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)
Why Uhuru must free Kenya from his father’s oathing
By REV. CANON FRANCIS OMONDI
Mzee Jomo Kenyatta the founding president of Kenya.
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” states William Faulkner in the Requiem for a Nun. His writings are apt warning to us who are struggling to overcome this sordid past.
We have had to wait more than four decades, to come to the day when the ‘Ichaweri Oaths’ become a matter of public discussion. It will be a moral test for us on whether we will remain servants to that past, or succeed in shaking those chains free.
Rev. Dr. John Gatu, the retired moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA), has been a harbinger of reason here. He courageously and consistently stood up to President Jomo Kenyatta on the oathing issue and has now – in his memoir – immortalized his thoughts.
Rev. Dr. John Gatu the former moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa
Rev. Gatu’s profound and brave exposé in his memoir is indeed intensely political. A stinging message, one that the readership would hardly have been prepared to cope with, in these dark days as the specter of war looms over the 2017 elections in Kenya.
Earlier writers already informed us of the happenings. Galia Sabar writes in Church, State and Society in Kenya, how oathing ceremonies were imposed on the Kikuyu to foster unity and ensure Kenyatta and his ruling clique kept their grip on power. That grip had been badly shaken after the assassination of Tom Mboya, a powerful Luo ally of the President. The death galvanized support for Kenya Peoples Union, the Luo-dominated opposition party led by Oginga Odinga.
In this oathing ceremony, according to reports in Parliament, the Kikuyus would stand naked in a dark room in a house on the grounds of the home of President Kenyatta and take an oath that they would never allow the flag of Kenya to leave the “house of Mumbi,” as Kikuyus call their tribe. Whether the oath was voluntarily or forced, many Kikuyus believe sacred spirits will strike them dead if they break the pledge: they will be cursed.
A curse is not an end in itself. It is in a way an affirmation of blessings. This, as profoundly explained, is thanks to the African philosophy of perceiving curses positively as invaluable entities.
The Kikuyu people had no case against the Luo or others to call for oaths and curses.
According to the Kikuyus, a genuine curse is not to be pronounced out of malice or uncalled for emotional outbursts or jealous rage. “Kĩrumi gĩa Ũtũrĩka Gĩtinyitaga Mũndũ” (an uncalled for or unprovoked malicious curse is ineffective.) This is a caution that a far-fetched and unjust “curse” imbued with vendetta is null and void.
The oaths had devastating impact on the country. The curse may be, as Rev. Gatu and the PCEA clergy have demonstrated, a conjecture. It can be dealt with. But its spell that still grips the country years on is a huge challenge.
The oath to keep the presidency within their tribe is to blamed for the huge fissure between Kikuyus and other communities that we have never been able to mend. The perception here is that the Kikuyus wanted to keep the presidency indefinitely and dominate others forever.
What would one expect of non-Kikuyu communities hearing the talks of “uthamaki” on Kememe FM frequently? Our identity has been divided into two as a consequence: Us vs Them.
To illustrate this, I would borrow a term coined by Rabbi Lord Sachs: Pathological dualism, which means a mentality that divides the world between those who are impeccably good and those who are irredeemably bad. We fail to see any good in others and are quick to point out the bad of others.
This works in three ways:
- When we dehumanize and demonize those we categorize as our enemies. Those perceived to threaten the uthamaki project. Dehumanization destroys empathy and sympathy. It shuts down the emotions that prevent us from doing harm.
- It makes us see ourselves as victims. Victimhood deflects moral responsibility. It leads people to say: It wasn’t our fault, it was theirs. Outsiders aspiring for presidency have been blamed for being power-hungry and violent.
- It allows you to commit altruistic evil, killing in the name of the God of life. Altruistic evil recruits good people to bad causes. It turns ordinary human beings into murderers in the name of uthamaki.
Rev Gatu’s memoir confirms that Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was fully behind the oaths.
“Of all the things and of all the places, this was the last thing we expected to come from the lips of one we had come to love so dearly, our President,” Gatu recalls.
That Kenyatta, the founder of the country, was allowing tribal factionalism at the expense of national unity and his own policy of pulling the tribes together was frightening and a great betrayal.
It contrasts with Tanzania where Mwalimu Julius Nyerere counterpoised nationalism to tribalism. He would not succumb to ideologisation and politicization of tribe. He constantly emphasized that the newly-independent countries had to weave together a nation out of tribes and ethnicity. On this he remained steadfast throughout his political life. In a dialogue with academics in 1991, questioned as to why he saw tribal identities as inherently negative when he himself was a ‘proud Mzanaki’, Nyerere retorted: “I’m a good Mzanaki, but I won’t advocate a Kizanaki-based political party. So I’m a Tanzanian, and of course I am Mzanaki; politically I’m a Tanzanian, culturally I’m Mzanaki.”
Mzee’s act placed Kenya in a perpetual trajectory of conflict and hate. But surprisingly there are little efforts towards correcting our politics. It will take a Head of State’s set policies to undermine this Kenyan politics.
Fear politics change the way individuals define identity; when people fear others they revert away from national identities and towards sectarian ones.Hon. Raila Odinga leader of ODM addressing opposition rally before the 2007 elections.
Hon. Raila Odinga leader of ODM addressing opposition rally before the 2007 general elections.
Michael Waikenda, writing in The Star newspaper of November 16th 2016, erred in claiming that the brand of politics by ODM leader Raila Odinga was divisive, when he claimed that in 2007 Raila rallied his supporters behind the propaganda of “41 against one,” which meant 41 ethnic communities were facing off against one community.
Didn’t the PCEA clergy foretell this?
In a letter they wrote to President Kenyatta On July 22, 1969, they told him – among other things – that the ceremonies were isolating Kikuyus from other communities on the account of the oath.
“Gikuyu as a tribe cannot keep from other tribes. This will result in the remaining tribes forming their block against the Kikuyu and aggravating the current harangues against the tribe,” they wrote. Sadly they were ignored.
The 2007 violence was a clear indication that the other communities will not accept to remain in the shadows; they demand their place on the table.
Unfortunately, this may be repeated unless all stumbling blocks to fair elections and just arbitration in events of disputes – currently being mounted – are removed. But most important, the uthamaki claim must dropped.
We are fast approaching apocalyptic politics, a term used by Rabbi Jonathan Sachs in his recent book, Not in God’s name: “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.”
Apocalypse is what happens to politics when it loses patience. It is like Samson in the Temple of the Philistines, bringing down the building on his enemies but destroying himself in the process.
Where avenues for change are manipulated and made impossible, this kind of politics spreads like contagion. They hold particular attraction for those who feel alienated, estranges, ‘wandering between two worlds, one dead and the other powerless.’
We are already there.
Former Nairobi mayor Aladwa was quoted saying early 2016:
“2017 imekaribia, na sisi kama watu wa ODM tumebaki na risasi moja.
Na mimi nimeambia party leader Raila Amolo Odinga, this time round, the outcome of the elections, ikiwa tumeshinda na watunyang’anye, wacha kiumane.”
(Things will be bad in 2017, and we as members of ODM have only one bullet left. I have told my party leader Raila Amolo Odinga, … If we win and are defrauded, let hell break loose…”
Mayor Aladwa was charged in court for these utterances, but latter freed, but his warning should not be wished away.
The patience to work on change seems gone among the opposition. Essentially they search for revolution without transformation, change without the slow process of education. They look to use power in the place of persuasion, daggers instead of debate.
Issues of truth have been simplified to the most elemental choice; agree or die.
Sachs describe this situation as: “Longing for the end of time in the midst of time. The search for redemption now, which is why it suspends the normal rules that restrain people from murdering the innocent.”
The opposition ought to take serious caution. Apocalyptic politics always fails, because one cannot create eternity in the midst of time, or unity without dissent.
Of all the illusions surrounding our Nation’s unity, none is more dangerous that the notion that leadership belongs to one “house of Mumbi” or their say-so.
Only President Uhuru Kenyatta can save this country.
The writer serves with the All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi. The views expressed here are his own. (email@example.com)
Closing Dadaab: No African refugee in an African country
By Rev. CANON FRANCIS OMONDI
Might the European Union’s appalling rejection of refugees influenced Kenya’s current decision to close down the Dadaab refugee camp?
Unlike other earlier attempts to close the 25-years old camp, it seems Kenya has been unfettered to act without regard of humanitarian codes nor pressure of being in breach of international law and conventions.
The EU has shown how.
Seyla Benhabib, Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University, recently condemned the EU’s handling of the ongoing refugee crisis, terming it “miserable”, and Central European countries’ position as “narrow-minded selfishness.”
That the Dadaab camp had lost its ‘humanitarian character’, cannot be gainsaid.
According to the refugees, the drastic reduction of food ration made life anything but humane.
To the government, however, it’s already a breeding ground for terrorism.
Even though I support the camp’s closure, I find the government’s postulated reason suspect.
The suggestion to forcefully repatriate 350,000 Somalis back across the border because of suspicion that there are active terror groups in the camp, frightens me.
The prospect is cruel, and probability of failure quite high.
Not about finances?
Financial reports reveal that the Dadaab refugee camp has been perennially on life support since 2012.
There was a $25 million funding shortfall in 2012, and the World Food Programme has cut food rations twice since 2013.
The food cuts were of great concern to the refugees: “For some of us who do not get any remittances from relatives abroad, it is tough to raise children, even with the full monthly ration. I wonder how tough it will be with cuts,” said Hussein Farah, a father of 10 in Dagahaley, a camp within wider Dadaab.
Refugees read mischief in the food cuts.
It led to near riots in the camps in 2014.
Mr. Raouf Mazou, the then United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) representative in Kenya, in managing the situation denied that it was a scheme to repatriate refugees.
“We call for calm in camps. The reduction of food rations is purely as a result of funding constraints and should not in any way be linked to the planned pilot project that will support refugees spontaneously
returning to Somalia,” he was quoted as saying.
The UN agency had declared a shortfall of US$ 38 million towards ensuring provision of regular rations for the refugees in 2014.
Unfortunately, this want has persisted.
It vastly contrasts with the Syrian situation, where the EU reached financial agreements with key transit countries to control migrant flows with US$ 3.3 billion to Turkey alone.
Complaints about this preferential funding arrangement was aptly expressed in sentiments by Mr. Karanja Kibicho, Principal Secretary at Kenya’s Ministry for the Interior, when he noted that the international community is getting away with it “on the cheap” in Kenya.
In an interview with Reuters, Kenya’s Deputy President Hon. William Ruto also lamented that the international community had failed Somalia, which is still struggling to recover from the anarchy of the 1990s, arguing that Kenya had spent $7 billion on Dadaab over the past quarter of a century.
“Kenya feels incredibly frustrated by its refugee burden,” noted Rashid Abdi, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group.
But the government denies that its decision is financially motivated.
To pin the closure on any other reason but funding is improbable.
The argument that the closure is terror-induced has been effectively touted.
Egypt’s ambassador to the United Nations, Abdellatif Aboulatta, while leading a UN delegation to meet the Kenyan authorities in an attempt to influence a change in position, amplified it when he said: “It is not about finance. Yes of course there is some financial problem, of course, but it is also about terrorism. There might be a link to some radicalization inside these camps and we understand it, of course, again the challenge of terrorism is real and it is important to take it into consideration.”
This assertion affirmed the elaboration by Hon. Ruto “of radicalization by extremist elements in the refugee camps especially of the young people, idle young people in the refugee camps”, as the main reason for its closure and forceful repatriation.
But this rationale is lame.
Who cannot see that forcing refugees back into Somali would only amplify radicalization?
It will be a huge error to ignore the protests of the Somalia government, which through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned that any move to close Dadaab forcefully would only hurt the refugees and possibly drive more people into militancy.
“Expelling vulnerable Somali refugees at a time Somalia is making internationally recognized progress towards stability and institution building, will only increase the risk of insecurity in the region,” the ministry said.
“This decision will negatively affect the majority of Somali refugees…and will make the threat of terrorism worse, not better,” it added.
Expelling refugees will, within Kenya, reinforce the narrative of a long-standing “strong anti-Somali sentiment” in Kenya, exhibited in a less than sympathetic government, with a tendency to launch impulsive crackdowns against the Somali community.
And scapegoating terror attacks on the refugees will be counterproductive.
It would certainly inflame the embers of radicalization, whose drivers are too complex and multiple.
Building our security policy on such faulty premises is a reckless act of chasing shadows while missing the real threat to our security.
Some of recent studies around terrorism in Kenya debunk the Kenyan government’s claim about refugees.
I found these two extremely instructive: “Tangled ties: Al-Shabaab and the changing politics of violence in Kenya”, published by the Institute for Development Studies at Sussex University in collaboration with Centre for human Rights and Policy Studies and the International Crisis Group’s Update briefing No. 102 of 25 September 2014.
The authors convincingly provided fresh analysis into the intersection between Al-Shabaab with violence dynamics in Kenya and the politics.
Although the reasons for current terror related activities in Kenya are complex, one most interesting finding of these researchers was tracing it to the government’s security responses.
In forceful repatriation, Kenya risks inviting more terror attacks on her citizens.
Care, therefore, needs to be taken in dealing with the refugees with more options explored if the government follow through with its plans to close the camp.
Repatriation of refugees: What are the conditions of a just return process?
Perhaps Kenya is riding on the crest of change dealing with long term refugees.
In recent years, there has been an increased focus on repatriation, indicative of a definitive shift in the structure of the international refugee system.
Megan Bradley in Refugee Repatriation: Justice, Responsibility and Redress, explains this change by refuting the depiction of refugees as stateless, right-less ‘scum of the earth’, and that it no longer so clearly reflects or suggests avenues for resolving the challenges faced by the majority of the world’s refugees.
For millions of refugees, repatriation to their countries of origin is no longer an option but an imperative, the only alternative to the limbo of protracted displacement.
Yet this can be disastrous if not well planned, as the Afghanistan case is instructive.
Here, the UN had seen the repatriation of some 5 million refugees since 2002.
This has not worked.
Reflecting on the failure to provide returnees with the support essential to make repatriation a
sustainable contribution to peace, the head of the UNHCR mission in Afghanistan characterized the agency’s approach to return as ‘a big mistake, the biggest mistake UNHCR ever made.’
Any success of return operations depends on the ability of governments and non-state actors to confront and respond to the questions of justice the repatriation process puts front and centre, from the resolution of land disputes to accountability for the atrocities and inequalities that fuel forced migration.
Somali refugees in Kenyan and Ethiopian camps fled from the south and central regions.
According to Human Rights Watch, even though the security landscape in the area has been changing rapidly since the beginning of the year, there is no evidence yet of a significant improvement in the generally poor human rights situation for the local population.
The three, Afmadow in Lower Juba, Baidoa in Bay and Belet Xaawo in Gedo, were recently captured from Al-Shabab, but have again been recaptured from the Federal Somali government and the African Union [AU] forces.
These regions host significant populations of internally displaced persons (IDPs), 31,000 in Lower Juba, 40,000 in Baidoa and 77,000 in Gedo, and are the areas of origin of a significant number of refugees.
More than 200,000 are from Lower Juba, including more than 48,000 from Afmadow, 80,000 from Baidoa, 124,000 from Gedo.
In the three locations, like most of south-central Somalia, public infrastructure and basic social services are very limited and, when available, are frequently of unsatisfactory quality.
Critically though, a majority of refugees in camps assess that the reasons that led to their displacement still prevail, and thus would not envision returning until conditions improve.
Observers have cautioned that premature and forced return movements can overwhelm and undercut ‘fragile institutions’ in countries struggling to emerge from conflict, exposing returnees to unnecessary and unacceptable risks, and ultimately setting back peace processes by potentially reigniting conflict and forced migration flows.
These risks are particularly pronounced in cases of massive return movements.
On a hopeful note, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2005 observed: “The return of refugees and internally displaced persons is a major part of any post-conflict scenario. And it is far more than just a logistical operation. Indeed, it is often a critical factor in sustaining a peace process and in revitalizing economic activity.”
Just Return to Somalia: Who is obliged to ensure these conditions are met?
Reflected in UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s influential 1992 report An Agenda for Peace, is the conviction which argued that “Peacemaking and peace-keeping operations, to be truly successful,
must come to include comprehensive efforts to identify and support structures which will tend to consolidate peace and advance a sense of confidence and well-being among people. Through agreements ending civil strife, these may include disarming the previously warring parties and the restoration of order . . .[and] repatriating refugees.”
The principle reason for retaining Kenyan troops in Somalia was to secure the country build its infrastructure to allow peaceful settlement for Somalis and peace within Kenyan borders.
This was attested to by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s words in Eldoret, during the memorial service of the Kenyan fallen soldiers early this, a testament to the dangers in Somalia.
Kenyatta Rejected calls to pull out Kenya Defence forces saying: “They [those calling for a withdrawal] have forgotten that the enemy has made it clear he will follow us home. And they have forgotten that, as good neighbors, we cannot leave the people of Somalia to the tender mercies of murderous terrorists.”
Why, then, would we send refugees into active conflict, where our military forces are also at risk?
Insisting on repatriation without adequate and clear resettlement plan worries.
Without alternative camps inside Somalia nor ready recipient communities will make this project a bridge to nowhere.
According to Mr. Abdi, “It remains a plan, no ground has been broken.”
Mr. Kibicho, on the other hand, claims 10,000 hectares has been procured outside the Somali town of Baidoa for exactly that purpose.
Again, Abdi contends that a more likely location is Ras Kamboni – a town much closer to the Kenyan border.
With this kind of unpreparedness, refugees will stream right back as soon as they are sent into Somalia.
The weakness of border controls and fluid population indistinguishable from the local community in Kenya’s northeast will make it hard to stop their return.
The starling return program by Ethiopia should be instructive.
Here, the UNHCR was quite successful in its repatriation policy.
It brought on board both the Ethiopian and Somaliland authorities as well as the refugees themselves.
Even though the process was considered far too slow, it should have been recognized that the security situation on the Somaliland side was not really conducive to such a complex operation until the beginning of 1997, which is exactly when the programme finally started.
Even though legal basis for the repatriation programme required a Tripartite Agreement (among UNHCR, the country of origin and the country of asylum), this was not possible because of Somaliland’s
Consequently, separate bilateral agreements were signed between UNHCR and the Ethiopian government on the one hand, and between UNHCR and the Somaliland authorities on the other.
The refugees’ drive for return was great.
An information campaign and a fact-finding mission by refugee elders to verify conditions in the areas of origin was initiated.
Once the UNHCR Sub-Office in Jijiga collected enough expressions of interest through signed Voluntary Repatriation Departure Forms (VRDF) in a camp, it would send a master list to UNHCR Hargeisa containing names, VRDF number and -–most importantly – clan and sub-clan details.
UNHCR Hargeisa then submitted the master list to the Ministry of Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (MRRR) for clearance.
The clearance was invariably carried out on the basis of the stated clan or sub-clan membership, rather than on the basis of names, since there was no national census and names were largely irrelevant since
many, maybe most, refugees had changed their names when seeking asylum.
The clans and sub-clans considered by MRRR as qualifying automatically for Somaliland citizenship were: Isaq (all sub-clans), Gadabursi (all sub-clans), Issa (all sub-clans), Dulbahante and Warsangeli/Harti/Darod, Gaboye, Tumal, Yiber.
Since January 2014, most of those who went back to Somalia have returned.
Repatriation was initially limited to three pilot areas in the south, but has since been extended to nine where there are pockets of stability.
These are areas where the local authorities are open to return and are willing to facilitate.
The refugees, however, have been very reluctant to embrace the return programme, for there is a whole generation of refugees who have known nothing else.
They are acutely aware of the insecurity across the border in Somalia and the lack of opportunities there.
So, however unwelcoming, Kenya is some kind of home.
Considering that Kenya’s repatriation programme has had poor outcomes, it’s puzzling that we are doubling down this path.
Path to citizenship?
We are not short of options.
The Somali refugees are our neighbours.
We must find an enlightened and generous policy towards refugees.
Tanzanian examples rebuke us.
This year, the Tanzania government completed their pledge to give citizenship to 250,000 Burundian refugees, first made in 2014.
Thus, it honoured the immortal words of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, founding president of Tanzania: “No African should be a refugee in another African country.”
It took hard work and great planning.
The adoption of Tanzania Comprehensive Solutions Strategy (TANCOSS) in 2007, was a partnership with
the Burundian government and UNHCR that outlined a plan for a durable solution for Burundian refugees who had been in Tanzania since 1972.
The TANCOSS plan was built on three pillars: voluntary repatriation to Burundi, processing of citizenship applications for those who opted for naturalization in Tanzania, and relocation of the naturalized refugees from the refugee settlements to other regions of Tanzania.
79% of refugees opted for Tanzanian citizenship while 21% opted for repatriation, and duly returned to Burundi.
The relocation plan was subsequently suspended, however, with naturalized refugees permitted to choose if they wish to be relocated or remain in the areas of the settlements.
According to Forced Migration Review of May 2016, Amilia Kuch, a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, rightly analyzed the thought of the architects of this plan: “The close affinity of the groups living in the area of Burundi and western Tanzania and their historical mobility across what is now the border were important preconditions for local integration of refugees.”
The refugees and the many Tanzanians found mutual affinity, making living together possible due to ethnic, religious and linguistic similarities.
Apart from continued violence and active military activities inside Somalia, we have similar dynamics in the groups on this border.
The Kenyan government’s refusal to consider an assimilation policy and drop its encampment approach means there has been no long-term strategy to improve livelihoods.
The reluctance is cognizant of the pressure such movement of population would exert on the country’s infrastructure and economy.
Tanzania’s policy of refugee protection is founded on commitment to Pan-African ideals and the opportunities that refugees provided for attracting resources for the development of remote and under-populated regions of the country.
As is evident in the nature of the rural refugee settlements in which access to land was provided, what became known as the Old Settlements turned out to be a success in terms of agricultural production and trade.
To a certain extent, the design of the policy was only viable because the refugees had land, becoming
self-sufficient and indeed contributing greatly to the local economy.
Alternatively, Kenya should emulate Uganda’s approach, where refugees are allowed access to means of production and work and contribute to the local economy.
A pilot project on this basis has been tried at Kenya’s other big refugee camp of Kakuma.
Call to act on behalf of refugees
I appeal to our moral conscience.
Forcefully repatriating refugees back to Somalia is immoral.
Kenyans and above all its religious leaders must demand immediate change of
The approach and policy employed should not hurt refugees nor endanger our nation.
We have a moral obligation to our neighbours, the refugees, unfortunate and needing our protection.
In 2005, the UN declared that all States will protect citizens in against ethnic cleansing and minorities in their jurisdiction.
This responsibility to protect is not necessarily about military intervention.
We can help manage crises before they mutate into violent conflicts.
Our world has changed and as part of the international community, we should adopt changes and reflect this in how we relate in the world.
Globalization has ended the ability of countries to insulate themselves against the world.
It is not the responsibility of the government alone; we all have a duty to protect, particularly refugees.
As Religious leaders, we can no longer say we did not know.
The plight of refugees is our responsibility.
When our government make wrong decisions in our name, we need to step in.
Alex Rankin in Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Modern Martyr: Taking a Stand Against the State Gone Mad, helpfully observed that Bonhoeffer displayed his inner drive of leadership by calling for the Church to
fight the political injustices of the Third Reich in three ways.
First, to question state injustice and call the state to responsibility; second to help the victims of injustice whether they were Church members or not.
Third, Bonhoeffer called upon the Church to “fall into the spokes of the wheel itself” in order to halt the
machinery of injustice.
We must make this principle – ‘the need to protect’ – a reality and demand for a radical shift in refugee policy to include assimilation of Somalis who request for it.
Even though we do not share faith with majority of the refugees, we share humanity.
Solidarity is what makes us human.
We are all in the same boat, and one cannot prosper at the expense of others and more so our neighbours, irrespective of our differences.
It is possible for such a window of opportunity to slum shut before us.
May we not regret like Martin Niemöller (1892–1984), a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken foe of Adolf Hitler and was incarcerated in concentration camps during the last
seven years of Nazi rule:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me”.
As individuals we have power.
We have influence on the issues we raise.
When leaders fail to lead, the people can lead and make leaders follow.
To lead means to take responsibility and set an example.
Let us reaffirm our faith in the dignity and worth of the human person.
The writer is a priest of All Saints Cathedral Diocese, Nairobi. The views expressed here are his own. (firstname.lastname@example.org )
RT. Rev. Dr. Jackson Ole Sapit
Jackson Ole Sapit
Bishop Dr. Jackson ole Sapit has been elected the 6th Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya. After an election that saw him favoured over his six other colleagues.
He was Born in June 1964 and trained for ministry at Berea College, and St Pauls University ( dip. 1992, BD. 1997).
He was ordained in 1992 and assigned vicar Belgut parish before being moved as Vicar Kilgoris Parish and project manager of Transmara Rural Development Programme.
He ably served as Nakuru Diocese’ Missions and Development Coordinator until 2002 when he went to University of Reading UK to study social development for sustainable livelihood [MA social development 2003]
He was made suffragan bishop of Nakuru diocese in 2004, until 2008 when the area that became Kericho diocese. The diocese was curved out of Nakuru diocese to serve covers the South Rift area of South West Kenya. Bishop ole Sapit became it’s first bishop.
He served as Chairman of Kenya Anglican Youth Organisation [KAYO] from 2006 until 2011 when he was appointed Chairman of the Provincial Board of Social Services, which was renamed Anglican Development Services (ADS).
The Board of Social Services and now (ADS) is a policy making body appointed by the Anglican Church of Kenya Provincial Synod to govern the social development services of the Church.
He is in the board of BECON AFRICA who also published some of his writing: ” Impact of climate change on food security a biblical reflection”.
He has built for Kericho a strong profile of International partners which include, Tearfund (UK) and Tearfund (NL), Diocese of Chichester (UK), Crosslinks, Trinity Cheltenham (UK), Church Army, World Vision, Christian Aid, Compassion, Comic Relief, EGPAF, Just Earth and Diakonia (Germany)
One of the diocese partners had this to say about his style:
” Bishop Sapit is a man of energy blessed with a scope of vision that is both inspiring and engaging. He is a team player and, rightly, understands that, as Archbishop Rowan Williams once said, “Only the whole Church is able to grasp the whole Gospel.” For that reason he seeks to involve every level of the Christian community in discerning its God-given gifts and talents, and identifying its unique place in God’s transformational activity in the world.”
In 2012 the Global University for Lifelong Learning (GULL) of Carlifornia USA, were impressed with his on going community work and recognised his contribution by awarding him an honorary Doctorate degree doctor of professional studies.
Tearfund nominated Bishop Sapit as GULL Ambassador.
Bishop has a passion to re-strategise the missions of the Anglican Church from mainly pulpit based into the society through integral missions.
He thinks that the churchs’ focus should be wholistic and interpersonal. He spoke passionately for the need to disciple youth through discipleship and mentoring.
The chief concern he raises is one of integration of the church:how can we bring in those on the margins?
Only an inclusive church and build around it credible leadership will make impact in Kenya today.
Unity of the church locally and internationally while maintaining focus of doctrine are so dear to him.
He is married to Esther Sapit and they have six children
Waving at the congregation gathered at All Saints After being elected