mandated review of the boundaries of electoral units, and conduct the referendum if one is called to effect necessary reforms.
On the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the leaders recommended that all the existing and emerging slots within the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kenya be filled with immediate effect.
“We are aware that a number of the judges are due for retirement, and it will not be prudent to wait until the incumbents leave before the process of replacement is commenced.”
“Early recruitment will facilitate smooth transition and secure the process from intense political pressure,” they advised.
Other issues of national concern raised in the statement included matters that are affecting the lives of Kenyans, especially the ongoing desert locust infestation, the threat of spread of coronavirus in the country, and the horror of extra judicial killings by the police.
“We call on the government to put in place a campaign to educate Kenyans on measures they can adopt to eradicate the locusts.”
“On the same breathe, the National Emergency Response Committee on coronavirus should with immediate effect commence on a programme of training Kenyans on prevention and management of coronavirus infections,” the leaders said.
The clerics challenged the government to continue its commitment to peace and good neighbourliness with the regional countries.The statement was signed by the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, Hindu Council of Kenya, Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Council of Churches of Kenya, Organisation of African Instituted Churches and Shia Asna Ashri Jamaat.