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No, Catholic archbishop didn’t say the Kenyan government should work instead of organising political events ‘disguised as thanksgiving services’

IN SHORT: Kenyan president William Ruto has attended several church-led events in the early months of 2023, leading to some raised eyebrows. But Nyeri archbishop Anthony Muheria did not ask the government to focus on work, as a graphic circulating on social media claims.

A graphic circulating on Facebook claims an influential church leader in Kenya has urged the government to “work” instead of organising political events “disguised as thanksgiving services”.

The quote in the graphic is attributed to Anthony Muheria, the archbishop of  the Catholic archdiocese of Nyeri

The central Kenya town of Nyeri is located in the highlands 150 kilometres north of the capital Nairobi. The Nyeri archdiocese is one of four in the country, where an estimated 21% of the population belongs to the Catholic church.

The quote reads in full: “We want to appreciate the new administration for acknowledging the place of God and the Church in its establishment. However the government must also understand that there’s time for everything. This is time to work, not to dwell on political events disguised as thanksgiving services.”

The graphic, which includes a photo of the cleric, was also posted on Facebook here, here, here and here. It is branded with the logo of the public broadcaster, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), implying it was published by the KBC.

Since he was inaugurated as president in September 2022, William Ruto has attended more than 10 thanksgiving services around the country.

The church was instrumental to Ruto’s electoral victory, and it has been increasingly visible in the state’s activities, despite Kenya being a secular state according to the country’s constitution.

But did the archbishop make this statement, which would be an unlikely rebuke from the church to the president? We checked.


Quote discredited by archbishop and public broadcaster

On 5 February, Muheria was on Citizen TV’s popular Sunday Live show, where he discussed various political issues in the country.

The graphic started circulating online the day after the interview. 

We searched for the quote on Muheria’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts and came up empty.

On his Twitter account the archbishop flagged the graphic, and said it was not an accurate depiction of his comments.

“This statement attributed to me is inaccurate. Please listen to [the] clip. I hope the mistake is in good faith,” he tweeted.

He also shared a clip of the interview. 

In the recording, Muheria says: “Let’s go to church, let’s encounter God, but genuinely and honestly, and not to use that platform for politics. I think we must continuously say this and call out to our religious leaders and politicians of whatever political divide they are, that the encounter with God and places of worship must not be used as instruments or platforms for political gain or political messaging. We really must work towards that so that we go to pray to God as equals. And after that you can speak to the people wherever.”

The archbishop did not say what was quoted in the graphic.

KBC also stamped the graphic “fake” on Facebook, calling it a “FAKE NEWS ALERT”.

“This image circulating online purportedly from KBC, is not from us. If it’s not on our official social media pages, it’s fake,” the broadcaster wrote.

The archbishop is a popular target of misinformation. Africa Check found another quote attributed to him false in August 2022, that Kenyans had “normalised stealing”.

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