Countering ICPD25: Reactions to President Kenyatta’s Keynote Address

Countering ICPD25: Kenyan Ann Kioko carrying the petition to be presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta on November 11, 2019
Credit: CitizenGO

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has been lauded for veering off contentious themes guiding the ongoing controversial International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25). However, some participants in the Pro-Life and Family Friendly Side Events have said the President could have been more careful with the use of the expression “reproductive health,” which has evolved over time.

“We are grateful that the President went along with the voice of the Church,” Bishop Emeritus, Military Ordinariate Kenya, Alfred Rotich told ACI Africa on the sidelines of the Pro-Life and Family Friendly Side Events which has been organized to counter the ICPD25 agenda. 

“The religious community did say that this is a good step in line with what he had already given to the country and the world when President Obama came to Kenya,” the Bishop added recalling 2015 when President Kenyatta told the then U.S. President, Barrack Obama that homosexuality is a “non-issue” in Kenya

The Bishop added, Kenya’s Head of State “may have surprised the plenary there (ICPD25)” by not touching on some of the controversial issues, affirming that “his position (president) is our position that we cannot allow an announcement using our grounds to announce that which is contra God’s plan.” 

According to the Campaigns Director for CitizenGO in Africa, Ann Kioko, President Kenyatta largely adhered to the petition presented by her group.

The petition urged Kenya’s President not to support ICPD25 agenda related to sexuality rights that imply permitting abortion and the use of contraceptives.

Ms. Kioko explained, “On Monday, we presented a petition to the President of Kenya and we asked him when he goes to that conference, he does not discuss abortion agenda, and comprehensive sexuality education and monitoring his statements, his speech, we are happy with it because he was very careful.”.  

She added, “He asserted that whatever happens, whatever commitments and whatever, Kenya, will carry forward with what has to be within the cultural context and within the law of Kenya, which is very strong. So even if they want to impose abortion and homosexuality, it has to be within the Kenyan law and we know that in Kenya it is illegal.”

The Vice Secretary Kenya Catholic Doctors Association, Dr. Wahome Ngari also added his voice of satisfaction with the president’s statement saying, “I was very happy that he started and ended by emphasizing that they will only follow through on commitments that are keeping with our constitution and keeping with our culture and national ethos.”

In the view of Dr. Eda Beauttah and Dr. Theresa Okafor, the President’s statement showed that he listened to the people.

According to Dr. Beauttah, “I think our lobbying has really worked because he didn't endorse the ICPD 25 wholesale. What he said is that I will only support the following, you know, like we need to reduce FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and other things like that.”

“The President said that we will only accept the things in this agreement that are in line with our constitution and without values, which means of course, the LGBT issue is out, gay marriage is out,” Dr. Beauttah added.

“The President made some commitments and those commitments were in the area of health, education and ensuring that Female Genital Mutilation is totally eradicated. Yes, we are happy,” Dr. Okafor said.

However, expressing dissatisfaction with part of the president’s statement, Dr. Beauttah said, “The problem that I have with his speech is that the word reproductive health is still there.”

She explained, “World Health Organization (WHO) has redefined reproductive health to include safe abortion services. We need to really work on this constitution and change that, remove the word reproductive health.”

“It used to mean having a healthy reproductive system but now what it means is having access to, what they call safe abortion, which doesn't exist because the baby always dies and the mother is always harmed usually psychologically as well as physically,” Dr. Beauttah added.

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]