Cost of living in Kenya “totally unbearable”, Government Unconcerned: Catholic Archbishop

Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Kenya’s Nyeri Archdiocese. Credit: Nyeri Archdiocese

An average Kenyan is reeling under the high cost of living, the Archbishop of Kenya’s Nyeri Archdiocese has said.

Speaking after presiding over Holy Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel Kaheti Parish of his Metropolitan See on February 18, Archbishop Anthony Muheria attributed the “totally unbearable” cost of living to newly introduced taxes, and faulted President William Ruto-led government for seeming unconcerned by the plight of Kenyans.  

“The cost of living has become totally unbearable. We are asking, isn’t space for the government to listen?” Archbishop Muheria posed at the Kenyan Catholic Parish, where he presided over the launching of the 2024 Lenten Campaign in his Metropolitan See. 

He went on to lament, “We have called our leaders about the tremendous strains they are putting on ordinary Kenyans, but all our calls have fallen on deaf ears.”  

Archbishop Muheria identified new taxes as a factor behind the high cost of living and emphasized the need for dialogue about the levies in view of cushioning Kenyans continued strain and suffering.


Last August, Kenya’s Ministry of Lands, Public Works, Housing and Urban Development issued a public notice announcing the implementation of mandatory contribution towards the Housing Fund proposed in the Finance Act, 2023 effective from 1 July 2023, Kenyan media reported.

The 2 August 2023 notice, which followed the decision of the Court of Appeal to lift the suspension of the conservatory orders barring the implementation of the Finance Act, 2023 indicated that “the levy is payable by the employee and employer at a rate of one point five per centum (1.5 per cent) of the employee's gross monthly salary by the employee, and one point five per centum of the employee's monthly gross salary by the employer, as outlined in the Finance Act 2023.”

On 28 November 2023, Kenya's High Court declared that the new levy to fund the affordable housing in the East African nation was unconstitutional, arguing that the Kenyan government had not adequately explained why the levy was imposed only on workers with employment in the formal sector, Reuters reported.

"The introduction of the housing levy... is discriminatory and irrational and arbitrary and is in violation... of the constitution," Judge David Majanja was quoted as announcing the verdict of the judges, who also approved the government lawyers' request for a 45-day stay of the order as they deliberate on whether to appeal or make changes to the law, addressing the concerns of the High Court judges.

In its January 26 ruling, Kenya’s Court of Appeal declined to extend the order that allowed the Kenyan government to continue collecting levies towards the affordable housing initiative, The East African reported.

More in Africa

On his part, President Ruto has continually insisted that the affordable housing project must be implemented “no matter what”.

In his February 19 address at the Joint National Executive Retreat and Parliamentary Group consultative meeting in the Kenyan town of Naivasha in Nakuru County, the Kenyan President said, "We will implement the housing program. I don't want to say by whatever means possible. I have just said we will implement it. We will, because it is what other progressive countries have done. It has worked. It is not an invention."

“Even those opposed to the housing program, it is not because they do not know it is the right thing,” he added.

According to Archbishop Muheria, Kenyans have other priority needs, which must be addressed before that of housing.   

“Right now, Kenyans don't necessarily need houses; they need food and survival; can we first address that and then come back to housing?” he said on February 18.


The Kenyan Catholic Archbishop, who serves as the Chairman of the Commission for Social Communications of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) clarified that in faulting the government on prioritizing the affordable housing initiative, the Catholic Church aims to safeguard livelihoods of Kenyans, and wants a conversation around the matter. 

“There is no opposition, there is no conflict; we are not fighting any establishment or programs. We are just saying, let’s sit together. We are very concerned that the cost of living continues to be very high, and the leaders have refused to listen,” he said.

The Kenyan-born member of Opus Dei called upon Kenyans to pray for the country’s leadership to “soften” its heart and organize dialogue. He said, “It is time that we sat and spoke. We cannot force listening; we cannot force a heart to soften but we can pray that it does soften.”

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.