By Rev. Canon Francis Omondi
The church struggles in silence while endemic corruption ravages the public and private sectors of the country. It brings to mind the famous lament of the prophet Jeremiah when he cried against the appalling behavior of his people. He asks, “… is there no Balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why is the wound of my people not healed?” Jeremiah’s words inspired a Negro spiritual that gave an answer: “There is a balm in Gilead to heal a sin, sick soul…”
Wounds inflicted by corruption in Kenya will need a more “potent balm”, yes, more than an “expert physician”. For neither the laws enacted so far nor the commission instituted to deal with corruption has proved effective.
The law is clear: corruption, active and passive bribery, abuse of office and bribing a foreign public official are outlawed under the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act 2003. Further, they are reinforced with the Bribery Act of 2016, aimed ostensibly to aid in the fight against the supply side of corruption. Comprehensive enforcement of Kenya’s anti-corruption framework remains a challenge because of weak and corrupt public institutions.
But in choosing silence in the face of this obscene level of corruption, is perhaps taking the counsel of the English poet Thomas Carlyle (1831). He wrote, ‘Silence is Gold’. Or we have the American rock song by the Tremeloes (1967): “Silence is Golden, but my eyes still see”, the Kenyan church is abdicating its unique and vital role in this society.
What has become of the once-vibrant church leaders who challenged the draconian Moi rule, risking their lives for a just cause? In those days the church took a brave and radical approach. It was not afraid to say, like the prophets of old: “Thus says the Lord…” These church leaders had clarity of mind on matters of national importance affecting the people, unlike the church today, which is even failing to define its mandate.
Pope Benedict XVI is emphatic on the role the church should play in society. Writing as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on Politics, he defines the church’s role in the political sphere as primarily education (understood not as schooling, no matter how important that is): “The church must awaken man’s receptivity to the truth, to God, and thus to the power of conscience. It must give men and women the courage to live according to their conscience and so keep open the narrow pass between anarchy and tyranny, which is none other than the narrow way of peace.”
Ratzinger highlights the need for society, both local and global, to recover the divine element in our humanity, which includes moral consensus, without which society flounders and humanity is endangered.
There are some though, who would rather have an aloof church and turning its back on contentious matters of public concern. Stephen Carter the Yale scholar, in his book, The Culture of Disbelief, laments that “our public culture more and more prefers religion as something without political significance, less an independent moral force than a quietly irrelevant moralizer, never heard, rarely seen”.
Could it be that the dearth of the prophetic voice is a sign of a church struggling to define itself and societal role in the post-2003 era?
Kenya needs to hear what the church is thinking and saying on corruption. The church cannot extricate itself from politics because it cannot refrain from the task of reflecting on the implications of its faith within our political context. It must ignore being construed political, for it has reason to intervene, for we cannot afford the hemorrhaging of this country through corruption.
A report released by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 2016 indicated that the rate of economic crimes in Kenya is 25 percent above the global average. It further revealed that every record set against stealing is broken. In the year 2015 alone, economic crimes rose to 61 percent from 52 percent in 2014 and maybe worse today.
Philip Kinisu, a retired auditor and a former chairman of Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) in an interview, told Reuters “Kenya is losing a third of its state budget – the equivalent of about $6 billion (Sh608 billion) – to corruption every year”.
Our plight did not escape the notice of the former United States President Barack Obama during his visit in 2015. He rightly criticized Kenya’s corruption, inequality, and tribalism before an audience, which included President Uhuru Kenyatta and his cabinet at Kasarani Sports Centre. Obama quoted a study showing that every year corruption cost Kenya 250 000 jobs. He said rising prosperity in the economy was leaving out the vast majority of the people. The burden of which is borne by the poor.
This is the same point made by Sam Paul of the Public Affairs Centre in Bangalore, in his 1997 study, Corruption: Who Will Bell the Cat? He found that in five Indian cities poor households were much more likely to pay more for public services than households in general. Consequently, when access to public goods and services requires a bribe, the poor may be excluded. Given their lack of political influence, the poor may even be asked to pay more than people with higher incomes. Furthermore, when corruption results in shoddy public services, the poor lack the resources to pursue options such as private schooling, health care, or power generation.
The Kenyan public is livid at the multi-million dollar scandals that have failed to result in high-profile convictions. They accuse politicians and top government officials of acting with impunity and encouraging graft by those in lower posts. Again Kinisu opines the real drive to stamp out corruption had to come from public pressure for change. Yet in an environment of fear and intimidation by the corruption cartels and politicians, it becomes nearly impossible to set any social movement against corruption.
We can learn from what Galia Sabar, former Professor of African Studies at Tel Aviv University, observed during struggles of the 1980s, that limited political association paralyzed the process of transforming information and ideas into action. As such, gave credence to the emergence of informal individual activism and the culture of defiance that was growing day by day. On the frontline of individual church activism were Bishops.
In earlier years Henry Okullu, Bishop of Maseno South Diocese of Anglican Church, Bishop Alexander Muge, of the Anglican diocese of Eldoret, Bishop David Gitari, of Mt. Kenya East diocese, and Rev. Timothy Njoya, a moderator in Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) were much-needed advocated of change in the country through their political engagements.
Finance Magazine of February, 1990, Sabar in “Politics” and “Power” in the Kenyan Public and Recent Events: the Church of the Province of Kenya, said: “Irrespective of how much we might belittle their social standing, the clerics represent the most cohesively structured, the most firmly organized and the most solidly unified institution in the country [the Church].”
Stephen Kapinde, a Lecturer at Pwani University, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies observes how the vitality of the pulpit as a stable platform for change and the sermons of Gitari were heard at a time when the state had censored nearly everyone and proscribed gathering of more than three people. They gave credence to the whole church in political discourses. The prelate with his colleagues like Njoya, Muge, Ndingi Mwanazeki and Okullu developed a culture of resistance through the pulpit.
Professor Robert Press in his book, Peaceful Resistance: Advancing Human Rights and Civil Liberties, offers more insight into this culture by observing that: “Individual activists can only do so much in their role as ice-breakers in the reform process. Organizational activists build on their advances but need the presence of members of the public at their events to make a serious bid for reforms. The public, in turn, needs the forum for the activists to express their discontent. Together the resistance sends signals to the regime, the public and international officials and agencies that the demands for change have substance and visible public support.”
For this reason, the clergy blazed the trail for democratic reforms from their pulpits. Amazingly, such activism was thought by many to defiled the pulpit, while in essence, the clerics used the space to liberate the people of Kenya thereby living up to their calling to be “salt” and “light” in the world.
The contrast is huge today. Our pulpits are not as sacrosanct, neither are messages from them as dreaded, as they used to be. The frequency with which politicians have graced churches with goodies from corruption, coupled with the silence of clerics is troubling. For instance, the Deputy President William Ruto has been a darling of churches during funds drives. Notwithstanding the fact that he has been named in a litany of corruption-related scandals to the extent that former Kenya’s Prime Minister, Raila Odinga in 2015 described him as “the high priest of corruption in Kenya.”
The Anglican Church has also fallen into this widespread habit of inviting public figures as guests of honor at fund-raising, understood by many people as giving the undue prominence to politicians in the church where they are not members. This ignored the church’s long and explicit stand on the practice. Following the Anglican’s Provincial Board of Christian Community Services consultation on The Theology and Philosophy of Development held at St. Julian Centre, 11-13 May 1983, the Church issued protocols to protect the likely erosion of the Church’s prophetic role in the society: “Church leaders and especially bishops are strongly urged to correct this situation. Inviting public figures as guests of honor at Church harambees or giving them prominence in a church function merely because of the money they bring is not in accordance with our Christian principles. It tends to silence the prophetic voice of our church leaders (A report of the CPK Consultation on Theology and Philosophy of Development, 1989: Recommendation B: 2, p. 5, ¶4)”.
Regrettably, several Anglican Churches have overlooked this protocol and also indulged the said politicians their pulpits thus quenching their prophetic voice. How can they avoid the tag of being an accomplice to corruption? They should have heeded Joseph Kamaru warning in his song, J. M. Kariuki: “gûtirí múicì na mùcudhìríria“(there is no difference between a thief and a mere observer).
Here is some guidance from the British Evangelist and theologian G. Campbell Morgan: “Sacrilege is defined as taking something that belongs to God and using it profanely. But the worst kind of sacrilege is taking something and giving it to God when it means absolutely nothing to you”, then the church would have committed double Sacrilege in this indulgence: Knowingly giving platform to sanitize corrupt money in the name of God who commanded that “thou shall not steal”, and perpetuating delusion that, that is investing in heaven.
How do I explain my friend Joe’s query: “what does it mean when the church goes quiet or turns a blind eye on corruption to the extent that a politician like Ruto can claim that his contributions to churches to be “investing in heaven”? The church, in indulging in questionable money being “invested“ in its programs, undermines its own ability to stand up to the corrupt. The very politicians, who should use their vast powers to stamp out corruption, are instead using it to accumulate obscene affluence, meanwhile pushing the majority of the country’s population into abject poverty.
Investing in heaven is investing in Christ. St. John Chrysostom (347-407AD), one of the greatest Early Church Fathers of the 5th Century, warned: “Of what use is it to weigh down Christ’s table with golden cups when he himself is dying of hunger? First, fill him when he is hungry; then use the means you have left to adorn his table. Will you have a golden cup made but not give a cup of water? What is the use of providing the table with cloths woven of gold thread, and not providing Christ himself with the clothes he needs? What profit is there in that?”
How about using one’s position in government to save the 250,000 jobs lost annually to corruption? Wouldn’t that give many Kenyans opportunities to feed their hungry, and not to leave them to stare hungrily at church tables embellished with gold? Investing in heaven would mean putting to proper use the $6 billion lost to corruption to provide for proper health services and housing for the homeless Kenyans.
It is not freedom from corruption, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the corruption that we must all pursue. A curious episode in J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Fellowship of the Ring, is instructive. It depicts our challenge on corruption: “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”.
If the church is to retain its credibility and relevance, then it will have to recover its earlier prophetic fervor for the sake of the public good. I believe the church is still eminently placed to influence public opinion on matters affecting the nation. I would like to believe that, sooner or later, the church would regain its prophetic zeal and provide the moral leadership we so desperately need today.
Canon Francis Omondi is a Priest of All Saints Cathedral Diocese, of the ACK. Views expressed here are his own not of the Church.
Also published at https://www.theelephant.info/features/2018/07/12/an-ode-to-silence-the-churchs-abdication-of-its-role-in-society/
By REV. CANON FRANCIS OMONDI
*This reflection is dedicated to my spiritual son, Jesse Masai, and several others like him who constantly wrestle with the question of their responsibility to the Republic in this season.
An old proverb says, “We have not inherited this land from our forebears, we have borrowed it from our children.” Here, we are debtors and owe our children a prosperous future.
The extent to which we develop our democratic institutions, entrench the rule of law and build a prosperous economy shows our obligation towards them. The dream: a land of freedom, where individual rights are guaranteed, and all made to prosper is fast turning into a frightening nightmare. The once-abhorred Nyayo era, marked with authoritarianism, State terror, press censorship and violation of human rights is back with a vengeance.
Throughout my writings, I have strenuously been trying to be non-partisan on party politics. This then is the article I thought I would never write: a candid assertion that a certain form of partisanship is now a moral necessity. The Jubilee government, as an institution, has become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. The problem is not just President Uhuru Kenyatta; it’s the larger political apparatus, including Parliament that made a conscious decision to enable him. In a multi-party system, non-partisanship works only if all players are consistent democratic actors and subject to independent institutions that safeguard democracy. If one of them is not predictably so, the space for non-partisanship evaporates. I am thus driven to believe the best hope of defending the country from Uhuru’s jubilee enablers and saving the nation is to stage a public protest as Muthoni Nyanjiru in 1922 and Nobel Laurent Professor Wangari Maathai in 1992 did. Protest against the government and Parliament until they get it right or implode!
How can a prosperous future for our children be realized under these conditions? This is not how we pay the debt we owe our children. Today’s youth must not allow us to squander that future. There is an urgent voice calling for action now: “Wade in the waters, children…” Can’t we hear it?
The legendary Harriet Tubman, also known as “Moses” (who once had a US$40,000 price tag on her head for “slave stealing”), sung this song to alert the runaway slaves she guided to freedom. The song signaled runaways: “Use the river so the hounds can’t trace you. Tonight is the moment for flight; move swiftly; the reaction will be fierce.” Harriet speaks to us today: Now is the time: stop this backsliding, “wade into the waters,” free our children from slavery. Wade into the waters, children!
This advice does not seem smart on a casual look. Why would one want to jump into waters that God stirred up—described in the Bible as troubled? For many Kenyans, the failure of the opposition NASA to guide them to Canaan is troubled waters. Under persistent attacks – many of them seemingly minor – democratic institutions in Kenya have been eroded gradually until they have failed. Undermining of the independence of the electoral commission, police service and free press, rendered our democratic process useless. Our waters are troubled in at least two possible ways.
Lately, we have come to regard the government as a danger to the establishment of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. It has proved unable or unwilling to block assaults on the rule of law. If the assaults were normalized, they would pose existential threats to Kenyan future.
Secondly, our economy is being shackled with foreign debt. This act is making mockery of the 2000 Jubilee campaign that pushed western countries to forgive crippling foreign debts of the world’s poorest countries, including Kenya. It is irresponsible to deliberately and unnecessarily enslave our children’s future in debt, erasing their future ability to compete in the global world.
Francis A. Schaeffer, warning in his book How Should We Then Live? is instructive to us in Kenya: “If we … do not speak out as authoritarian governments grow from within or come from outside, eventually we or our children will be the enemy of society and the State. No truly authoritarian government can tolerate those who have real absolute by which to judge its arbitrary absolutes and who speak out and act upon that absolute.”
A similar situation is playing in Kenya that negates the government’s claim to construct a prosperous future for our children. Instead of addressing these challenges, the government elects to shut down channels that exposes its incompetency and locks up critics who questions its legitimacy. This is a perfect condition for national rebellion.
Fredrick Douglas warned; “The thing that is worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.” In failing to address the causes of disquiet – rather opting to use unconstitutional means – will be the Achilles heel of this government. Such may have a tragic end like the Oracle of Delphi. When Laius King of Thebes is told in the Oracle that his son will kill him and sleep with his mother Jocasta, he gets a son and to prevent this, the king pierces his ankles and leaves him on a mountainside to die. This becomes the first of the sequence of events that leads to the oracle being fulfilled. For a shepherd finds the baby, though, and takes him to King Polybus and Queen Merope of Corinth, who name him Oedipus and raise him as their own. Later, Oedipus sought the help of the Oracle of Delphi to know his parentage. The Oracle does tell him that he’s destined to kill his father and sleep with his mother. Oedipus tries to run from this fate, but ends up running right into it. He kills Laius in a scuffle at a crossroads, not knowing he’s his real dad. Later, he wins the throne of Thebes and unknowingly marries his mother, Jocasta, after answering the riddle of the Sphinx. When they figured out the truth, Jocasta hangs herself, and Oedipus stabs out his own eyes. The Greek story ends in tragedy.
In the spiritual song – wade in the waters – those who will be blessed are urged to step into the waters first, before the angel of God comes. The song stresses meeting hardships with courage and “steady” faith; gather now and get ready, the healing is promised. Gather now, so that all will be among the first received and delivered by the gifts of grace that spring forth in dark times.
While addressing young Germans at 2016 Kirchentag in Stuttgart on the need to stand for human dignity, former United Nations Secretary General Dr. Kofi Annan said: “You are not too young to lead, for to lead means to take responsibility and set example.” He explained, “When leaders fail to lead, the people can lead and make leaders follow.” For this very reason, youth in this country must wade in the waters and assume leadership to save their future.
But can we rely on the youth to deliver?
Harris Okongo Arara went to Chianda High School in Uyoma (Siaya County), the same school I attended. He was an exceptional footballer and hockey player the school ever produced, who upon completing his studies joined the Kenya Air force. In his 20s, Arara became an activist for change and courageously led the fight to end one-party dictatorship in Kenya. What he told a Nairobi court about to sentence him to jail for sedition on September 24, 1988, expressed the values he stood for and the vision he had for Kenya. He declined to plead for leniency or mercy. With confidence, he dismissed the courts’ right to judge him. Arara questioned why he should seek personal mercy while millions of Kenyans lived in misery. He was proud in joining the company of those he called apostles, who attempted to rescue justice but found themselves in detention, prison or exile. He said:
The people of this nation are simply demanding their fundamental rights and freedoms. They are simply demanding their rights to a decent living, right to education, right to proper medical care, right to housing. In short, the right to be human beings. If that is sedition, so be it. These are the goals for which I have always fought, and for which I am prepared to die.
Arara was sentenced to a five-year jail term. This was his second stint in jail, having been in detention without trial for six years following the 1982 coup attempt. Arara had only been free for eight months by the time of this sentencing. He was wading into the troubled waters of the Nyayo era.
We learn our history because by it we understand the sacrifices that were made before, so that when we make sacrifices we understand we’re doing it on behalf of future generations. It is possible to resist oppressive laws that undermine the Constitution and degrade human dignity enacted by our Parliament. In 1922, for instance, 27-years old Harry Thuku – the leader of the East African Association – was arrested for acting and speaking against “forced labor of women on the roads.”
Officials of the nationalist association rallied African workers in Nairobi to go on strike. On March 15, transport workers, domestic workers and government employees deserted their workplaces and gathered in front of the police station where Thuku was being held. Makhan Singh, in History of Kenya’s trade union movement to 1952, writes: “As the crowd grew, a deputation of the East African Association, including Jomo Kenyatta, held a meeting with Acting Governor Sir Charles Bowring in his office.” According to Audrey Wipper, who wrote the chapter Kikuyu Women and the Harry Thuku Disturbances: Some Uniformities of Female Militancy in the Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Nyanjiru and her stepdaughter, Elizabeth Waruiru, were among the city’s female workers who came out to demonstrate. Nyanjiru was a Kikuyu woman who had moved from the village of Weithaga in the native reserves to Nairobi.
Addressing the strikers, Jomo Kenyatta announced the deal the East African Association deputies had reached with the governor: Thuku could not be released, but the governor had promised Thuku a fair trial. He therefore urged them to disperse. But Nyanjiru stood in the front of the crowd near Kenyatta as the demonstrators began leaving. She threw her dress over her shoulders and exposed her naked body and taunted the cowardice of the men and challenged them to stand up to Kenyatta. In Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat, Nyanjiru is presented as having been incensed by men’s impotency against colonial oppression and therefore challenged them to swap their trousers for the women’s skirts. She was threatening to lead the demand for Harry Thuku’s release if men were too cowardly to do it.
The 300 women ululated loudly. The strikers were galvanized by Mary’s actions and the women’s call to battle. Men who were beginning to disperse returned. A large section of the crowd rushed forward towards the armed guards. Nyanjiru stood only a few feet away from the guards, who had been on duty for 18 continuous hours. The guards kneeled and engaged their rifles at the command of the superintendent of police, Captain Carey. In the end, 200 Kenyans died. Thuku was exiled, first to Kismayu, then to Marsabit, Witu and Lamu. But as Bryan Ngartia observed in The Ageless Defiance of Muthoni Nyanjiru, “the sacrifice wasn’t all in futility. The tax was reduced from 16 shillings to 12 shillings and was never again raised for the sole purpose of filling labor needs. African grievances were given serious consideration.” This was the seed of struggle that matured in the later independence of Kenya.
Where Are Those Songs? Micere Githae Mugo pleads with our mothers today:
Where are those songs / my mother and yours / always sang / fitting rhythms / to the whole / vast span of life/? […] Sing Daughter sing […] sing/simple songs/for the people/for all to hear/and learn/and sing/with you.
In 1992, Prof. Maathai led mothers of political prisoners detained during the Moi regime to occupy Freedom Corner in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, demanding their sons’ release. The government, in now familiar style, dispatched armed police to evict the women, who stripped naked in protest and defiance. Prof. Maathai was beaten unconscious and hospitalized, but the women of Freedom Corner eventually won. Prof. Maathai and her group of women also stopped President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi – at the zenith of his power – from building what would have been Times Tower, a complex associated with the ruling party, at Uhuru Park!
To wade in the waters, women must refuse to be silenced and fight for their children’s future. In her contribution to The Inquiry 2013 – titled Silence is a woman – Wambui wa Mwangi opposed the exclusionary, false, Gikuyu-centric narrative and ideological erasure of many other ethnic communities in the Kenyan story as told by Gikuyu men. She stresses: “Here, I also want to insist on the strong tradition within Gikuyu women’s culture of resisting tyranny, oppression, domination, and hubristic upumbafuness by the men.” Wambui is right to point us to the fact that authoritarianism has no ethnicity. We all sink under bad leadership.
In a shorthand, the song ‘wade in the waters’ admonished the community not to be like the paralyzed man, who seemed unable to seize opportunity and betrayed to the authorities the one who saved him. The song pairs those who made it to safety with the victims who fell trying. For those who made it through: who that dressed in blue?
And in the description of baptism, a hinted memory of those lost in the middle passage:
Chilled body but not my soul…
We remember their sacrifices have given us our freedom, made the rule of law possible and set us on the path of prosperity.
I am suggesting that in today’s situation, we all should mount powerful public protest despite our party affiliation or policy position. Our demand should be: The rule of law as a threshold in Kenyan politics. Any party that endangers this value must disqualify itself. We must insist on unadulterated implementation of Chapter 6 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. Period. Then, perhaps, we too would be wading in the waters.
Going forward, it is likely that public protest will be dealt with ruthlessly and may even be fatal for some, but there is gain for all we strive for. In the face of brutality against the dreams, lets us consider the story of Joseph in the Bible. The brothers said, ” Come, let us kill him and throw him into one of these wells…Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” (Gen. 37:20)
Here, the irony could not be more explicit. The very act intended to frustrate the dreams by killing the dreamers, is the beginning of a sequence of events that will make the dream come true. Joseph went on a winding journey from slavery, to Potiphar’s house, to prison and leadership in Egypt, fulfilling his dreams.
Lets demand the dreams of our children.
The writer is a priest of All Saints Cathedral Diocese, Nairobi. The views expressed here are his own. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Carl Rosberg and John Nottingham, 1966: The Myth of ‘Mau Mau’: nationalism in Kenya. New York: Praeger.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, 2012: A Grain of Wheat. Penguin African Writers Series, New York: USA.
Schaeffer, Francis A., 1976: How Should we then Live? The rise and decline of Western thought. Crossway books Wheaton IL. USA
Singh, Makhan, 1969: History of Kenya’s trade union movement to 1952. Nairobi: East Africa African Publishing House.
Wipper, Audrey, 1989: “Kikuyu Women and the Harry Thuku Disturbances: Some Uniformities of Female Militancy, Africa: Journal of the International African Institute,
This article was published as:
By Canon Francis OMONDI
Kenya is on the brink of plummeting into the abyss of political catastrophe. The government and the opposition are locked up in an existential contest for Kenya’s leadership. Either government will galvanize its hold on power employing all means possible or the opposition-NASA will wrench power, in a way not yet anticipated. Such is a fix that my people would say: “thuol odonjo e ko” (the snake has entered the gourd, would we salvage the milk or the gourd?) Can it be that Kenya is headed for apocalyptic politics?
Critics of this government accuse it of wantonly undermining Kenya’s democratic principles by infringing on democratic accountability, individual rights and the rule of law. It prefers tyranny in its response to pressure from the opposition than dialogue. Toiling to deter and deal with dissidents, the State has turned to its vast repressive apparatus on Kenyans perceived as a threat.
The first victims of the State’s assault are democratic institutions. The opposition politicians are harassed and picked up by police on flimsy charges. Basic freedoms of expression and assembly have been restricted in practice, though not in law. Elections have become choreographed performance that is neither free nor fair. At its core, this assault has been motivated by the regimes’ desire to protect power and much-accumulated wealth. The government purports to run the country according to tenets of Western democracy. What we have, however, is a democratic facade, paying lip service to those tenets even as they are subverted.
The repeat election exposed what has been a closely kept secret of a government appearing strong from the outside, yet its power remains brittle at the core. It is apparent that the regime projects a nimbus of invincibility that masks the shallow roots of its public support. What else would necessitate the; massaging of votes upwards; muzzling of civil societies; swamping social media with propaganda; hyping of approval ratings and other forms of manufactured consent?
The opposition’s (NASA’s) hopes of ascension to power have been reliant on the independence of the country’s institutions. They demand that the principles of democracy be applied in toto, for this reason, they seek to firm their establishment. Consequently, when the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) failed to conduct a free and fair election on August 8th, 2017, it implied that avenues for change had been manipulated and made impossible, The opposition threatened to unleash its final bullet, “wacha kiumane” (let hell break loose). This meant that it would arbitrate its case on the streets, thus confronting a government ready to crush protests even if lives were lost.
The opposition has a large, but an increasingly radicalized following, wearing distraught and airs of being aggrieved. Their rights denied and so stuck in between hope. For which reason they are determined to change their situation no matter the consequences- anarchy and death don’t matter. It is an apocalypse for them. This is what happens to politics when it loses patience. Rabbi Jonathan Sachs in his book Not in God’s name explained that: “Apocalyptic politics is the strange phenomenon of a revolutionary movement whose gaze is firmly fixed on the past. It arises at times of destabilizing change and speaks to those who feel unjustly left behind.” It is like Samson in the Temple of the Philistines, bringing down the building on his enemies but destroying himself in the process.
If the event of Raila’s return from the USA trip is indicative of the future, then am certain we are at a crisp of revolt and Armageddon. The disenfranchisement in the country must be addressed, and all should have an opportunity to prosper. With apparent dim prospects for livelihood, health-care and future to harp onto, they cannot be deader (sic) than they are already. It’s already tragic.
Nowhere is this condition as explicit as in the myth of Sisyphus. Condemned by the gods to roll a rock to the top of a mountain, whereupon its own weight makes it fall back down again, Sisyphus was trapped in this perpetually futile labor. He was condemned to everlasting torment and the accompanying despair of knowing that his labor was futile. Efforts for change in Kenya are as futile. Hopes hinged on the Constitution of Kenya 2010 to achieve this are being brutally chiseled. Neither did the promise of changing through the ballot materialize. Besides, the oppressive handling has radicalized the opposition.
Intriguingly, Albert Camus, the French philosopher notices defiance in Sisyphus that moment when he goes back down the mountain. The consciousness of his fate is the tragedy, yet consciousness also allows Sisyphus to scorn the gods, providing a small measure of satisfaction. There is a mingling of satisfaction and tragedy, which exactly reflects in opposition followers’ loaded scorn in the face of police brutality: “I would rather die standing than kneeling.” Camus argues that life is meaningless and absurd yet we can revolt against the absurdity and find some modicum of happiness. What he is proposing is a third way apart from the acceptance of life’s absurdity, which leads to suicide or its denial by embracing dubious metaphysical propositions of a hopeful living. Juxtaposing such stark contrasts reveals an apparent alternative—we can proceed defiantly forward. If followed, Camus’ advice would lead to an embrace of the absurdity of current realities, rejection of speculative metaphysics, and grounding the meaning of our lives in the small part we can play in transforming the world into a more meaningful reality.
The opposition’s unexpected decision to go to the Supreme Court shifted the course of events and possibly averted a grave bloody encounter. Supreme Court judges, acting according to their conscience, kept Kenya on the narrow pass between anarchy and tyranny, on the narrow way of peace. In asserting their independence, they ruled to nullify the election and called for repeat polls. This salvaged the country by redirecting energies towards reforms. The opposition recognized that pursuing reform of independent bodies would build lasting peace for the country, and therefore demanded changes and openness with grit on the vilified IEBC.
This decision devastated the ruling Jubilee party and President Uhuru Kenyatta in particular. Consequently, they also sought reforms, not of the polls body, but of the laws that the Supreme Court applied to nullify the polls. They opted to regularize the ‘irregularities’ and make illegalities ‘legal’, so to speak. Parliament, without opposition members, made changes in law apparently to make an easy win in the repeat polls. This was a significant and definitive decision that as we shall learn, took the country away from the path of peace back to the sinking sands of uncertainty. The resulting confusion at the IEBC, working under duress and alleged pressure from the State, forced a key member of the commission to quit. The president is believed to have tacitly supported the confusion. A win in the repeat election was sacrosanct, thus the president made these decisions willfully.
Yet we delude ourselves to claim that problems facing Kenya are individual politicians. To only heap blame on President Uhuru or opposition leader Hon. Raila Odinga is to trivialize the issues. Ignoring these seismic shifts that undermine the foundations of the country’s democracy and fault Raila and his followers’ street protests is also cheeky dishonesty. Why would we not see the obvious in the President’s decisions? That he first repudiated the faith on which the nation was founded – rule of law and therefore the Judiciary and the Constitution. Then the precepts that governed the country, the independent institutions of the nation: the police force, IEBC, Directorate of Public Prosecution, all which were so systematically strangled that they effectively operate under instruction ‘from anonymous sources’, guessing where is not difficult. The stifling of public freedoms and the vigor with which civil society organizations were haunted threatened the moral framework that gave us the impetus for a free society under the Constitution of Kenya 2010.
These are the terrifying decisions he made. They are the kind of decisions we are making all over the world at this time. The entire global monetary crisis of 2008 was based upon a framework that defies the moral law of God – that you can violate the rules; that you can cheat on elections; that you can build your own storehouses while exploiting others in the process and that you can eliminate anyone who stands in your way. Issues of truth have been simplified to the most elemental choice; agree or die. We have desacralized the very essence of human life, which is why the normal rules that restrain people from murdering the innocent are suspended. Very seldom do we talk about the right to be human, and we think we can do all of this with impunity? These are the issues that are strangling Kenya.
Consequently, the opposition lost patience to work for changes. Essentially, it began a search for revolution without the slow process of transformation and change without education of the populace. Its decision to withdraw from the rescheduled election of 26th. October 2017, informed by the failure of the IEBC to act independently and reform, shows this frustration. In the determination to act for change, the opposition resorted to the setting up of People’s Assemblies at the county levels across the nation, as it were, invoking the sovereignty of the people as enshrined in the Constitution. It won’t accept Uhuru as president, instead, demanding to swear in Odinga as the people’s president (initially scheduled for the 12th of December). The details of this and how it will sit in law is still opaque. Here are an ominous sign of imminent legal confrontations and conflicts.
These political protagonists look to use power in the place of persuasion, daggers instead of debate. There are no listening ears among them or their followers. The government resorts to tyranny and brutal force, while the opposition to the revolt of the masses and anarchy.
What ails Kenya’s politics is not ethnicity per se. It was not, in the run-up to independence. The seismic events of 2002 – when the organized opposition seized power – proved that Kenyans can come round. Such coming together, however, has potential to inflame violence, as we would witness five years later.
Prof. James Ogude, a Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director at the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship, University of Pretoria, exposed the popular use of “ethnicity as a means to establishing difference or exclusivity for political expediency”. Holders of power are bent on wantonly wrenching the thin web that binds Kenya. They dutifully ape the nation’s founding fathers, who established the country on the ethnic exclusion of certain communities perceived to be a threat to the State. What Prof. Ogude observed of post-Kenyatta States, can be said of this regime, an increase in what may be called ‘an ethnocratic state’ whose basic political rhetoric is nation-building, while in practice it undermines any real desire for nationhood. It is unfortunate that political leaders guard ethnic hostilities like the bullfighters in Khayeka, Kakamega County, would for a good fight. They have weaponized ethnicity.
The real shame has been the failure to transition from ethnic to ideologically-based politics. Aggravating this situation is the absence of concrete class markings, allowing this void to be filled with tribalism. We are ruined when in lieu of proper political ideology, tribalism has filled the vacuum. Prof. Colin Leys, writing in the Institute of Development Studies Bulletin 7(3): Underdevelopment in Kenya. The Political Economy of Neo-Colonialism affirmed this when he said, “‘tribalism’ is in the first instance an ideological phenomenon. Essentially, it consists in the fact that people identify other exploited people as the source of their insecurity and frustrations, rather than their common exploiters. Of course, this does not happen ‘spontaneously’. Kenyans are victims of political leaders who create this situation, besides the actions of State organs and institutions that create isolations of a section of Kenyans. The challenge, therefore, goes beyond individual politicians and tribalism, straight to the refusal of establishing effective democratic institutions to serve all Kenyans. To blame tribalism or Individual politicians is to shift minds away from corruption and economic malaise in Kenya. Instead, we would be activating tribal passions to stifle internal dissent.
The book of Genesis in the Bible is about the willingness to accord dignity to the other rather than see them as a threat. This is enabled pathological dualism that, according to Sacks, “divides humanity into children of darkness and of light, all good among us but all evil in the others”. When a section of Kenyans would commit evil just to prevent Odinga from being president, we see an outright refusal to accept the partially good intentions of others and work with them and to whom, according to Thomas Melton, “we are unconsciously proclaiming our own malice, our own intolerance, our own lack of realism, our own ethical and political quackery.” This kind of dualism must be defeated if Kenya is to become a nation. One way out of this is a role reversal. Rabbi Sacks suggests: “The way we learn not to commit evil is to experience an event from the perspective of the victim. That is what (Biblical) Joseph is forcing his brothers to do. He educates them in otherness through role reversal.”
Joseph forces his brothers to recognize that just as a brother can be a stranger (when kept at a distance), so a stranger can turn out to be a brother. Cain is able to commit murder because he says, “Am I my brothers’ keeper?” He refuses to feel the pain of Abel but cares only about his rejected offering. On the contrary, in showing that he is his brother’s keeper, Judah’s repentance redeems not only his own earlier sin but also Cain’s. A small wonder then that the nation of Israel begins in Egypt as slaves so that they will know from the inside what it feels like to be on the other side.
Going forward, let the truth be the foundation upon which Kenya is built. History is replete with evidence that truth can be betrayed and systems manipulated in service of oppression and injustice. This has been the story of Kenya. But aren’t these the challenges also confronting the human family now, calling us to look beyond those dangers? The opposition needs to remain committed to good governance and resist half-measure application of democratic principles, individual rights and the rule of law. The government that calls on all to respect the Constitution must also be exemplary in adhering to the tenets of the Constitution. That is dealing with each other truthfully.
Addressing civil and political leaders and members of the diplomatic corps in the Presidential Palace, Prague, on 26 September 2009, Pope Benedict XVI could have as well been addressing Kenya’s stalemate today when he said: “The thirst for truth, beauty, and goodness, implanted in all men and women by the Creator, is meant to draw people together in the quest for justice, freedom, and peace.” He questions what is more inhuman, and destructive than the cynicism which would deny the grandeur of our human quest for truth, and the relativism that corrodes the very values which inspire the building of a united and fraternal world. It is imperative, therefore, to place confidence in our innate capacity to crave for and grasp the truth and allow this confidence to points us to working for the Kenya we want.
Now, however, we need to also embrace the truth with all its ramifications. Kenyans have a capacity for doing right and upholding the principles of democracy, as demonstrated in the 2002 election and the referendum that yielded the 2010 Constitution. This will ensure an end to election theft. I doubt there is a need for more laws. I also do not imagine that change of people at the helm of failing institutions like the IEBC, without a shift in attitude, will change the situation. Our priority must be to pursue principle above pragmatism. To get there, we must admit that while pragmatism determines the greater part of politics, it must never be at the expense of moral principles. For the professional politician, judge, administrator of justice or manager of the country’s crucial institutions, this means the priority of conscience above mere expediency. This will not be without a cost. Cardinal Ratzinger warns: “To live by the priority of moral principle over pragmatism requires moral courage. To adhere to your (genuinely moral) principles, must bring you into conflict with the powers and principalities of this world.” And for politics to recover its sense of direction, argues Ratzinger, what is needed is the recovery and public recognition of those moral norms that are universally valid.
In the end, we need to pursue Truth to its logical conclusion. Attempts to bridge the divide and solve the present crisis have focused on reconciliation. Needless to say, these have so far been futile, for want of honest mediators. The depth of the crisis transcends a simple reconciliation between President Kenyatta and Mr. Odinga. Reconciliation must be grounded in repentance, which means a complete change in attitude, and behavior. A role reversal would be the best way of entering the world of those with “no stake in the economy” and whose rights have been trampled again and again. We must urgently move away from the path of apocalyptic politics and affirm through reforms of the national institutions to accommodate all. The day these conflicts are transformed into conciliation will be the beginning of our journey to a society as a family.
The writer is a priest at All Saints Cathedral Diocese, Nairobi. The views expressed here are his own. (email@example.com)
Camus, Albert: “The Myth of Sisyphus,” in The Meaning of Life, ed. E.D Klemke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981)
Cardinal Ratzinger, J.: On Conscience (Philadelphia/San Francisco: NCBC/Ignatius Press, 2007)
Leys, Collins: Institute of Development Studies Bulletin 7(3): Underdevelopment in Kenya. The Political Economy of Neo-Colonialism
Forest Jim: Root of War if Fear Thomas Merton’s Advice to Peace Makers: Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York. 2016
Sacks J.: Not in God’s Name: London, Hodder & Stoughton. 2015:
by Rev. Canon Francis OMONDI
The Diocese of Maseno North will collate Rev. Professor Aloo Osotsi Mojola Canon this weekend.
Rev. Prof. Aloo O. Mojola
Prof. Mojola is an outsider as a Theologian or a Cleric. Yet his peculiar life comprises of stretch in academia, a baffling array of authorship, and an imperious ministry as a Bible translator in tons of languages.
Reason that the, Diocese of Maseno North would make canon of a priest, yea, an attached clergy of All Saints Cathedral Diocese remains open for speculation. Why bishops collate canons- lay or clergy, in the ACK has been haunted with whispers of cronyism at worst transactional. Originally, a canon was a cleric living with others in a clergy house or, later, in one of the houses within the precinct of or close to a cathedral and conducting his life according to the orders or rules of the church. We do not make this kind today. All our canons are secular and have been since the Reformation. Besides they are mainly clergy and such will Aloo be.
Today’s system of canons is retained almost exclusively in connection with cathedral churches. A canon is a member of the Cathedral chapter of (for the most part) priests, headed by a dean, which is responsible for administering a cathedral. Majority of the ACK cathedrals seldom engage their canons this way. This should sound a warning to the Prof. For someone who lives and works in the Nairobi area and calling Rev. Mojola may be find the intrigues of this role stifling.
Perhaps the Prof. May be inclined to the other role of canons: are responsible for Bishops as advisors. Here is why bishops nominate canons and working through the diocesan synod get them appointed to advice the see. Mojola’s encyclopedic mind should endear his as a dependable advisor, a role I am sure he will cherish.
Prof. Mojola should have been made a canon for better reasons than these and earlier than now. Aloo’s imposing service to the Church in the ministry of Bible Translation should have made us collate him ‘Canon Biblical’ (different from to canon Theologian, or canon Missioner). The blindness to vocation other than pastoral and pulpit ministry exposes the poverty of the ACK. The centrality of bible translation in the Catholic enabled the recognition of ‘Biblical apostolate’ as Holy Orders. The ‘biblical apostolate’ is the specific vocation to bring others into contact with and to knowledge of the Bible recognised in the Roman Catholic Church.
Rev. Mojola became a clergy deep into his ministry as a translator. He was ordained deacon in Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Dodoma, Tanzania, Diocese of Central Tanganyika of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, on 16th March 1997. On 5th December 2004, he was made a Priest at All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi in the All Saints Cathedral Diocese.
A renowned Intellectual who began his career at the Nairobi University as a lecturer in May of 1979, Aloo taught Philosophy, Epistemology, Logic and Philosophy of Religion until May 1983 when he left. He was responding to a Call that thrust him into one of the most outlandish Christian services that defined his life to date. Bible Translation.
The task of putting God’s Holy Scriptures into the hands of Christians both clergy and laity in a language they would read and understand became his one consuming passion. Pope John Paul II describing this kind of work calls it “both exciting and challenging. It demands hard work and perseverance. It requires study and prayer. At all times, it is personally engaging, for “the word of God is living and active.’ ”
In seeking to ensure “easy access to Sacred Scripture…for all the Christian faithful”, Prof. Mojola made his professional contribution to Scripture translation, as Translation Consultant for United Bible Societies. He was responsible for coaching, advising and training Bible Translators in Africa he has been imperious. Chances are that the bible you are holding has indents of his fingerprints.
He participated in the translation of over 61 Bibles and New Testaments in different African languages, where working closely with Bible Translators to ensure Quality and Fidelity of the Scripture they translated: 24 bibles in Tanzania, 17 in Kenya, 8 in Uganda, 9 in D.R. Congo, 2 in Rwanda, one in Burundi, Seychelles and Mauritius.
I don’t know of any one person with such credential in scripture translation in the world. Aloo exhibited the accuracy of a plumb line; sharpness of a razor and incredible flexibility to have produced these bibles and rally communities to hold them aloft saying God has spoken our language.
Besides translations endeavors, Prof. Mojola has contributed in making known the meaning and teaching of Scripture to the end that God’s people would be enlightened in minds, strengthen in wills, and hearts set on fire with the love of God.
This he has done as a lecturer in Universities across Africa: Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (now Africa International University), where he taught Philosophy of Religion course, Nairobi International School of Theology, Nairobi here he taught course on Leadership ethics to MA students.
He has worked in formation of clergy and Christian workers across the world as Visiting Professor, Great Lakes University of Kisumu where he taught courses in critical thinking and philosophy to MA and PhD students, as well as introductory Biblical Hebrew to theology students, St Paul’s University, Limuru, Kenya, where he taught course on ‘Philosophy for understanding Theology’ and course on ‘History of Biblical Israel’ to MTh students.
He has been external examiner for Biblical interpretation, Bible Translation studies and Theology at MA and PhD levels in Stellenbosch University, South Africa, Uganda Christian University, Mukono Uganda, Africa International, University, Karen Nairobi, Kenya, University of Kwazulu, Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, Kenyatta University, Department of Linguistics and St Paul’s University, Limuru, Kenya, Department of Theology.
Education in the Scripture has become an essential part of his calling. The wide range of theological and methodological uncertainties in communication scriptural content requires some level of expert guidance. To rightly divide the Word and make it available is serious undertaking. His total dedication to education is further seen in his 82 publications by which he has stimulated thoughts and shaped ideas across the world.
To think of a few he:
Coordinated and managed the quality control/assurance of the translation into Kiswahili of the English Africa Bible Commentary, Tokunboh Adeyemo, General Editor. Published as Ufafanuzi wa Biblia katika Mazingira na Utamaduni wa Afrika.
Prof. Mojola with Prof. Habtu and publishers of Ufafanuzi wa Bibilia…
He wrote in
-“The Chagga scapegoat purification ritual and another re-reading of the goat of ‘‘Azazel’’ (עֲזָאזֵל) in Leviticus 16 – preliminary observations”, forthcoming as a chapter in Seeing New Facets of the Diamond – Christianity as a Universal Faith: Essays in Honour of Kwame Bediako;, “The name of God in modern non-western
Bible translations” in the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics (EHLL), general editor, Geoffrey Khan;
– “Helps for Readers – Bible Study Notes, Concordances and other aids for Readers of the Bible in African languages with specific reference to the case of the Swahili Bible in East Africa” in Of Translations, Revisions, Scripts and Software, ed. Lenart de Regt,
– The global context and its consequences for Old Testament translation” presented at the Seminar on Global Biblical Hermeneutics, International Organization for Study of the Old Testament, held at Ljubljana, Slovenia, 15-20 July 2007 (published by as chapter in book Global Hermeneutics – Reflections and Consequences, edited by Knut Holter and Louis Jonker, and
-“Bible Translation in Africa” in Daniel Patte, ed. Cambridge Dictionary of Christianity. Cambridge UK.
Having retired from being Global Translation Adviser – United Bible Societies, in June 2015. Prof. Mojola is now a Professor, St Paul’s University, Limuru, Kenya, but continues also as Honorary Professor, Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Accra Ghana, and Research Associate, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa,
If for any reason honour should be conferred on him, it should be on the account of his life’s work, the availing scriptures to the church. He is our Biblical Apostolate, an honor the whole church: Catholics Orthodox Protestants and Independents would have gladly bestowed on him.
One can understand Prof. Mojola’s value to a church in dire straights and in need of good advise. Yet judging from history, making him a canon is the easy part, but whether the advice he gives will be valued will remain another matter altogether.
Rev. Canon Francis OMONDI
All Saints Cathedral Diocese, Nairobi
Anglican Church of Kenya
by Rev. Canon Francis Omondi
Looking at 1969 from the biography of John Gatu
The year 1969 witnessed the end of the first parliament of independent Kenya. It had not been an easy journey through the first term of Kenya’s life as a nation. The country was due for the first post-independence General Elections.
The political atmosphere was tense and had been simmering since the infamous Limuru Convention of 1966 and the ensuing fallout. The formation of KPU as the opposition party and its nationwide influence was worrying the ruling party. Such developments stoked fears in the ruling party of losing the elections.
During Madaraka Day celebrations, President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta announced that General Elections would be held. The ominous oathing began. The oath was intended to galvanize the support of Mt. Kenya people for the presidency, ensuring that the leadership of the country would not leave the house of Mumbi; the national flag was not to depart from its then current position.
These dynamics rendered the Luo people and those who supported them as the enemies of the Gikuyu people. It constituted the very risky prospect of pitting the Gikuyu people (or GEMA) against the rest of the nation. Then came the July 4th killing of the Hon. Tom Mboya by Nahashon Njenga. The resulting riots threatened the breakup of the nation. The fragile efforts that had been made towards building a nation appeared irreparably damaged. The process of Africanisation, which had been intended to bring the country together, became, in the opinion of some people, a process of “gikuyuization.”
These acrimonious dynamics continued to the end of the year and concluded with the detention of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. It is against this backdrop that church-state relationships as recounted by the Rev. Dr. John Gatu in his book, ‘Fan into Flame,’ will be considered.
The importance of the year 1969 against the backdrop of the prevailing church-state relationships cannot be over-stated. The Rev. Dr. Plawson Kuria hints at the importance of the year in the introduction to his dissertation in which he recounts the nature of Kenya’s church-state relationships in general and with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) in particular. The greatest honour must be reserved for Very Rev. Dr. John G. Gatu for documenting and re-telling this story so bravely and truthfully for posterity. The fact that the church survived this remarkable episode should be applauded. We, the church, should be inspired to stand firmly in times of trial, re-affirming our calling, building on the foundation that Gatu and his contemporaries have laid.
We can better appreciate their contributions by comparing experiences with churches elsewhere that faced similar dilemmas. Gatu’s narration of the 1969 experience in Kenya can be helpfully compared with the experience in 1933 of the Protestant Church in Germany in the context of the courageous prophetic contribution made by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
PCEA POSTURE ON CHURCH-STATE RELATIONSHIPS
This relationship, observes Rev. Gatu,
“can best be described as checkered and it is best informed by various phases in our history. Sometimes, it was clearly a symbiotic relationship, where each partner depended on the other as the occasion demanded. Then again, it was an ambivalent co-existence or at worst an acrimonious and confrontational relationship” (2016 180).
The church’s position can be deduced from several documents that were made public during church-state encounter in 1969. The Covenant Statement of September 15, 1969 provides the best representation of the PCEA’s position.
The PCEA COVENANT OF UNITY AND LOYALTY, Article 2:
“Recognizing His command to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and the teaching of the apostles that the authorities that exist have been instituted by God and are due to be given such respect, service and obedience as is compatible with a God-fearing life, we pledge unfailing loyalty to the President, His Excellency Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his government elected in accordance with the constitution…” (210).
This covenant crystalized the position first mentioned in a letter of July 22,1969 addressed to the President, in which Gatu, with other church leaders, affirmed that, “there is no authority (government) but by act of God and the existing authorities are instituted by Him (N.E.B. Romans 15:1-2)” (196).They continued: “Allow us to declare here and now our loyalty to your government and our uncompromising allegiance to your Excellency as a person and as the Head of State. Our prayer books or other prayers offered every Sunday in our churches demonstrate the honour in which your government and your person are held” (196).
They perceived themselves as loyal subjects of a legitimate state and as partners in the development of the nation and the people of a new country. In Gatu’s own words:
“…this was a relationship in which mutual respect between partners in human development was manifest, while at others, it was a relationship bereft of understanding and tolerance” (180).
PCEA theology, being heir to the reformed tradition, would be quite close to German Protestant doctrinal positions, particularly with regard to church-state relationships.
The Protestant Church in Germany affirmed what has been referred to as Luther’s Two Kingdom Doctrine on church-state relationships. Martin Luther used the phrase, “two governments” rather than “two kingdoms.” Luther’s doctrine, also embraced by Philip Melancthon, was later labeled the “two kingdoms” doctrine affirming that the church should not exercise worldly government, and that princes should not rule the church or have anything to do with the salvation of souls (Gritsch 1986, 48).
Augustine‘s church-state model as expounded in his famous tome, The City of God, provided the foundation for Luther’s doctrine (Sockness, Brent W. (1992).
Luther attempted to synchronize seemingly contradictory biblical statements. The Bible contains passages that exhort Christians to obey rulers placed over them and to repay evil with retribution. Other passages, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount, call for passivity in the face of oppression.
In an attempt to reconcile these seemingly contradictory passages, Luther deviated from the Roman Catholic position, which considered the latter biblical statement as an ideal for a more perfect class of Christians as opposed to radical Christians who rejected any temporal authority.
Thus emerged Luther’s understanding of the church-state relationship: the temporal kingdom has no coercive authority in matters pertaining to the spiritual kingdom. Luther was fully aware of the manner in which the Roman Catholic Church had involved itself in secular affairs, and he was aware of the involvement of the princes in religious matters, especially with regard to the ban on printing the New Testament (MacCulloch 2003, 164).
God has ordained the two governments: one of them being of a spiritual nature, which by the Holy Spirit under Christ reigns over Christians and pious people; and one of them with a secular mandate to restrain the unchristian and unregenerate, obliging it to keep the outward or public peace. We are to be subject to governmental power and do what it bids as long as it does not violate our Christian conscience and as long as it legislates only on matters related to the secular body politic.
However, if the secular government invades the spiritual domain and constrains the conscience, over which God only presides and rules, we should not obey, but choose instead to suffer. Temporal authority and temporal government extend only to matters, which are external and corporeal (MacCulloch: 2003, 238).
The position of the German Protestant Church with regard to government authority was clear. But this position changed when the government position regarding Jews was articulated in 1933. The government position became a source of great conflict and posed a moral dilemma for the church. Would the church defy government policy on the Jews?
THE CHALLENGE TO RESIST THE STATE: Conflictual Relationships.
From time to time, the purposes of the state and the purposes of the church find themselves at odds with each other. Such a situation confronted the Rev. Gatu when the Kenyatta Government asked him and his colleagues to take the Gikuyu oath. In some measure this request reflected the close relationship between the President and the PCEA leadership.
The Gatundu phone call of June 9, 1969 summoned PCEA leaders to take “the Gikuyu Oath” which was being administered to all ” Gikuyu of good will” to solidify the unity of the tribe (188).
The oath had been launched among President Kenyatta’s followers as a means of rendering the GEMA people ready for the general election (189). The Kenyatta regime considered the threat from KPU, the opposition party, a serious issue that required the President’s home front to be politically united. Kenyatta offered terms that he assumed would be acceptable to the clergy: “[We]…will not require the clergy to take a blood oath, but will take it in any other form…including drinking milk,” Gatu explained.
Details of the oath were not divulged to them unless they agreed to take the secret oath, but it was made clear that this was a serious matter and the sooner they complied the better.
“The implication was clear. If we refused to take the oath, it would signify our betrayal of the President and the inability of the PCEA to reciprocate the confidence that the President had in the church we represented. Of all things and of all places, this was the last thing we expected to come from the lips of the one we had come to love so dearly, Our President,” Gatu lamented (189).
This decision seriously affected the church, for which reason they requested time to pray. They called on other leaders in the church to assist in the quest for an appropriate decision. Unity of the church body was vital in dealing with the state. For this purpose, the invited leaders were Bishop Obadiah Kariuki of the Anglican Church of Kenya, Rev. Charles Kereri and Rev. Andrew Wambari, head of the Africa Inland Church
DECISION: It was wrong to take the Gikuyu Oath. “Unlike the oath we took during the struggle for independence, this oath was totally unnecessary, aimless and offended the traditions and customs of the Gikuyu people, who would ordinarily never administer oaths to women and children. We also found out that people were being forced to part with money during the oathing ceremonies. This also was contrary to the principles of binding oneself to an oath. Furthermore, no one was prepared to give us the exact text of the oath” (190).
In addition to moral considerations, they objected to the oath because:
- It was of no use and they deemed it purposeless at that point in the history of independent Kenya.
- Many people were being coerced into taking the oath.
- The oath would have a divisive rather than a uniting effect on Kenyans.
In administrating the oath, the government violated the constitution, thus undermining its legitimacy to rule and to be obeyed. Worse still, it was evil in that it excluded its own non-Gikuyu citizens from leadership in the nation. The government had imposed this oath without the consent of some of the citizens. This was stated clearly in the protest letter to Kenyatta and in the meeting of July 22, 1969:
“It is now known that many Christians, and ordained ministers included, have been compelled to take the oath which is contrary to their religion and belief in a manner that is contrary to the same …people have been subjected to torture, inhuman degrading punishment and other treatments. Contrary to section 74(1) of the constitution of Kenya and section 78(1) where it is laid out: Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his\her freedom of conscience.”
The church had legitimate reason to protest this intrusion that would undermined its own teachings.
This was stated in a letter to the President dated September 15, 1969:
Since the service of God involves loving our neighbors as ourselves, we stretch out our hand of brotherhood and fellowship to people of every tribe and race. Our resolve is to foster unity and combat division and to conduct our lives and work without discrimination or favoritism (210).
The oath fomented serious division in the country: Kikuyus vs non-Kikuyus, on one hand, and one Kikuyu district against another, on the other. Undermining the fragile national unity, which had begun taking root, was against government policy of Harambee and against the concept of national unity.
Dietrich Bonheoffer’s moment of resistance came to the fore when the Nazi government introduced the Aryan Chapter action against the Jews. Unfortunately the German church began implementing this law by excluding non-Aryan members from its services in compliance with government dictates.
Should the church support a government that violates national laws, which also contradict the church’s teaching?
RESPONSE OF THE CHURCH TO STATE
Bonhoeffer was explicit with regard to the church’s obligations to fight political injustice. The church, he wrote, must fight evil in three stages:
Firstly, the church must question state injustice and call the state to responsibility;
Secondly, the church must help victims of injustice, whether or not they are church members.
Ultimately, the church might find itself called, “not only to help the victims who have fallen under the wheel, but to help those who fall into the spokes of the wheel itself,” in its effort to halt the machinery of injustice.
Confronting the State
Stage one: By means of memoranda, protest letters and meetings church leaders made their positions and reasons for opposing the oaths clear, personally delivering the documentation to the President, from July 22, 1969 to September 15, 1969.
They sought government protection from forced submission to oath taking and they sought protection from rogue gangs, which were administering the oaths.
Stage two: Public protest and exposure.
The September 15, 1969 killing of Samuel Gathinji brought the church to keen attention. Meanwhile protests to Parliament were not effective because the Minister of State and the Vice President denied that oathing was taking place. Public prayers in Tumu Tumu, Kikuyu, Chogoria and Nakuru and public denunciation of the oathing forced the government to act. These actions were supported by both local and international press releases, embarrassing the government. The serialization of stories regarding the victims of forced oathing had a huge impact on the government. Kenyatta finally halted the oathing in September 1969.
“Kwaria ni kwendana: Gikuyu na Mukabi mangiaririe matingiaruire….” The press pressed Kenyatta out of denial and pretense (233).
“It is important to emphasize that despite the grave nature of the 1969 oathing, the church tried, as much as possible, to engage the political class at the highest possible level, without necessarily attracting media attention. Whether this tactic was right or wrong under the prevailing circumstances, is for the reader to judge. I have combined this private and personal approach for finding solutions to challenges facing the church and society at large with wide consultations before calling on the church to take an informed posture. In retrospect, the most important element is that the church rose to its calling, that of being the conscience and the prophetic voice of the nation. The modus operandi of working quietly behind the scenes has worked well for me and by extension for the PCEA over the years. In this context I speak of myself and to some extent the PCEA, but it does not mean that other churches did not respond to the 1969 oathing with equal vigor in their own ways. I thank God that PCEA played a critical role in resolving a politically motivated, destructive, base ambiguous and subtle challenge that had far reaching repercussions for the church and the nation” (180-224).
Stage 3. Being Light.
We have the challenge of building on Gatu’s foundation. We find ourselves called to halt the machinery of injustice, exclusion and tribalism, including but going beyond assistance to victims of state injustice.
The oath was introduced to bind the Gikuyu people together and to keep the leadership of the country among them. This mutated to the “uthamaki concept” in the understanding of those outside the community. Perhaps there is no oathing taking place today, but the spell of the 1969 oath still casts a shadow over the country’s political atmosphere.
-The tribal-political dynamic was legitimated in the country.
-The Kikuyu-Luo divide became institutionalized.
-Animosity has continued close to 50 years and has also affected the church.
Should church leaders have gone beyond protest against the oathing to urge the hearts and souls of Kenyans towards unity and love, and to urge the government towards a greater degree of fairness?
Does the state have a right to exclude select communities from leadership of the country?
Bonhoeffer’s final point…
Ultimately, the church might find itself called “not only to help the victims who have fallen under the wheel, but also those who have fallen into the spokes of the wheel itself” in order to halt the machinery of injustice. With the establishment of the Confessing Church, German Christians withdrew from the traditional Protestant Church and acted against the German government, seeking to stop it from continuing on a destructive path.
The prophetic tasks of the church are to tell the truth in a society that lives in illusion,
to grieve in a society that practices denial, and to express hope in a society that lives in despair (Walter Brueggemann).
We must rise:
We rise again from ashes,
from the good we’ve failed to do.
We rise again from ashes,
to create ourselves anew.
If all our world is ashes,
then must our lives be true,
an offering of ashes, an offering to you.
Then rise again from ashes,
let healing come to pain,
though spring has turned to winter,
and sunshine turned to rain.
The rain we’ll use for growing,
and create the world anew
from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.
(Words and music by Tim Conry)
Articles on the same subject by Canon Rev. Francis Omondi’ appeared in:
THE PLATFORM – For Law, Justice and Society (Nairobi)
December 2016-January 2017, No. 25/26
Title of article:
‘Why Uhuru Must Free Kenya From His Father’s Oathing’
STAR (Nairobi newspaper)
January 8, 2017
Title of article:
‘Why Uhuru Must Free Kenya From His Father’s Oathing
By Rev. Canon Francis Omondi
The tone of the 2017 Kenyan election campaign is confusing. Consequently many are trapped in a maze of political choices. They hope to see an enlargement of our freedoms and an enhancement of the quality of democracy. The problem is that most seem unaware that there has been a steady ominous erosion of democratic principles.
Already many are drunk on campaign promises in the manifestos contrived to lock in votes. What is happening is a dreadful reversal of standards, so that, as the horrid sisters chant in Macbeth, “Fair is foul and foul is fair”. Kenya’s voters think they are sophisticated, but I am afraid that many will be deluded, just as has happened many times in the past.
I remember how in 1988 the Hon. Philip J. Kimwele, my father-in-law, stood as a candidate to be MP for the then Mutito Constituency (Kitui East Constituency). Some elders inquired if he would deliver jobs the constituents badly needed. He was honest: “There are no jobs immediately to give to people.” But he promised to put in place a mechanism that would deliver a variety of jobs.
They posed the same question to his opponent, the Hon. Ezekiel Mweu. He enthusiastically told them there would be thousands of jobs created and he would employ any in need. They elected Mweu as their Member of Parliament. But there were no jobs. Nor were there mechanisms to develop the people for what was a challenging job market. They had been lied to!
Party manifestos and promises must be taken with a pinch of salt. Let’s weigh them before being swept away.
Kenya’s 2017 elections are unique. For the first time we are encountering an unprecedented number of independent candidates. The IEBC cleared 15,082 candidates to contest various political positions. 3,752 of these contestants are independent candidates, that is 25% of total candidates.
Disgruntled candidates in party primaries make up a bulk of the independents that had been legally barred from switching parties. Should most of the independent candidates win against the party candidates; work in parliament may be impossible. In the absence of political parties, the elected representatives could find themselves working at cross-purposes, making the formation of a government or a viable opposition an impossibility.
There is a risk that Parliament could be turned into an auction yard. Some will be enticed to caucus with the government side, since no law prohibits this. Others will back the opposition. Are we headed for an auction yard on a scale even greater than Kimalel goat auction in Baringo/?
The recent admission by Sirisia MP Hon. John Waluke that MPs often took bribes to skew reports or pass laws should frighten us out of electing unaccountable independents.
The subtle result of electing independents will be the inability of parliament to enact laws without hitches. Prof Jill Cottrell Ghai, Director of Katiba Institute Kenya, writing on Independent Candidates and the Constitution cautions that in a presidential model like ours “it would be hard for a President to have to negotiate with very many independents rather than a small number of parties.”
She concludes: “On the other hand, in Kenya where parties have fragmenting tendencies, it may prove very hard for the President to negotiate with a few party leaders to get legislation through anyway!”
Here is a case not to trivialize political parties. In the absence of organized political parties, how can one think of the working of representative government?
The importance of political parties lies in the fact that democracies cannot function without the existence of political parties. Amit Goel a political blogger with ImportantIndia, provided a helpful opinion in his conclusion that political parties provide political stability.
The political parties unite, simplify and stabilize the political process of the country. They tackle the destabilizing forces of localism, regionalism, section, interests and geographical situations. They succeed by making these parts of their party ideology, thus pacifying the disintegrating forces and inducing cohesion.
In a milieu like ours, it will be the political parties that would perform the functions of ‘aggregation of interests’.
There have been strong arguments made against voting along party lines. This fear, however, is pale compared to crippling party representation for independent candidates. Political parties in a representative democracy play a vital role in maintaining the stability by performing their roles in the legislature.
Different political parties compete with each other with a view to influence public policies and opinion with their philosophies, ideals, and objectives.
In this year’s election we are realistically faced with a choice between Jubilee Party and National Supper Alliance (NASA) coalition. Each is fighting in the election to achieve its objectives incorporated in their political manifesto.
Professor Peter Kagwanja Chief Executive of Africa Policy Institute and former government adviser identifies the distinction between the two parties, which he calls a “clash of the socialist, and capitalist ideologies.”
In his words, “Jubilee, espousing a welfare capitalist vision of Kenya and highlighting the expansion of infrastructure, technological education, energy and agriculture, as evidence of Kenya as an emerging industrial power led by a Kenyatta Scion.”
He pictures NASA on the other extreme as “an eclectic amalgam of socialists and bearers of diverse grievances. NASA is crusading for a vision of Kenya that is mundanely redistributive: (basic needs of food (unga), free services (education), cut on rents, and the dismantling of large-scale estates and ranches and their redistribution to the poor.”
I doubt the existence of such clear philosophical divide as thus portrayed. Both parties have exhibited an eclectic blending of capitalistic and socialistic ideologies in their election platform.
Confirming this, Peter Warutere of Mashariki communications, concluded that there is no difference in manifestos and plans between the Jubilee and NASA manifestos. He opined they have similar pillars and messages presented in shades of the red and orange. The most notable difference is the style in which the manifestos were launched.
In this mix, it’s easy to whip the tribal sentiment and have people vote thus. We can avoid this slide.
I suggest a way out of this confusing labyrinth by exploring how the parties propose to govern.
Jubilee in all intents and purposes favors a centripetal system of governance. Where a strengthened central government works to ‘enable’ the peripheries. Thus both the economy and political power flows from a centralized core, which is in the presidency the ruling party to the far flunks. This favors planning around the presidency reflected in communities negotiating their development agenda at the statehouse, creating the notion that development is achieved if one is in government.
NASA on the other hand bends towards a centrifugal system of governance. Where the peripheries are strengthened to thrive and enabled to be the nerve centers for both political and economic initiatives. The manner in which the coalition is organized is indicative of negotiations and accommodation of opposing interests expertly woven into a formidable mosaic.
In overwhelmingly voting for the 2010 constitution Kenyan’s were emphatic, No more centralization of power. We have tasted the fruit of devolution and this should determine how we vote this time around.
Has there been decentralization of power?
Dr. Nic Cheeseman who teaches African politics at Oxford University makes this queer but true remark that “many of the policies that have decentralized power in Kenya over the last 40 years have pretended to move power to the people while actually strengthening the control of central government.”
Many agree that Jubilee has been reluctant to decentralize power. Under Jubilee devolved units have been chocked. President Uhuru may be adopting President Daniel arap Moi tactics when he introduced the District Focus for Rural Development in 1982. This policy ostensibly was initiated to allow the government to be more responsive to the needs of the people.
Moi was less interested in restructuring the state but wanted to break up the administrative and political networks that had grown strong in the Jomo Kenyatta Era. As a result Moi manipulated the district focus reforms in order to create new political networks that he could trust and strengthen his political control. In the process he did not decentralize power but “de concentrated ” it.
Writing in Decentralizing the state District focus and the politics of Reallocation in Kenya, Professor Joel Barakan of Iowa University and Micheal Chege of Ford foundation Zimbabwe, observed that rather than allowing more autonomy for the local leaders, the District Focus led to the posting of greater number of more central personnel to an expanded number of field officers to exert greater control over development initiatives on the periphery.
It is doubtful that devolution will thrive under new Jubilee now that they have employed similar approach on the devolved units. Returning Jubilee to power will be performing requiem mass for devolution.
On the other hand NASA, pledges to restructure and realign the State Department of Devolution and planning to focus more on inter-governmental relations and co-ordination of inter-ministerial functions. This is relevant to devolution rather than supervision of county governments as we presently have. They promise to give more resources to the county government to support full devolution.
In this years’ elections Kenyan ought to vote with eyes into the future and not empty promises, vote to mature democratic institutions against unstable whims and most important of all vote to keep devolution.
Rev. Canon Francis OMONDI
Priest of the Anglican Church of Kenya serving at All Saints Cathedral Diocese of Nairobi
By REV. CANON FRANCIS OMONDI
Who can refute that Kenya is ‘standing in the need of prayer?’
Not that routine, liturgical prayer of: “God guide our president. And give him your wisdoms and justice…” chanted in churches every Sundays though with some variations. We must prod for Divine intervention in our catastrophes: brought to us by our own hands, or visited on us by nature. The disastrous famine or challenges of the coming election calls for something greater: Effective prayers.
At beginning of this year’s Lent Period, the Catholic Bishops held a public Mass, to which they invited the country’s political leaders. That Lent’s 40-day fast theme is “peaceful and credible elections” is quite revealing. It is here that President Kenyatta made his national call prayer, peaceful election and rain.
“May we all join hands as Kenyans to pray for our beloved nation, for peace, unity, harmony, understanding, and also for rain,” he said.
The presidents’ call hinges on the value Kenyans attach to prayers.
Apparently, the president knows something about the power of prayers.
In October 2014, while thanking his supporters, he attributed the collapse of his case in The Hague to prayers: “Si mumesema si Uchaw ni maombi?” (Didn’t you say it’s not witchcraft, it’s prayers) Kenyatta told his cheering supporters.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) teachers too attributed their court victory in the battle for pay increase to prayers. They hoisted shoulder high their Secretary General Wilson Sossion outside the Supreme Court, as they chanted, “si uchawi, ni maombi (it’s not by witchcraft but prayer).”
The Supreme Court had just ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the interlocutory orders issued by the Court of Appeal directing that the salary increment of 50 to 60 percent by, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), be effected starting August 2014.
I was not surprised at the credulity with which we deal with irredeemable corruption in the country.
Kenyans appeared contented with the appointment of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) Chairman, one who claimed his unique contribution to slaying graft would be prayer.
My retired Archbishop Most Rev. Eliud Wabukhala, in the esteemed view of vetting Members of Parliament, was considered the last best hope as all other highly qualified individuals had failed.
“We hope you will be able to slay the dragon because Kenyans are looking up to you as a man of integrity and a man of God. If you are not able, we do not know who else to turn to because we have tried other prominent Kenyans and they have failed,” Kuresoi North MP Moses Cheboi stated.
The lawmaker was not alone on this. A section of religious leaders, among them bishops, are counting on prayers to help Archbishop Wabukhala win the battle. Mr. Onesmus Njenga, a lay preacher at All Saints Cathedral, admonishes: “Wabukhala should spend more time in prayer.”
Yet despite prayer being my trade, I remain skeptical that Prayers per se would adequately resolve these conundrums.
Attributing the foregoing to be answered prayers would be grading on an overly generous curve. Besides, it is cheeky to assume much prayer will change our condition. We know it took more than the said prayers.
There is though a place for prayers in times of crises of national proportions.
The role that prayer played in Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr.’s work during the Civil Rights Movement is captured in a recollection from his wife Coretta King. For my husband, she said: “Prayer was a daily source of courage and strength that gave him the ability to carry on in even the darkest hours of our struggle.”
She further narrates how Martin was imbued with confidence after prayers, concluding: “It seemed as though I could hear a voice saying: ‘Stand up for righteousness; stand up for truth; and God will be at our side forever.’” Then Dr. King was ready to face anything. They toiled, suffered and worked for the changes they dreamt for. This is the kind of prayer Kenyans need. Prayers that catapults us to activism against the evils we abhor, importantly: corruption, elections violence and famine.
I find resonance in the words of an online reader calling himself “Charles, an Atheist,” who has noted:
Don’t pray. Two hands working do more than a thousand clasped in prayer. Praying does more harm than good. Praying gives people a false sense of accomplishment: they’ve done nothing, but felt like they made a difference. Many people forgo actually helping in times of crisis or tragedy, because they believe that they’re doing their personal share by praying. So they contribute less than if they contributed in material ways.
Citizens here have a model to emulate. If we choose to pray we must pray right. This is an admonition not only to the people but also to the president.
King Solomon the wise exemplified how a national leader can pray right. He prayed:
“Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this…I will give you a long life.” (1 Kings
Overwhelmed by the challenge to lead Israel after King David, he sought divine guidance. Two aspects of his prayers stand out:
1. The value he placed on the people he was set to rule. “Who can govern this great people of yours?” Solomon quipped.
2. The nature of his request: “a discerning heart, one to know what is right (to do) and wrong (to stop).”
The value leaders place on those they lead will directly affect how they rule and the residual impact of life in their domain. What Israelites were to Solomon, contrasts to what Kenyans are to President Uhuru. The president stunned us on February 2016, while on an official visit to Israel, when he said: “God has given Kenyans a country that is 20 times better than the one we are in right now (Israel). But there is crying, theft… we are experts at stealing, abusing each other, doing other evils and perpetuating tribalism.”
These words were spoken against a backdrop of public outcry condemning scandals in government: among them suspect payment of the KSh. 250 billion Eurobond, claims that the Kenya Defense Forces trades in contraband sugar and charcoal and the KSh. 791 million loss at the National Youth Service.
Here is our giant problem: There must be a transition from just praying to gaining divine wisdom and developing sound policies. Discerning Right from Wrong. When the courts awarded teachers a pay rise, it was “won’t pay, can’t pay” from the President. “This is bad for the economy,” he argued. The thought may have been informed by the fear of exasperating the already high inflation. This hypothesis is misconstrued.
There would have been an economic boost with increase in teachers’ pay. A section of economists insisted that with increased incomes there will be a corresponding increase in demand for goods and services, which will be evenly spread across the country. Besides a good portion of this would be scooped in taxes. Upon becoming India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, gave a pay rise to government workers. Anant Kala, writing about this in the Wall Street Journal of June 30, 2016, observed that “India’s cabinet approval of a more-than 23% pay increase to about 10 million state employees and pensioners, would not only cheer workers but significantly give the South Asian economy a shot in the arm. It is most probable it would trigger response of the states to raise the salaries of their own employees. Religare Capital Markets estimated that in total the economy could soak more than $50 billion as a permanent fiscal stimulus. India Ratings and Research, estimated that consumption could rise by 450 billion rupees equivalent to 0.3% of India’s gross domestic product.”
Because of the increase, Anjali Verma, an economist at Phillip Capital, says: “India’s GDP growth could rise by about 35 basis points this year–pushing growth to the magic 8%”, an increment from last year’s 7.6% and the level that Modi’s government wants to reach. Agreeing with the stimulus, Soumya Kanti Ghosh – an economist at state Bank of India – says that “the timing of the raises couldn’t be better, given that a large amount of deposits raised by banks from Indians living overseas are expected to mature in September.” For a country whose bank deposit was at its lowest ebb in 53 years besides a falling savings rate, such injection would be a welcome remedy, especially since some government employees will save their increased pay either as bank deposits or in public deposit schemes.
Sound economic policies more than prayers, should make Kenya prosperous. It’s not a mystery why, for instance, we fail to provide proper healthcare for citizens. While foreign governments, philanthropist and donors – including our first Lady Mrs. Kenyatta – have shown tremendous compassion and generosity to Kenya’s sick by giving substantive funds for Malaria, HIV/AIDS drugs, and vaccines, government officials – including the President’s kin – are stealing them through the back door.
President John Magufuli of Tanzania has fascinated many people in the East African nation and beyond by some of the actions he has taken via his motto: Hapa Kazi Tu. Following his austere policy, he clamped down hard on unnecessary public expenditure, dramatically reducing foreign travel, out-of-office workshops and meetings. The Tshs. 4 billion saved from cancelling official national Independence Day celebrations on December 9, 2015 was spent on widening a Dar road from Morogoro to Mwenge and provided for transformation of the main referral hospital in Dar-es Salaam, Muhimbili Teaching Hospital.
Holding public servants accountable for their performance and demanding efficient use of public funds on one hand and getting to grips with corruption and tax evasion on the other is indispensible to the good governance agenda. That is why the president, with his Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, swept through the port and tax authorities, uncovering widespread corruption and unpaid taxes, leaving a trail of more than 60 sacked and suspended senior officials behind them.
If Kenya could apply Tanzania’s vigour in restoring its leadership in the environmental sector, we just might have begun hitting the right spot.
In destroying the water towers of the country, we unleashed disaster upon ourselves. Particularly since 2001, 100,000 hectares – more than a quarter of the Mau forest – were allocated to settlers and cleared. Consequently, there have always been cyclical droughts in Kenya, which are becoming frequent, more severe and less predictable. Countless warnings have gone unheeded, as the late Prof. Wangari Mathai, Nobel peace winner and head of Green Belt Movement, could testify. “I keep telling people, let us not cut trees irresponsibly… especially the forested mountains,” she would say.
Again she warned: “If you destroy the forests, the rivers will stop flowing and the rains will become irregular and the crops will fail and you will die of hunger and starvation”. Isn’t this the time to rectify this wrong? Speculation runs rife that attempts to evict the settlers and restore the forests would spell political doom. Action now will prevent tomorrow’s drought.
Christian Lambrechts, a former policy and program officer at the United Nations Environment Programme, says: “At a time when the climate in Kenya is becoming drier, that is when you need to boost your ecosystem – to help it to absorb the impact of climate variability.” Mr Lambrechts is one of 30 officials recruited to a related task force by former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga.
And going forward, the antidote for election violence is allowing the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission (IEBC) to conduct transparent and fair elections. We recall the 2002 General Elections with nostalgia because the results were beyond dispute. Neither was there a dispute following the well-conducted referenda in 2005 and 2010, which reflected the will of the majority of Kenyans. We saw trouble due to the opacity that shrouded the 2007 elections. We got away with murder in 2013 because of the safety valve that was our Supreme Court, whose reputation still lies in tatters over its ruling. I do not think prayers will shield us from chaos if the electoral process in 2017 is suspect.
Our president can work harder for Kenyans, besides calling us to prayers. He should rally us to work for a better Kenya. St. Benedict told his followers: “Laborare est orare” – to work is to pray. ‘Kazi Tu’ – only work.
The views expressed here are the author’s own and not those of the Church. (firstname.lastname@example.org)