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Catholic Youth in Kenyan Archdiocese Join Gen Z-led Protests against “the enemy”, Finance Bill 2024, Appeal for Prayers

Members of the Youth Serving Christ (YSC) of Holy Family Minor Basilica of Kenya’s Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi (ADN) delivering their message on the Finance Bill on Sunday, 23 June 2024. Credit: Capuchin TV

Members of the Youth Serving Christ (YSC) of Holy Family Minor Basilica of Kenya’s  Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi (ADN) have made public their active involvement in the Generation Z (Gen Z)-led protests against the controversial proposed Finance Bill 2024.

Youth-led protests against Kenya’s Finance Bill 2024 started on June 18, the day the Bill was tabled in parliament for debate, with hundreds of youths and some human rights activists taking to the streets of the capital, Nairobi, to urge the legislators not to vote for the Bill during its second reading that was scheduled for June 20.

On June 20, the Gen Z-led protests took place in at least 18 Kenyan cities and townships, with protestors saying they are not satisfied with the announced amendments to the Bill that aims to raise US$2.7 billion through additional taxes and want the entire Bill rejected. 

Kenya’s legislators approved the Bill in its second reading with 204 votes in favour and 115 against. The proposed Bill, protestors say, is set to raise the cost of living for an average Kenyan, who is already struggling to survive.

The legislators are set to meet on Tuesday, June 25 to vote on the proposed amendments to the Finance Bill 2024; they are not to discuss articles of the Bill not subject to amendments. Once legislators pass it, President Ruto has two options: to sign it into law within the stipulated 14 days or return it to the legislators for further amendments.

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In a joint message that a representative read out during Holy Mass at the Cathedral of the ADN on Sunday, June 23, YSC members described the Finance Bill 2024 as the one common “enemy” for well-meaning Kenyans, urged the people of God to familiarize themselves with the details of the Bill, and appealed for prayers to see the Bill rejected.

The YSC representative asked members of the congregation if they had their time “to read the Finance Bill 2024”, and further urged them “to take time to go through it in depth, as this is something that affects our nation as a whole.”

“As most of you are aware, if not all, this Bill not only seeks to overtax Kenyans but also to promote oppression, which generally leads to a very poor quality of life for most people, who are not as endowed as the people who are in power,” they said.

The YSC members invited members of the congregation to “an interdenominational prayer walk” that they said would start at 3 p.m. local time in the city centre, and went on to explain, “The Support from the Church as a whole is an important thing when it comes to assuring the agenda of rejecting the Finance Bill 2024 is successful.”

“For a very long time, the Church has been a pillar for justice, and a voice of reason,” they said, adding that voicing opposition to the proposed Finance Bill “too is a matter that the Church should stand firm in.”

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The people of God “cannot afford to be impartial,” the YSC members of the Cathedral of the ADN emphasized.

“We would like to urge you as Christians to pray for us and to remind you that the enemy is one, and that is the Finance Bill,” they said, and recognized with appreciation the civil education they have received from those at the helm of ADN. 

Catholic Church leaders have expressed their support for the course of the Gen Z-led protests. In separate addresses on June 23, Kenyan Catholic Bishops recalled their collective opposition as members of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) to the Bill as introducing “punitive taxes”, appealed to President William Samoei Ruto-led government to pay attention to the concerns of the protesting youths, and called upon protestors to conduct themselves with decorum.

“The Catholic Church understands very well why the young people are on the streets and we invite the government to reflect on this matter seriously and not to be in denial,” Archbishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba said.

Archbishop Muhatia added, “The streets are not the best places for our young people to be; we want them to be off the street. They are not safe on the streets; and not only that, we are not safe with them on the streets; let the government not be in denial on this.”

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“These concerns on the Finance Bill are not just by the youth or Generation Z but also of other Kenyans. KCCB has already spoken and addressed the issue of the finance Bill during the time for public participation,” he said at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish of his Metropolitan See.

The Local Ordinary of Kenya’s Catholic Archdiocese of Kisumu, who doubles as the Chairman of KCCB added, “We have given our views and they are in writing and are available.”

“So, we also have serious concerns about the Finance Bill and we believe it should not pass in its current state; adjustments and amendments need to be made for the good of the country,” he said on June 23. 

Archbishop Muhatia said that while Catholic Church leaders recognize the need for all Kenyans to pay taxes, the paying of taxes “should be rationalized in the interest of our country.”

“We are saying that the country is bleeding; it is crying that taxation is getting overboard and it needs to be staggered in the interest of the country,” the Kenyan Catholic Archbishop, who started his Episcopal Ministry in February 2010 as Bishop of Kenya’s Catholic Diocese of Nakuru said.

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He cautioned youths involved in street protests against “the temptation of instigating violence or destroying anybody’s property,” and appealed, “Remain peaceful in your demonstrations because your concerns are fairly understandable; don’t allow yourselves to be infiltrated with people having other agenda.”

The 56-year-old Catholic Archbishop, who has been at the helm of Kisumu Archdiocese since 19 March 2022  urged Kenya’s “security agencies to exercise restraint.”

“The young people on the streets have been largely peaceful and are unarmed, so we do not want to see excessive force used against them,” he said.

On his part, Bishop Simon Peter Kamomoe, one of the three Auxiliary Bishops of ADN expressed his spiritual solidarity with Kenyan youths actively involved in the protests.

“We pray that they will be well-guided by the Holy Spirit, and we ask the government not to react impulsively but to respond thoughtfully,” Bishop Kamomoe, who was presiding over the Family Day and the blessing of the new Adoration Chapel at Consolata Shrine of ADN said.

He added, “Let us all respond to the concerns of the young people regarding the Finance Bill without overreacting simply because we have the power. They also have their power; and with over 75% of our population being young people, we should not underestimate their influence.”

“Let them continue reminding us of the social injustices and corruption prevalent in our country, as these are pressing issues that demand attention,” said the Kenyan Catholic Bishop, who started his Episcopal Ministry on April 6.

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