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Intelligent politicians and clergy must listen to ordinary Kenyans

By Vision Reporter

Added 14th May 2010 03:00 AM

THE debate on Kenya’s new constitution has begun taking twists and turns. It is becoming hilarious with each passing day. And with the launch of the “No” campaign in a poorly attended rally last Saturday at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, Kenyans should expect things to heat up when Mwai Kibaki and R

THE debate on Kenya’s new constitution has begun taking twists and turns. It is becoming hilarious with each passing day. And with the launch of the “No” campaign in a poorly attended rally last Saturday at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, Kenyans should expect things to heat up when Mwai Kibaki and R

By JERRY OKUNGU

An East African perspective

THE debate on Kenya’s new constitution has begun taking twists and turns. It is becoming hilarious with each passing day. And with the launch of the “No” campaign in a poorly attended rally last Saturday at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, Kenyans should expect things to heat up when Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga launch their “Yes” campaign at the same venue this weekend.

Two weeks ago, I thought it couldn’t get any funnier when a group of Kenyans in the diaspora coined the “No Katiba No Sadaka” slogan. What I did not expect was that a few days later, one Sir Charles Mogane Njonjo, Kenya’s one time powerful Attorney General would embrace the slogan literally.

That Sunday, as usual, Njonjo of the ACK All Saints Cathedral went to his church. However, unlike other Sundays when he dutifully donates his tithes to his clergy, this time round the vocal critic of all things social withheld his offering and announced to whoever cared to listen why he was doing so. It was his way of disapproving of what a section of the Christian clergy had said a week before; that they would henceforth use church collections to campaign against the constitution, a rather radical departure from church practice.

Pastors opposing Kenya’s new constitution on account of the inclusion of Kadhis Courts and abortion clauses may have had good grounds to whine about the new constitution bearing in mind that a number of their churches have connections with right wing evangelical churches in America. And bearing in mind that anti- Islam pastors such as Pat Robertson of the USA have never missed an opportunity to bash Islam and pro-choice American liberals, it was not lost on observers what our local pastors’ game plan was.

This theory was vindicated when it emerged later in the week that indeed some vocal televangelists had received funding from some American religious NGOs to oppose the new constitution. For them, the game plan was simple. Rather than have a generally acceptable constitution with these two contentious issues passed; they were prepared to scuttle the entire document.

As the week progressed, Kenyans began to piece together the reason why some local clergy began to sound like the Taliban clerics. They were prepared to throw caution to the wind and lead the onslaught against the new constitution. Their financiers across the Atlantic had spotted one of them as a suitable presidential candidate for 2012 elections. Being Kenyan citizens, every clergy has a right to lead this country at the highest level. Indeed any pastor is free to run for president and win if elective politics happens to be part of his higher calling.

However, there is a little matter that our revered clergy need to pay attention to. This country is not a purely Christian state. We are multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-many-things that any intelligent person wanting to lead it must bear in mind at all times. As for the Christian clergy, aspiring to lead Kenya, they need reminding that way back in 2002 they had touted one of their own, then an official of the NCCK and a vocal member of the Ufungamano parallel constitution review team as a compromise presidential candidate. That attempt came a cropper.

However, when the same clergy realised that their game plan could not succeed, they did everything in their powers to discredit the Bomas Delegates Conference. Two years later, the same clergy took partisan positions in Kenya’s most violent elections ever, preaching hate sermons in their various ethnic pulpits. The results are now common knowledge in our society.

As the men of cloth plunged into ethnic politics, one of their own thought he was popular enough to win the presidency in 2007. When the votes were counted, he was last among all the presidential candidates. He has since disappeared from the political scene.

It is true the clergy and politicians opposing the draft should be given all the freedom to air their views and campaign against it because that right belongs to all Kenyans, including our pastors. However, in exercising that right, pastors should seriously stop listening to their voices and instead start listening to the voices of ordinary members of their congregations that are beginning to get louder with each passing day.

Just to illustrate how serious these voices are, one Cyrus Jirongo, the MP for Sirisia has been embarrassed twice in recent weeks by local people in his Lugari constituency when they told him to his face that they had made a conscious decision to vote “Yes” to the constitution.

At another incident in Machakos, again at a Sunday sermon, a woman member of the congregation interrupted her pastor warning him to purely stick to the sermon and not use the pulpit to campaign against the constitution. She advised him that he must wait to do it outside the church after the sermon. These are the voices that intelligent clergy and politicians opposed to the draft should be worried about.


jerry@jerryokungu.com

Intelligent politicians and clergy must listen to ordinary Kenyans

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