Insecurity is not a new phenomenon in Kenya and the world as a whole. Kenya has so far had its share of insecurities, both from internal and external forces. Events of the year 2013 already raise alarm to the state of the rights to freedom of Security and freedom of Religion as Kenya has been witnessing terror attacks, several on churches and church leaders.
Reports show that there were grenade attacks against churches in Garissa town; two pastors were killed in Mombasa, churches were vandalized when a Muslim cleric was shot dead in Mombasa by unknown assailants, Sunday school children were attacked with grenades in Nairobi and most recently another church was burnt in Mombasa while another pastor was shot dead in his church. These events, among others have raised eyebrows since there are no reports of any arrests made so far. This has pushed citizens to ends where they would prefer taking matters into their own hands. Not too long ago, Church leaders were outraged after one of them was killed in cold blood. The leaders insisted that they be allowed to carry a gun for protection of the church clergy and church members. Obviously the reality of this request is a little on the unrealistic side. Needless to say, not just any or every individual can be allowed to carry a fire arm.
However, a rather alarming fact is that most of these crimes are being committed against the Church and by Non-Christians hence the issues of religious attacks and Freedom of Religion arise. For instance;
In 2010 bishop Segel a cleric at Ongata Rongai Redeemed Church, up until now, no arrests have been made and the perpetrators remain free as no justice has been brought o the deceased and his family. Similarly in 2010 the Uhuru Park blast which claimed six lives and left 100 injured is another incident which is a clear indication of how real the attack on Christianity is. Again just like the gruesome murder of Bishop Segel, the investigations of the police are yet to yield results 3 years later. The 5 people who were arrested over the said attacks were released as they were found to be innocent. In 2012 Pastor Benjamin Juma of Nyali Baptist Church and the assistant pastor of Melchizedek Church Mombasa Pastor Jackson Kioko were on a door to door evangelism mission when they were lynched in a case of mistaken identity. Interrogations were carried out and as expected no justice was received for the deceased as later no arrests were made.
In the Year 2012, An Attack on an A.I.C church in Garissa left 17 people dead and scores injured after gunmen shot at worshippers in Garissa. Similarly another attack took place at God's House of Miracles Church, at Ngara Estate in Nairobi. As reported by one of the dailies, an attacker, who goes by the name Amar, entered the church and left. He later came back and took a seat in the back, hurling the grenade at worshipers leaving one dead and 11 injured. On 30 September, at around 10:30am, a 9-year old boy was killed when a grenade was hurled towards Sunday school children at St Polycarp Anglican Church along Juja road in Nairobi. Recently in Mombasa the Salvation Army Church in Nairobi was torched leaving one dead. In the small town of Wajir a Catholic church was the subject of attack after attackers threw two grenades at the church and then shot at the police, before running away. Two Protestant Pastors were very recently killed in two different attacks in Mombasa and Kilifi. In June of this year, a church was bombed leaving 12 dead and 17 injured.
No arrests have been made and nobody has been charged even in regard to these events that took place from as early as 2010. This laxity of the police force has only enabled the perpetrators as nothing is done to stop these attacks on religion. It is sort of an attack of people vs. the people with the police standing back and doing nothing to bring order in society
In dealing with Religious freedom, we are placed with the task of examining and determining whether this is a deliberate attack on the church or whether it is a simple case of dealing with criminals who just happen to be Muslims. The issue is complex and can be viewed from several perspectives.
Religious attacks have raised a lot of concern not only in African States like Kenya, Egypt and Nigeria among others, but also in Countries like America, Iran ,Pakistan just to mention a few. The common factor in the state of all these countries is that what comes across is that the attacks are leveled against the Christian faith. Obviously the Church has to find ways of protecting itself within the limits set out in the right to Security while exercising their right to freedom of religion and to worship.
The Constitution of Kenya has laws in regards to Freedom of Religion and the Right to Security. Article 29 deals with the Freedom and Security of the Person. It highlights security in deprivation and unlawful arrests and issues such a corporal punishment. It however does not exclusively deal with issues such as the right to be afforded security or the right to possess arms for one's security and public security. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) is begged with this task, however this is a remedial function meaning it is not regressive.
The duty to ensure that the right to security of the person is placed on institutions in the police force as well as on every individual to avoid endangering another person's security and life. This is achieved through instruments of Law such as the Penal Code that provide for appropriate measures to be taken against individuals who are in breach of both public and private peace.
Some rights are better enforced by the state and the right to security and protection of the Kenyan people is one of those rights. Allowing everyone to have that right to carry a fire arm will only cause more problems. Institutions such as the judiciary are created to ensure and guarantee that basic human rights are enforced.
The Freedom of Conscience, religion, belief and opinion is governed by Article 32 of the Kenyan Constitution which exclusively states that;
"...Every person has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion."
This statistics of event is neither pleasing nor exciting. There is clearly a problem; if solutions were easy to come by however we would not be calling it a problem in the first place. Attacks on religion are complex just like acts of terrorism. One cannot completely fathom the reasons why one would be motivated to commit such a crime and finding ways of curbing such acts are not easy.
As society develops, it is clear to see that society generally has not reached a point of acceptability of our differences. We have reached a point where our differences are causes of war and terror. However we have not reached an end on how to curb this problem.
So far parliament has enacted legislation to ensure that individuals have freedom of religion and conscience and the freedom of security of the person as per the requirements of the Constitution and regional and International. The Judiciary through Article 23 have upheld and enforced the bill of rights which includes freedom of security of the person and the freedom of conscience, religion belief and opinion. The Executive has enforced these laws as required. One needs to note that laws are the first step. Just because legislation exists does not mean that society will adhere to it. Presence of retributive measures or punishments for law breakers does also not curb attacks. For now however that's all we have. The Judiciary will have to be diligent in ensuring that perpetrators are seriously dealt with.
The Police force on the other hand who are the main participants in catching perpetrators and bringing them before a court of law must be diligent. This process of transformation and justice begins with them.
It is rather sad to observe that so far no action has been taken against perpetrators of evils against religious leaders in Kenya and also for destruction of some of their places of worship.
The series of laxity from the police and government need to end. It would be wise to educate the public on the importance of acceptability of our differences. Harsh punishments need to be advocated for in the penal code against the individuals who commit such offences. This is a complex social crime which might just need a social based approach in curbing it.