By Emeka-Mayaka Gekara
Reverend Timothy Njoya was the lone religious voice during the vigil for slain human rights activist Caroline Mwatha at Nairobi’s Freedom Corner on Feb 21. The other prominent figures were former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua.
The three demanded justice for the activist, who had dedicated her energy campaigning against extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances. Mwatha died in unclear circumstances.
Times have changed, and with that the role of the church as the moral voice that speaks truth to power. Many more religious leaders would have attended such an event in the Moi era.
The tenacious Njoya is the only voice remaining of the religious critics of the Moi regime. He is tireless, a true embodiment of religious agitation. The others such as David Gitari, Henry Okullu, Alexander Muge and Antony Kaiser have exited the scene – murdered by the state.
“The church” in Kenya was one of the strongest bulwarks against the excesses of KANU, and foremost voices in the agitation for multiparty democracy.
In one of his sermons, the late Anglican Bishop Muge was emphatic that the church has a moral obligation to “protest when God-given rights and liberties are violated” and to “give voice to the voiceless”.
And when ethnic conflict and other forms of rights violations intensified in the early 1990s, religious leaders issued statements protesting government inaction in maintaining order, and stop human rights violations.
In one of their pastoral letters addressed to Moi, Catholic Bishops wrote: “Although our pleas, requests and advice … seem to have been ignored by you, we on our side will not abandon our responsibilities. We have seen and heard of so much wickedness perpetrated in Kenya since the clashes began. Innocent people, peaceful and humble, and even churches and mosques, have been attacked and destroyed. All these abominations are done in your name, by some of your Cabinet Ministers, your DCs, DOs, your GSU and your police.”
Today’s church leaders are an anti-thesis of the Njoya generation. They have not only been overzealous cheerleaders of the Executive but have also lost their moral compass. The church has not been as progressive.
First, church leaders teamed to oppose the 2010 Constitution over claims that it permitted gay marriages and allowed abortion without limitations.
After this, they joined politicians in countrywide prayers for President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto while the two faced crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court. Conversely, they never held prayers for victims. These misguided clergy helped the two accused propagate the narrative that their cases were fixed, a plot by evil forces to deter their dream to lead the country.
Predictably, when UhuRuto cases collapsed, the clergy staked claimed to their victory. This explains the partnership between huge sections of church with the current administration.
Neither did we hear religious leaders protest against state violence in the last elections when police turned guns on toddlers.
What is more, media is awash with pictures and stories of politicians donating huge sums of money to churches every weekend, an issue that has raised moral questions regarding the source of such donations. The icing on this vile cake is that some of these men of God have openly declared they will not reject such gifts! Alas, clergy stand accused of accepting ill-gotten proceeds of crime at a time the country is waging an aggressive war against corruption.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga March 17 accused some religious leaders of allowing their churches to be used for money laundering.
He suspects the huge amounts of money being donated to some churches every weekend are part of a money laundering racket, and wants investigations done to ascertain where the cash ends up.
The call prompted a response from a top cleric and Ruto. The DP insists that by his donations, he was helping church projects and investing in Heaven. But the Anglican Church has said it will review donations made to the church by politicians. It is evil, Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit laments, to clean proceeds of corruption through donations.
“State institutions mandated to fight corruption are deliberately being undermined, discredited, neglected or underfunded to weaken them. As Kenyans and God’s children, we must say no to those undermining those institutions and putting blocks against the war on corruption,” Sapit noted.
Reverend Njoya has proposed death by hanging for the corrupt. Njoya explains that the massive plunder in the country is being fuelled by a cartel of super rich people intent on robbing the poor with the knowledge they are untouchable.
“If Uhuru Kenyatta’s father hanged the poor for robbing the rich why can’t he (Uhuru) do the same – hang a few for robbing the poor? “Njoya posed to Citizen TV’s JKL Live show.
Worryingly, it is not only the church whose voice has gone silent. Some reform advocates of the one-party era have also gone quite in the face of Jubilee excesses. Where are lawyer Gibson Kamau Kuria and the Reverend Mutava Musyimi? (