In a significant political development, the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) yesterday voiced strong opposition to President William Ruto’s proposed tax measures, characterizing them as a sign of an administration growing indifferent to the economic difficulties facing the Kenyan majority.
The ACK’s House of Bishops, in a pointed critique, accused President Ruto’s government of fostering nepotism and tribal favoritism, especially within public service appointments.
“Public appointments are marred by evident tribalism and cronyism. Our institutions are seemingly devoid of accountability and transparency. This is unacceptable. We insist on impartiality and efficiency from all institutions and government agencies, rather than them succumbing to political influence,” declared the bishops, led by Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit.
The ACK’s leadership also proposed expanding the bipartisan dialogue between President Ruto’s team and opposition leader Raila Odinga’s representatives to include faith-based organizations, offering themselves as mediators to help resolve contentious issues.
The Finance Bill 2023, a central point of contention, proposes a 3% statutory deduction, to be matched by employers but capped at Sh5,000 a month, to the Housing Fund. The bishops argued that this, if passed, would place an unwarranted burden on most Kenyans and called for comprehensive public scrutiny before its introduction to Parliament.
“The government has yet to propose a plan to address budget deficits, delayed salary and pension payments, and evidence of misaligned priorities. It seems that excessive government spending and mismanagement of public resources supersede the basic needs of citizens,” the statement reads.
Barely a week ago, public sector unions mirrored the bishops’ sentiment, threatening a widespread strike if the bill passes.
The bishops further chastised the government for its apparent failure to curb extravagant public spending and improve deteriorating public services across all sectors. They also highlighted the government’s seeming lack of empathy towards the economic hardships endured by most Kenyans.
Archbishop Sapit commented on the Shakahola tragedy, where over 140 people reportedly starved themselves to death, acting on teachings by Pastor Paul Mackenzie. The bishops dismissed calls for regulating religion, asserting that the church can self-regulate under umbrella bodies. They did, however, express support for legislation to curb religious extremism and cult practices.
The Anglican leaders also urged the government to pay the Sh2 billion it owes to faith-based hospitals for services rendered under the National Health Insurance Fund.
Lastly, the bishops called for a more humane approach to the ongoing operations against banditry and insecurity in the counties of Baringo, Samburu, West Pokot, Turkana, and Marsabit, emphasizing the importance of respecting human dignity and the rights of Kenyans.