Taking Stock of Catholic Bishops’ Anti-Corruption Campaign in Kenya, Testimonies

Bishops in Kenya taking commitment to fight against Corruption during the unveiling of six-month nation-wide campaign against corruption at Subukia Shrine, Kenya on October 5, 2019
Credit: ACI Africa

A month after the Catholic Bishops in Kenya launched a six-month country-wide campaign against graft through what they called “Breaking the Chains of Corruption,” ACI Africa has reached out to the Prelates to testify about the progress of their widely publicized and acclaimed initiative. While some have started off the campaign, others are yet to officially roll out the planned activities in their respective dioceses and jurisdictions amid dissenting voices from some priests.

“Already we have started with three barracks which we are taking as a sample before we start,” the Apostolic Administrator of the Military Ordinariate, Msgr. Benjamin Maswili told ACI Africa in an interview.

“The plan is to start with the Chaplains themselves and they will make the commitment while removing the shoes so that when they go back to the barracks they will be an example and educate other people about it when they themselves have already denounced any involvement with corruption,” Msgr. Maswili added. 

According to the Colonel, it’s after the Chaplains make their commitment that the campaign will be rolled out in the whole Ordinariate on the first Sunday of Advent (December 1) and will follow the guidelines provided by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB).

“After the Creed, we shall be renewing our baptismal promises and after that we shall be using water to remind ourselves about baptism and also to bless ourselves then we go on with the liturgy,” the Apostolic Administrator told ACI Africa.

“After the post-communion prayer, the Christians will line up, remove the shoes and make their commitment and then sign the commitment and leave it so that we can have a book where we shall be having a record of everybody in the Ordinariate who has taken a stand against corruption,” he added.

In the Archdiocese of Mombasa where the campaign has already been launched, the Local Ordinary has taken it upon himself to sensitize people about the vice in various forums saying “ I do that to every parish and church I go to and I remind all of us of our particular roles.”

“Recently I had about 1,500 students from 20 colleges and I made them also take the promise and I pinned on them the (anti-corruption) ribbon, which is white and green,” Archbishop Martin Kivuva told ACI Africa in an interview and explained, “White - we must cleanse Kenya to be white like snow and green for there is hope if all of us collaborate.”

For the Archdiocese of Nyeri in Central Kenya, Archbishop Anthony Muheria told ACI Africa that the campaign will be launched during the Archdiocesan Family Day on November 23, an event that will involve a public procession and renewal of baptismal promises, and later a cascading of the campaign to the parishes during the Advent season.

“We also have a youth walk for the campaign with about 6,000-7,000 youths at the end of November and we are also going to have a long seminar with young people,” the Opus Dei Prelate said and added, “We are also going to meet the leaders but first we are going to the grassroots, to the Christians.”

In the Diocese of Lodwar located in north-western Kenya, the campaign which will be launched on Sunday, November 10 will be an opportunity to make the people understand that “if we do not fight and stand against corruption it will continue corrupting us, killing our economy and killing our development.”

“We come from an area affected very much by corruption and corrupt practices and people have really suffered a lot and most of the times we depend on relief and support from other people and when that support is diverted along the way we really suffer,” Bishop Dominic Kimengich of Lodwar diocese told ACI Africa.

Responding to claims by priests that they were unaware of the campaign as they were not consulted, the Chairman of KCCB Archbishop Philip Anyolo viewed the sentiments as a “generic feeling” but one that would go away once the campaign cascades from the level of the Bishops to the parishes.

“They have not understood it but they are on the path of understanding it and when that happens, it will be faster” the Archbishop told ACI Africa.

Following the launch of the campaign, a section of priests had expressed their reservation about the campaign, claiming they were not involved yet they were expected to collaborate with the Bishops to make the initiative effective at the grassroots.

“They (Bishops) expect us to tell the Christians about the campaign yet even us we are in the dark, we know as much as only what has been said on television,” a Kenyan priest told ACI Africa on condition of anonymity.

Through Facebook, a user published a post in which she expressed her shock at claims during Sunday Mass by a priest who told the congregation on a Sunday after the anti-corruption launch that the Bishops’ initiative “had nothing to do with them (priests)” and that the Christians should “read the message in the newspapers and leave it there.”

“He (priest) went on to say that each Bishop is autonomous in his diocese and they would wait for their (Local Ordinary) to give them directions. In the meantime, Christians can continue bringing in their contributions as much as they wish,” reads part of the Facebook post.

To the dissenting priests, Archbishop Kivuva of Mombasa responded, “do not say we were not told. The question is how do we cascade from the Bishops to the grassroots and parishes. It's all of us to ask the same question: what can we do where we are.”

“It’s cascaded and as we do that, we are going to reach them (priests),” Archbishop Muheria concluded.

ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]