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Take Lives Seriously, Keep Off In-person Political Rallies: Religious Leaders in Kenya

The Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Nyeri and Chairman of the Interfaith Council in Kenya, Anthony Muheria. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Religious leaders under the auspices of the Interfaith Council on COVID-19 in Kenya have urged politicians in the country to keep off in-person political rallies, saying they are super spreaders of the coronavirus. 

Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria who is the Chairman of the Council appealed to politicians in Kenya to “take the lives of our people seriously” by seeking alternative means to reach out to their constituents.

“We are pleading as the Interfaith Council, as religious leaders, that it is possible to carry out campaigns and popularization through other means other than putting the lives of people at risk,” Archbishop Muheria told journalists in Nairobi Tuesday, September 7. 

He added, addressing himself to politicians in Kenya, “We are calling to your conscience and your heart that you please take the lives of our people seriously, defend and protect it.”

“On the ground we have noticed more than tripling of the number of deaths but we still continue to witness gatherings of people without masks,” the Chairman of the Council formed in July last year to develop protocols for the phased reopening of the places of worship in Kenya bemoaned.

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The September 7 press conference followed a meeting of the 13-member Inter-faith Council with Kenya’s Interior Cabinet Secretary, Fred Matiang’i, and his Health counterpart, Mutahi Kagwe.

During the meeting, the Kenyan Archbishop said, members of the Council presented their “tremendous disappointment with the loss of focus in the fight against the pandemic.”

In July, the Kenyan government announced the suspension of public gatherings as a measure to control the spread of COVID-19, a directive a section of Kenyan politicians have continually defied. 

While announcing the directives, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary of Health singled out politicians, accusing them of going against COVID-19 protocol through the holding of public rallies.

The government official urged politicians to be part of the solution “instead of creating epicenters of spreading of the disease.”

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“There is no point in calling all these rallies, and then we follow with all these deaths,” Mr. Kagwe said. 

Kenya has recorded at least 241,134 cases of COVID-19, including 4,800 deaths and 229,762 recoveries.

During the September 7 press conference, Archbishop Muheria called upon Kenyans to observe COVID-19 health protocols when using Public Service Vehicles (PSV). 

“As you would not enter a matatu (PSV) without breaks, please don't enter a matatu that is overcrowded,” the Local Ordinary of Kenya’s Nyeri Archdiocese said.

He further called upon religious leaders in the country to encourage their respective faithful to be vaccinated against the pandemic. 

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“We ask all religious leaders to take any opportunity to encourage our faithful to take this vaccine,” the Archbishop said, and added, “The vaccination, especially of the elderly, because the larger percentage of those who are dying are the elderly, is crucial.”

He continued, “We appeal to all religious leaders to sensitize our people that COVID-19 threat is real and we must come out to fight it.”