Kenya’s Opposition Leader Disagrees with Catholic Bishops’ Caution against Public Protests

Raila Odinga addressing some religious leaders including members of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB). Credit: Raila Odinga/Facebook

The leader of the opposition coalition in Kenya has expressed disagreement with the caution Catholic Bishops in the East African nation made against the resumption of anti-government demonstrations.

In a Saturday, April 22 statement, Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga, the leader of the Azimio One Kenya Coalition, took issue with the stance of the members of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), saying they have characterized demonstrations that were first held on March 20 as “violent, unconstitutional, or uncalled for”.

Officials of Kenya’s opposition coalition, Hon. Odinga said, “do not agree with the church's characterisation of the public protests that Azimio has been leading as violent, unconstitutional, or uncalled for.”

Kenya’s former Prime Minister blamed the violence that characterized previous protests, which he had declared would be taking place on Monday and Thursday aimed at forcing President Ruto to lower the cost of living among other demands, on the police.

“As we have stated on recent occasions, our protests have been and will continue to be peaceful unless the state unleashes police and goons on protesters," Hon. Odinga explained April 22.


The opposition leader was responding to the latest KCCB members’ statement in which they said they were “very much disturbed” by the seeming lack of progress in the choice of talks that President William Samoei Ruto and Hon. Raila agreed to undertake earlier this month to end protests.

“We are very much disturbed by the apparent standoff which could easily lead to hardened positions and delay the urgently needed process of dialogue,” KCCB members said in their April 20 statement in reference to recent reports that have indicated a “standoff” between the Kenyan government and the main opposition coalition, some national media reporting that the bipartisan talks are “on the brink of collapse” due to the hardline stand that parties in dialogue are taking, and others featuring Hon. Raila threatening to resume weekly anti-government protests.

In the six-page statement, Catholic Bishops in Kenya expressed their disapproval of “destructive demonstrations” and advocated for dialogue, which they said is “the only civil way” to resolve the county’s socio-political challenges.

“We encourage all parties and citizens to refrain from destructive demonstrations and instead commit themselves to the path of dialogue as the only civil way of resolving political and social issues affecting our country in order to have a reconciled and inclusive nation,” KCCB members said in their April 20 statement that their Chairman, Archbishop Martin Kivuva Musonde of Mombasa Archdiocese read out.

“We urge all our leaders to use non-violent means in resolving conflicts. We in particular appeal to them to embrace our national values enshrined in the Constitution instead of allowing themselves to be driven by personal and selfish political interests,” Catholic Bishops in Kenya said, reiterating their Easter Message in which they cautioned Kenyan political leaders against “seeking personal benefits”.

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The Catholic Church leaders urged Kenyan politicians to “re-evaluate their value system and guided by their conscience, endeavor to do what is right for all Kenyans.”

In his April 22 response to the Catholic Bishops, Hon. Odinga defended his renewed call for demonstrations, saying they were Constitutional. 

"Every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities,'' Hon. Odinga said, quoting section 37 of Kenya’s Constitution of 2010.

He went on to urge the Catholic church leadership in particular and Kenyans in general to cooperate with other Kenyans in calling on President-Ruto led government to respect section 37 of Kenya’s 2010 Constitution.

Hon. Odinga also defended his coalition’s call for an audit of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), saying, ''We equally disagree with the characterization of our push for the audit of IEBC servers as unnecessary,''


"As we said from the start of our protests, the push for a forensic audit is guided by a core doctrine of Christianity, which is a belief in the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In this regard, and as we have stated before, we are guided by John 8:32- ‘Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,’" he said.

Kenya’s opposition leader continued in his April 22 press statement, "During the hearing of the presidential election petition in 2022, the Supreme Court ordered that the servers be opened for our scrutiny only for the same court to ignore its order and in the final ruling disregard the fact the servers were not opened." 

He, however, applauded Catholic Bishops in Kenya for pushing President Ruto-led government to come to the aid of ordinary Kenyans, who are struggling to make ends meet.

"As a party, we stand ready to partner with the church to pursue this matter in a much louder, more consistent, and unapologetic manner for the sake of suffering Kenyans," Hon. Odinga said.

In their April 20 statement shared with ACI Africa at the conclusion of their weeklong Plenary Assembly held at Roussel House, Donum Dei in Karen, Nairobi, Catholic Bishops in Kenya commiserated with Kenyans concerning the high cost of living, and called upon the government “to give tax relief”.

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“We appeal to the Government to give tax relief on basic items as a way of cushioning the poor,” KCCB members said.

“Dear Kenyans, we are aware that most of us are struggling with many challenges but we must not lose hope,” Catholic Bishops in Kenya said, and continued, “As a nation, we have come from far to be where we are, so let us celebrate whatever little steps we have made together.”

Fr. Don Bosco Onyalla is ACI Africa’s founding Editor-in-Chief. He was formed in the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans), and later incardinated in Rumbek Diocese, South Sudan. He has a PhD in Media Studies from Daystar University in Kenya, and a Master’s degree in Organizational Communication from Marist College, New York, USA.