Presbyterian Church: Vote Kenyan Government Out for Environmental Sins

By Tom Osanjo

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 17, 2001 (ENS) - The Presbyterian Church wants Kenyans to vote out the current government in the coming general election for its failure to take stronger action against pollution and the destruction of water catchment areas.

A hard hitting statement issued by the church’s General Assembly said it was "raising very serious concern about the pollution of environment where uncollected garbage continues to pollute our city and urban towns."

Moi

President of Kenya Daniel Arap Moi (Photos courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
The failure to address these and other related issues shows that the government of longtime President Daniel Arap Moi has lost direction, the church says, urging that it be voted out in the polls due in the year 2002.

"These and many other problems affecting this country are a direct result of a government that has lost its moral authority to lead a country. Therefore we urge all peace loving citizens to vote wisely at the coming general elections in order to bring in a government which will continue to address the plight of its people," the church said in a statement.

Generally known by its acronym PCEA, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa is the country’s second largest Protestant church after the Anglican Church.

The statement, signed by the church’s Moderator Dr. Jesse Kamau and the Secretary General Reverend Patrick Rukenya, warns of an impending crisis if environmental matters are not taken seriously.

The church leaders say it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that garbage is collected and pollution levels brought under control.

Most Kenyan urban centers, including the capital Nairobi, are reeling under the weight of uncollected garbage. In some cases, entire roads have been cut off due to the increasing mounds of trash. The municipal councils, staggering under the weight of mismanagement and lack of funds, are not able to provide garbage collection services.

Some entrepreneurs have stepped in to fill this vacuum by offering private refuse handling services. But these are concentrated mainly in the more affluent parts of the towns. People in the low income areas have to contend with garbage and the attendant diseases like diarrhea and typhoid.

Last month an outbreak of typhoid killed almost 100 people in the provincial headquarters town of Embu, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) east of Nairobi.

Nyenze

Kenya's Environment Minister Francis Nyenze
The two church leaders add their voices to the ongoing rage by Kenyans against plans by Environment Minister Francis Nyenze to excise parts of forests to resettle landless people.

"We are concerned over the greed of land grabbing and destruction of forests which form our water catchment areas," they said.

The forests Nyenze has targeted for excision form the larger part of water catachment areas for major Kenyan rivers. Environemtal experts are warning that if this is allowed, the country would soon start facing serious water shortages.

The experts cite the example of Elburgon, a town of 100,000 people in the Rift Valley province. Since 1993, sawmillers have been harvesting timber to pave the way for settlements. Some 25 sawmills have been established in the town, employing roughly 20,000 workers.

Seven years later, 40,000 hectares (98,000 acres) of forest have been cleared, and the residents have began paying the price for it. Dust storms, unheard of in the past, are now part of daily life. Residents say that without the trees, their farms is threatened because every time it rains, the top rich soils are washed away.

Nyenze has since stopped his intended forest excision, awaiting the outcome of a court case filed by environmental activists.