Kenya’s Catholic Peace Entities Urged to Investigate “millions” Used in Political Campaign

By Agnes Aineah and Sheila Pires

Nairobi, 19 February, 2022 / 11:20 am (ACI Africa).

Political aspirants in Kenya are spending millions of shillings to campaign for various seats ahead of the country’s August 9 elections, the Director of Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI) has said, and urged Kenya’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commissions (CJPCs) to research widely on the source of the money that is being used on voters in the East African country.

In a Thursday, February 17 interview with ACI Africa, Johan Viljoen said that the experience of DHPI in countries such as Mozambique, Cameroon, and Nigeria has shown that political, social and economic courses in many African countries are funded by parties whose aim is to fuel conflicts in Africa.

The DHPI official underscored the need for Kenya, and other countries where electioneering period is characterized with chaos to investigate “who is benefitting from the violence.”

His advice to the country’s JPCs, he said, is “not to take any violence after elections at face value.”

“Kenya strikes me as a very peaceful country, and there hasn’t really been a history of violence except before, during and after elections,” he said, and added, “Kenyans should not just look at violence at face value, as being incited by people who lost. There is always a need to go a little bit deeper with research to see who is inciting that violence, who is behind it, and go even further back and see what are the financial interests that are funding the violence.”

Research the situation properly,” Mr. Viljoen said, and added, “Find out who is benefiting from the continued violence, and who is behind it.”

He gave the example of the embattled Cabo Delgado Province of Mozambique where the peace entity is researching a five-year conflict, and said, “In the context of Mozambique, it was European and oil companies that were benefiting from and fueling the violence.”

The Director of the peace entity that is researching the evolution of conflict in Mozambique, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Ethiopia refuted claims that Islamic Jihad is entirely responsible for the conflict that has displaced over 800,000 people in Cabo Delgado.

Mr. Viljoen spoke to ACI Africa on the sidelines of a five-day workshop that was held in Nairobi from February 14 to prepare JPCs from various Catholic Dioceses in Kenya for the country’s elections scheduled for August 9.

The workshop was organized by Misereor, the German Catholic Bishops’ entity for development cooperation, to devise ways in which civil society and the Church in particular, can help make the general elections in August peaceful, orderly, and successful.

Close to 30 representatives from the various JPCs participated in the workshop that concluded February 18, facilitated by Mr. Viljoen and Mike Pothier, the Program Manager of the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC).

Mr. Viljoen said that he had interacted with civilians in Kenya who had informed him of the presence of politicians who had a “a lot of money” which they were “throwing around” trying to influence the outcome of the vote.

“My advice to justice and peace would be to do your research to find out who is funding (the political aspirants). Where does the money come from? What are the vested interests?” he said, and added that such information will help the Catholic peace entities in Kenya to “take legal action, if necessary” and also to watch out for incidents of post-election conflicts.

He also called on Kenya’s Catholic JPC entity to utilize its large numbers to strengthen its influence especially in rural areas and to educate masses on the need for peace ahead of the elections.

“The Catholic Church is very big here,” he said, and added, “It’s not like South Africa, where it’s 8 percent of the population. They have a voice and they are present in every community. They need to urge voters to reject any gifts that political aspirants are offering them to blind their judgment during elections.”

“Do not be fooled by a political party that comes and gives cash donations to pastors, or they give bags of rice to the unemployed and the elderly… Go instead for what you believe in and for the one whose policies resonate with you,” Mr. Viljoen said.

The DHPI official’s appeal to Kenyan leaders is to let the world know what is happening in the country and foster relationships with countries that will help in the event that any crisis befalls the country.

“Kenya is a very important strategic country, not only in Africa, but in the world. It is important that you build your international alliances. And through the media, publicize what’s happening so that the decision makers in Europe, in

the US and in other countries and the general public know what’s happening, and so that there is international solidarity with the people of Kenya in whatever happens after the election,” he said.

“Get to the root of the problem, expose the ones who are benefiting from it, raise global awareness and build international partnerships, because we are in a global village, and a country cannot just withdraw into itself and say what happens here is an internal political matter, nothing is internal anymore,” the official of the SACBC peace entity said.

He noted that whatever happens in Kenya will affect the entire East Africa region, “and possibly even the entire sub–Saharan African continent.”

Mr. Pothier, the Program Manager of the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office of the SACBC, said that the workshop with JPC officials in Kenya was aimed at equipping the Church officials with skills to intervene in national elections in various ways, including “promoting the common good”.

“If you’re wanting to intervene in an election situation, civil society advocacy is about trying to promote the common good, trying to speak for people who may not have a voice of their own. In scriptural terms, it’s that old thing of the prophets speaking truth to power, using the church’s moral authority, sometimes encouraging church leadership to speak up, when they see injustice happening, and so on,” Mr. Pothier told ACI Africa.

He said the workshop is an effort “in the context of elections” to make sure that the elections are peaceful, orderly, free and fair, “and that the population really gets a chance to express their wishes.”

Participants at the workshop raised concerns such as tribalism and negative ethnicity as well as the lack of trust in Kenya’s election system as some of the factors that may impede a peaceful election in the country.

“There’s a general concern in Kenya around tribalism and ethnicity. Participants say that these two get weaponized at election time,” Mr. Pothier said.

He added, “There’s a lack of trust in the process. People have mentioned words like rigging and electoral fraud, corruption of various kinds going on.”

The Program Manager of the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office of the SACBC said that the lack of trust in Kenya’s election process can be addressed by making the actual voting process more and more sophisticated with enough checks and balances being built in the process.

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