Persistent Insecurity in Two Kenyan Dioceses “unfortunate, regrettable”: Bishops

Bishop John Oballa Owaa, Chairman of KCCB's Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC).
Credit: Public Domain

Catholic Bishops in Kenya have, in a collective statement, said they are “deeply concerned” about persistent violent conflicts in two areas covered by the dioceses of Ngong and Marsabit “due to ethnic, clan hatred, competition over resources and leadership wrangles” and described the situation as “barbaric, unfortunate, saddening and regrettable”.

“We, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) – Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC), are deeply concerned with continued insecurity and tensions in the Counties of Narok (Transmara and Mau forest) and Marsabit which have led to loss of lives, displacement of people and destruction of properties,” the Bishops in Kenya say in their Friday, July 3 statement.

The Bishops term as “regrettable” the reported cases of systematic killings of twelve people in Marsabit County including two university students, a secondary school student and a motorcycle rider stressing that “sanctity of life and human dignity is a value to be upheld at all times.”

“It is unfortunate that we keep losing lives including those of the young and innocent, due to ethnic, clan hatred, competition over resources and leadership wrangles,” the Bishops bemoan in the three-page statement signed by CJPC Chairman, Bishop John Oballa Owaa.

Marsabit, which neighbours Ethiopia and Somalia is considered a “conflict hotspot” with indigenous communities historically fighting over water and pasture for their animals.

Peace and security experts have argued that beyond conflict resources, factional interest groups have exploited ethnic vulnerabilities for political and economic gain.

Narok, the County within the Catholic diocese of Ngong, has had frequent inter-ethnic violent clashes over land and cattle rustling among the dominant pastoralist communities.

“We strongly condemn these barbaric acts and appeal to the concerned communities to embrace peace, love and harmony. Only then will development be realized for their common good,” the Bishops in Kenya say referencing reported cases of violence in the Kenyan Counties of Marsabit and Narok.

Considering the “myriad of challenges” that the people of God are facing in these localities amid COVID-19, the Bishops note, it is too much “to again be subjected to uncalled for conflicts, killings and other forms of sufferings.”

The attacks are “saddening,” the Bishops say, and call on Kenya’s Ministry of Interior to conduct “speedy investigations” and bring the culprits to book. Failure to do so is a motivator for perpetrators to continue with their “ungodly practices,” the Bishops caution.

“Ethnic killings or killings between people happen only in a country or county where law and order (are) not respected,” the Bishops say and continue, “People who feel aggrieved should seek legal redress.”

They appeal to the Kenyan government to “ensure people have faith in the systems of governance. Without this, we are afraid; communities will continue to kill each other as if we are a lawless state.”

To de-escalate the conflict, the Bishops encourage ongoing peace talks among elders from various communities in affected Counties and the implementation of the resolutions that will be reached in order to secure the regions from perennial ethnic conflicts and deaths.

The Catholic leaders in Kenya cite St. Paul who urged the Philippians not to “merely look at our own personal interest, but also for the interests of others,”  and add, “In this regard, we pray and urge all Kenyans to be their brothers and sisters keeper and maintain peace, love and unity.”

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