Pastors and the Kenyan Conflict

An interesting column by Rev Fred Mwesigwa in the Kampala New Vision:

For a long time, the religious leadership in Kenya has displayed some partisan tendencies and not exercised a prophetic role of being a voice of the voiceless or better still a voice for all. According to The East Africa standard of December 23, 2007, in the run-up to the infamous elections, many Christian leaders had chosen to move away from the pulpit to the rostrum in order to sanitise politics.

…It is not surprising that on January 23, there was an article in the press in which blame was squarely put on religious leaders thus: “The Kenya crisis has helped bring out the evil in the ‘toga’ clad individuals. It is now clear that religious leaders have taken sides; they are even more tribal than politicians-whenever any member of the clergy opens his/her mouth, you can guess what will spew out of his mouth by virtue of their tribal affiliation…

There was another story about the harrowing tales of Kenyan refugees in Uganda. Danson Kariuki expresses fears about the possibility of resettling in Kenya and says: “My little boy saw his teacher looting and a pastor who has been our neighbour for 10 years turned against us. How can my children return to that place?”

Mwseigwa also draws on a paper by Kenyan scholar of religion Eunice Karanja (also known as Eunice Kamaara), entitled “Christian ethnic nationalism and globalisation: The role of the Church in Kenya”:

While describing the 1992 land clash violence, Karanja says: “Among the Kikuyu, their religious interpreted their plight as ‘persecuting of God’s chosen people’ while the Kalenjin interpreted it as ‘holy war for what God has rightly given us’…She observes that the Presbyterian Church in Kenya was generally dominated by Kikuyu and ordinarily supported Kikuyu candidates while the African inland Church was dominated by the minority ethnic groups (Kamatusa) and these generally supported non-Kikuyu presidential candidates…”

Karanja also predicted that marginisation of Muslims would lead to violence.

Mwseigwa names “Pastor [Pius] Muiru, Pastor [Mike] Brawan, the Rev. [Moses] Akaranga and Bishop Margaret Wanjiru” as the most high-profile politically-partisan pastors, although Mwesigwa is too harsh here in blaming these particular individuals for the conflict, whatever one’s opinion of pastors with political ambitions. Brawan and Wanjiu were both candidates for the opposition ODM, but Brawan specifically denounced “violence and incitement” as well as “ethnic and sectarian interests”, while Wanjiru, as I blogged here, was quite candid about being motivated by purely personal ambition rather than any other principle:

“It does not matter which party I use. The end will justify the means, but you can be sure I will be in the ruling party. I cannot spoil my image by joining a losing party.”

Pius Muiru founded his own political party in a bid for the presidency, and was lauded precisely because

…Not only do we now have a candidate standing on the platform of integrity (at a time when we need it so badly in the nation), but there is also the fact that this is no tribal chief or candidate with a tribal base of any sort.

Since the election, Muiru has been critical of ODM mass actions as “the wrong way to handle the crisis”. Meanwhile, Wanjiru – whose election victory is currently being contested – declined to support last month’s rallies, advising the public to “leave the presidential battles to the people at the top” and to engage in “serious prayer and fasting” to end ethnic strife (she has, however, given ODM leader Raila Odinga a platform at her church).

Brawan, in contrast, has taken a more active role in protests over the election result, and he was arrested briefly for “inciting the public to violence”. However, the arrest looks as though it was politically-motivated; the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation reports:

…A Nakuru Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Pastor Mike Brawan who was arrested by police on Saturday was Sunday morning released from police custody.

Brawan immediately called on President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to urgently dialogue and find a way of ending the current political impasse.

The ODM leader was arrested by police in Nakuru town for leading a demonstration to protest the outcome of the disputed presidential poll.

…He called on the religious faithful to pray for the nation and also preach forgiveness and reconciliation among the various ethnic communities in order to restore peace and normalcy in the country.

One Response

  1. […] I previously blogged on clergy and political conflict in Kenya here. […]

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