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Category Archives: Christian

To Your Tents, O Israel! – The Cry for Secession is not without Reason, but we must never Secede

Cry, the Beloved Country
(Image courtesy of Nairobi Wire)

 

Now when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying:“What share have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Now, see to your own house, O David!” So Israel departed to their tents.

I Kings 12:16 (NKJV)

In 930 BC, the people of Israel seceded from the unified kingdom of Israel that Solomon’s son Rehoboam had just begun to rule. This was perhaps the first instance of secession in the Scriptures. The Divine Purpose was to punish Solomon’s idolatry. The earthly genesis of the matter, however, was economic: the people complained to Rehoboam that work had been too hard under Solomon. There is even a hint in Scripture that taxation was too heavy. When Rehoboam promised to be even harder on the people than his father had been, the ten northern tribes of Israel seceded. In a striking parallel to what is happening in Kenya today, the two tribes that were left behind by the ten seceding tribes were the same two tribes that had enjoyed rulership to that point: Benjamin (Saul) and Judah (David, Solomon and Rehoboam).

The secession did not end well. In order to prevent the people of Israel from worshipping at Jerusalem (which was in Judah) and re-uniting under a religious fervor, the nation of Israel instituted parallel worship-sites in Bethel and Dan. These centres of worship were actually centres for idol worship, and as a result the “ten northern tribes” were taken into captivity about 200 years later. The Kingdom of Judah lasted a further 130 years or so before falling to Nebuchadnezzar.

Nearly 2,900 years later, in 1960, the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga uttered these momentous words:

“If I accept your offer, I will be seen as a traitor to my people. The British cannot elect me leader to my people… Kenyatta is around, just here in Lodwar. Release him and allow him to lead us; he is already our choice.”

It is from this point that any candid and honest appraisal of the current calls for secession must begin: we must begin from the fact that when Jaramogi Odinga was offered the leadership of the first post-colonial government in Kenya by the British government, he stepped aside in favour of Jomo Kenyatta. Odinga was a socialist by preference, with leanings towards China and the communist East. (These leanings, ironically, were to be imitated by Jomo Kenyatta’s son 50 years later as a result of criminal proceedings instituted against him at the International Criminal Court.) Within a short period of time Jaramogi Odinga’s views began to diverge from the views of the President he had stepped aside for. By 1966, just 3 years after independence, Jaramogi Odinga was so dissatisfied with the manner in which the nation was being led that he left the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) to form the Kenya People’s Union (KPU).

It is perhaps a sign of how little political progress we have made – and how constant the inequities of our politico-economic system have been – that 54 years after independence, our general elections are still pitting a Kenyatta against an Odinga. Yet from the formation of the KPU in 1966, a dissatisfied Luo nation (together with a varying set of allies) have sought to attain power.

The pain of repeated electoral loss beats constantly in the Luo heart. And while electoral loss is painful to anybody, this is not in and of itself cause for secession. But when such loss is believed to have been unfair (as in the 2007, 2013 and perhaps to a lesser extent in the 2017 general elections), the embers of that pain refuse to die, and are constantly fanned into flame by the bellows of that innate human aversion – the aversion to injustice.

And there are deeper hurts also. In July 1969, when this nation was just six years old, Tom Mboya was assassinated. Dr Robert Ouko was felled by the assassin’s bullet in February 1990. In September 2003, Professor Odhiambo Mbai was gunned down. You will say “JM Kariuki was also assassinated.” But it is not the same when you have never been in power, and when it is those in power who have done this to you. You may think these men have been forgotten, but they have not, for when Gor Mahia wins the Premier League, the fans chant the names of these men and dedicate victory to them. The lot of Luo is a deep and constant hurt, and a discussion of secession that does not acknowledge this context is a fraudulent and dishonest discussion.

And so we come to 22nd August 2017, when Dr David Ndii talked about secession on national TV. Now Dr Ndii is an economist of international repute. He has served as an economic advisor to the President of Rwanda and has been an economist with the World Bank. His academic credentials are impeccable: he is a Rhodes scholar and has both an M. Sc. and a Ph. D from Oxford. I have a lot of respect for his brand of economics, which despite his Oxford training and stint at the World Bank remains refreshingly people-centric, while remaining cerebral.

Why dwell on an economist? Because as the genesis of Israel’s call to secession was economic, so must we acknowledge that it is economic inequities that are the seed for the calls for secession today – a perceived exclusion from “sharing in the national cake”That said, Dr Ndii’s calls for secession are beneath a man of his intellectual stature.

For the solution to our tribal divisions cannot be to exacerbate them further; this is the fundamental flaw with Dr Ndii’s premise. Israel was not stronger for parting with Judah, nor was Judah stronger for parting with Israel. It is true that we cannot avoid our national disunity; we cannot pretend it does not exist. It exists in our offices; even – for some of us – in our families. It exists most tragically in our churches –

– And what of the church? It is a worry that the compassion of He Whom we call Master does not beat within our breasts. He Who taught to the Jew to call the Samaritan his neighbour; Whose eyes shed salty tears at the grave of Lazarus, and Who raised the weeping widow’s son to life at Nain – His attitudes are missing from our hearts, they are missing from our words, and they are missing from our bearing towards our countrymen.

Shall wife part with husband, that peace may prevail? Shall Pastor part with member and also call this peace? Shall employer terminate employee, over tribe, and call this peace? Shall countryman part with countryman, as a solution to their differences? Nay; it is a false peace whose genesis is in disunion and division. A solution whose father is the intolerance and insensitive bearing of the ruling peoples and whose mother is the pain of those who are ruled cannot be right. We must all reject secession as a false answer to the question of our national disunity.

And yet – in our rejection of secession we must not reject the context in which the call for secession has been made. We must be honest about what has brought us to this point. Calls to peace and unity that are made in the absence of a discussion about political and economic equity and justice are dishonest and unfair. We must put ourselves in our brothers’ shoes, no matter how much we think their victimhood is only perceived, or how much we ourselves are victims of the same misrule. We must walk 55 years in their shoes. And before we can claim to be dealing with the problem, we must start to correct the economic inequality in our nation.

Nearly 2,800 after the Israel secession, another secession took place – the secession of the southern states of the United States of America. The reason for the southern states’ secession was in order to defend slavery – another economic reason, for “free” slave labour enabled Southern enterprise to continue at a very low cost, an advantage the Southern states did not want to lose. And while we might like to think otherwise, the primary reason President Lincoln went to war was to preserve the Union. Nor was his resolution to go to war with his countrymen the lightly-taken, detached decision of a domineering tyrant. Nay, this is that Lincoln who buried a 3-year-old son in 1850, and an 11-year-old son in 1862. This is that Lincoln who was far too well acquainted with parental grief to send other people’s sons to war for matters of little consequence. And go to war he did – at considerable cost in human life – to preserve the unity of the United States of America. America went on to become the greatest nation in the world. The foregoing is not an argument for war. It is an attempt to show the lengths to which great men have gone to preserve a nation’s unity.

It is early yet. We should not go to war, brother against brother. Let us choose the path of peace. Let us choose the path of a just and equitable peace – a peace that acknowledges the context of the call for secession even as it casts off secession as a solution. Let us – on both sides – remember and live by the words of Dr Martin Luther King, who paid the ultimate price for believing that all men are equal:

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

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Posted by on August 29, 2017 in Christian, Politics

 

There is another Court

On New Year’s Day 2008, in the aftermath of a hotly-contested general election that pitted Raila Odinga against incumbent President Mwai Kibaki,  Kalenjin attackers bore down on the Kenya Assemblies of God church in Kiambaa, where around 200 Kikuyus were sheltering from what they knew to be imminent attack. Inside the church people silently prayed, their fervent yet unspoken pleas in awful contrast to their attackers’ hostile war songs. The Guardian reported that paraffin-soaked mattresses were pushed through the windows and used to block the door, and then matches were thrown in.

30-50 Kenyans died in the fire that day, many of them children.

On 28th January 2008, in an appalling parallel, a group of Kikuyu attackers surrounded Bernard Ndege’s house in Naivasha. He too pleaded – with his attackers. But instead of a response he heard one of them ask another to bring a can of petrol, which they poured around his house. The same man then asked for a matchbox and set Bernard’s house on fire, killing Bernard’s two wives – one of whom was pregnant – his eight children, and 9 other people.

In total, around 1,200 Kenyans were murdered in the violence that followed the disputed 2007 elections. The violence led to the trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC) of President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, and radio journalist Joshua Sang. Proceedings began on 10th September 2013, over 5 years after the violence occurred.

On 5th December 2014, prosecutors at the ICC withdrew charges of crimes against humanity against President Uhuru Kenyatta. Then two days ago, on 5th April 2016, the Trial Chamber of the ICC dismissed charges against William Ruto and Joshua Sang. Judge Eboe-Osuji wrote as part of his verdict: “The proceedings are declared a mis-trial due to a troubling incidence of witness interference and intolerable political meddling.”

Shall the mistrial at the ICC and the inability of that Court to successfully prosecute anybody be the end of the matter? Shall this violence go unpunished? Are the lives of 1,200 Kenyans as nothing? Is the agony and pain of the bereaved and of our IDP’s as nothing to God? Nay.

In I John 2:1, Scripture calls Christ our Advocate, promising that if we sin, we have an Advocate with the Father. In referring to Christ as our Advocate, the Bible implies that quite apart from our High Court, our Court of Appeal, or our the Supreme Court – courts that together comprise the corrupted justice system of our nation –quite apart from even the International Criminal Court, there is another Court. Further evidence of the existence of this Court is found in the Book of Hebrews, in which it is written that it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgement. Judgement implies the fair consideration of a person’s actions and intents. Judgement implies the presence of a Judge. And finally, judgement implies a verdict.

There is indeed another Court, and the presiding Judge of that Court cannot be met at a petrol station to be suborned with US dollars. This presiding Judge does not have a bank account. He cannot be offered a 10,000 acre farm, for heaven is His throne, the earth is His footstool. And who has instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and shewed to Him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance. He is incorruptible, and He has said “My counsel shall stand, and I shall do all My pleasure.”

There is indeed another Court, and the presiding Judge of that Court is all-knowing. There is no creature that is not manifest in His sight, and all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

There is another Court, and before that Court all stand as equals. The witness will have his own case to answer. The compromised witness will have to answer for being compromised. The assassin will have to answer for the assassination of witnesses. The assassin’s sponsor will have to answer for the life of the assassinated. In that great Court witnesses cannot be compromised or assassinated. Assassinated witnesses are available to give testimony before the Judge. Compromised witnesses are available to give testimony also. No, in this Court, witnesses cannot be bribed or assassinated.

After the first recorded murder in human history that Court sat. And the Judge said to Cain “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground.” Does the blood of the 1,200 slain after in 2007-8 lie silent in the dust? Nay, for the immutability of the Judge teaches us that He yet hears the anguished cries of innocent blood. And He will certainly demand a hearing.

There is another Court.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2016 in Christian, Politics, Uncategorized

 

Christians in a troubled land

 

 

Folks,

Things are not good. A potent mix of Jubilee-ism vs CORD-ism (the collective term for which is tribalism), Jubilee’s incompetence, Raila Odinga’s irresponsible rallies, and recent events in Mpeketoni together mean that this country is at a dangerous point in its history. The nation is headed towards calamity, and we ourselves with it.

As Christians, we need to pray for this country now, more than at any time since 2007-08. We may not be in positions of power and influence. We may not hold cabinet positions. But we do know God – or we claim to. We claim that when we pray, He hears us and He answers.

In fact, we might say, we are praying. We are praying every Sunday in our churches for God to help this nation. Yet each week the country gets progressively worse.

Friends, this might come as news to some of us, but clearly, God is not listening. We should by now have discovered by long and painful experience that God is not hearing our prayers. We can’t say God is hearing and yet there was Westgate. We can’t say He is answering when after Westgate there was Thika Superhighway, when after Thika Superhighway there was Gikomba, and when after Gikomba, there was Mpeketoni.

We need to understand that He is not listening.

And then we need to ask ourselves why.

To my way of seeing it, it is no wonder that God is not moving when we pray, because when we pray we pray whilst harbouring (even nursing) biases within ourselves. Far too often, when a minister, a bishop, a well-meaning father or a concerned mother says “Let us pray for this country”, what he/she really means is “Let us pray for those areas in this country with whom we are politically aligned, and the people therefrom. The rest don’t matter.”

Friends, we cannot hate Kikuyus and pray for Kenya and be heard, because Kikuyus are also Kenyans. We cannot hate Luos and pray for Kenya and be heard, simply because Luos are also Kenyans. We must understand that our fate is tied in with each other’s fate. If we live, love and work in the same country, then we have one fate. Your fate is mine, and mine is yours, because we live in this one country. Nothing would prove this more emphatically than a civil war where we all would suffer horribly, as we shall see below… but we shall come to that.

God says in Ezekiel:

“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.”

God searched for just one man who could stand in the gap for an entire land and couldn’t find him. It would appear that He is still searching, and that is why though we pray every Sunday, the bombs keep going off, the corruption continues, and the country continues to deteriorate.

 Do we think that God hates Kikuyus? Might He hate Kalenjins? Might He hate Kambas? Might He hate Luos? If He does, then let us continue praying the same prayers, and thereafter expect the same results (or lack thereof). But if, perhaps, we are accommodating within ourselves biases that God Himself does not have; if He is as much a Father to “them” as He  is to “us”; if He cares about “them” as much as He cares about “us”, then we need to repent. Not them. Until we become aware that the problems Kenya has, we as Christians are harbouring these same problems in our own hearts, we can’t even start with God. We should cease to pray for Kenya. It would behoove us, rather, to pray for ourselves. We need to apologize to God for hating our brothers and sisters that He Himself made and whose welfare He is concerned about. We need to pray for ourselves until we are at a point where we can entreat God for every county in this nation with little variance in concern. Strangely, in praying for ourselves, we shall find that we have managed to pray for Kenya. Then God can begin to move.

 As we pray, we need to ask God to give us a love for this whole nation and all of its people whether or not they even agree with us. Whether or not they agree with us? Yes. You see, up to now while we were hating our countrymen, God has still loved us, even when His point of view and ours have differed. If we claim to be His children, we need to extend that same kind of tolerance and patience to our own countrymen, no matter where they’re from.

 I will end with a word of warning from one Kariuki Gachoki that came to my attention on Facebook. It succinctly captures the consequences of continuing along the path we are going.

 “RWANDA IN THE MAKING

Let me dissect for you the chronology of ‘Rwanda in the making’.

When the first cannon is fired, you will celebrate and bay for ‘their’ blood. Reports will start trickling in that some enemies have been killed in Coast, Rift Valley and the shanties in Nairobi. This will turn your celebration into a frenzy.

Four days later, the mood will change. As you are no longer getting the basic provisions such as food, your celebration will be cut short to attend to more urgent matters, that is, fending for yourself.

Two weeks down the line, when your energy levels have ebbed to the lowest, reports will reach you that your enemy has regrouped and is coming for your neck and that of your loved ones. You will now abandon the quest for food and attend to the matter of saving your own life. International news media will show you and your kin carrying mattresses heading to a safe haven, most likely a church. You will reach the church and much to your horror, find thousands of people, many from your perceived enemy tribe also camped there, fighting for the little provisions donated by the UN. That night it will rain heavily and exposed, hungry, scared and nursing a deep machete wound on your most loved one’s forehead, the slow realities of ‘Rwanda in the making’ will start sinking in. If you are still surviving one month down the line, 30kgs down from your usual weight, you will start wondering who is fighting who, since the camp is cosmopolitan and you are all fighting for basic survival not caring who comes from which tribe. But that’s just the beginning.

The next day, your camp will be raided, 5 of your loved ones will be slaughtered and you will be lucky to escape with a bullet wound on your right leg. UN will now heap you into lorries and transfer you to another camp. In excruciating pain and feverish from your infected leg, the second reality of war will hit you: what is the fight all about? You will die 3 days later – from neglect really since people around you are too used to seeing others die to bother about the feeble groans coming from your leaking tent.

Four months later, corpses, including yours, will be buried in a mass grave as the lieutenants that started the war sit at a table in some hotel in Kampala to craft another ‘power-sharing’ deal. There will be relative calm as the vultures enjoy the spoils of war. The politicians will be back to their cosy offices…

When the drums of war are sounded, everyone is a theoretical winner but the reality is so different a few months later. What’s more, war does not guarantee equality, it dehumanizes and traumatizes people. Every little thing you’ve worked for goes. I will leave you with this: a certain tribe is not your enemy. People that sit in ivory towers from all political persuasions and subdue you are.

 Change will come when you start demanding accountability right from your county upwards.

 Have a blessed and peaceful day.”

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in Christian, Religious, Spiritual