Exercise Caution When Reporting Politics in Kenya: Catholic Archbishop to Journalists

Archbishop Maurice Makumba Muhatia of Kenya's Kisumu Archdiocese. Credit: ACI Africa

There is need for news journalists in Kenya to proceed with caution when reporting politics ahead of the general elections scheduled to take place on August 9, the Catholic Archbishop of Kisumu Archdiocese has said.

In an interview with ACI Africa on the sidelines of the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop John Mbinda of Lodwar Diocese, Archbishop Maurice Makumba Muhatia said the list of potential hotspots for violence before, during, and after the general elections gives reason for “everybody” to be cautious, especially journalists in mainstream media.

“The media needs to control itself, especially the (mainstream) media houses,” Archbishop Muhatia said, adding that how news reports are framed influences the perception of issues by the audiences.

He explained, “How news is communicated means a lot to the recipient of that particular news, something all of us have to be careful about.”

“We have come to a situation whereby everybody has to be careful, including communicators of news,” the Kenyan Catholic Archbishop reiterated during the June 3 interview.  


The National Cohesion and Integration Commission identified at least 23 Kenyan Counties as potential zones for election-related violence, including Kisumu, Siaya, Nairobi, Uasin Gishu, Garissa, Kericho, Homa Bay, and Kakamega, among others.

In the interview with ACI Africa, Archbishop Muhatia said the mapping out of hotspots in Kenya “was to draw attention that we will get what we want.”

“Garbage in, garbage out. If you are going to incite people and speak aimlessly in public, they will be incited,” he said, adding that identifying hotspots does not aim at portraying towns negatively, but seeks to emphasize the need for caution against indecent, inciteful, and hateful speech.

The Catholic Archbishop who has been at the helm of Kisumu Archdiocese since March 19 said the Counties covered by his Metropolitan See (Kisumu and Siaya) have been identified among the hotspot zones because one of the presidential candidates is a native of the region and enjoys a strong support.

“We would like our candidate to win. If our candidate does not win, we will be sad. It is what we do with the sadness that is the problem; that is why politicians and everybody else has to be careful what they say,” he explained. 

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Archbishop Muhatia added in reference to politicians, “If they say good things, encouraging things, people will deal with the sadness positively. If you say bad (and) negative things, people will deal with the sadness also negatively and in inflammatory ways.”

To avoid violence before, during, and after the general elections, there is need “to exercise a lot of caution in what we say and how we say it,” he reiterated, and added, “Politicians, church leaders, news men and women, everybody needs to pull together the spirit of Harambee as patriots, for the love of our country ahead of everything else.”

Kenyans need to embrace whoever will be declared as the country’s President after the general elections, Archbishop Muhatia said, adding, “We should say let whoever wins, win. If he is from Turkana, if he is from Kisumu, Uasin Gishu, Mombasa, or anywhere else, he is a Kenyan, so be it.”

He went on to urge institutions that are involved in managing the elections to be transparent and accountable to the public. He said that the institutions such as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and security agencies need to be fair to all political candidates and parties and exercise prudence in their activities.

“These agencies need to pull together for the good of our country, for a peaceful election,” the Kenyan Archbishop who started his Episcopal Ministry in Nakuru Diocese in February 2010 said during the June 3 interview.


Archbishop Muhatia also urged Kenyans to elect God-fearing leaders, adding that such leaders would have “everything right” in the country.

He reiterated the call, which members of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) made to the electorate last month, that the choice of political candidates be based on their social concerns, which entail the protection of life.  

“We released a statement and made some comments on how we expect the elections to be conducted, how the citizens, the leaders, those in office, the institutions managing elections and the general populace should act,” Archbishop Muhatia said, making reference to the May 27 KCCB press conference. 

There is need for Kenyans to examine the values of political candidates, he said, and explained, “We need to enshrine these values, put our leaders to task to tell us what values they stand for.”

“If I want to vote in a leader and I'm a Catholic, I shouldn’t vote in a leader who supports abortion; I shouldn’t vote in a leader who supports LGBT; it goes against our values as Catholics and Christians,” the native of Kenya’s Kakamega Diocese said. 

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Christians should not put aside their values in favor of politics, he emphasized, and explained, “We cannot sell Christianity at 50 cents. We cannot put aside what we are as Christians and sacrifice, for example, our Catholicity, on the altar of political expediency. That is selling your faith at the cheapest price, to the lowest bidder.”

It is better for Kenyans to know what political candidates stand for before voting for them, the Kenyan Catholic Archbishop emphasized during the June 3 interview with ACI Africa. 

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.