When clergy, State honeymoon ended

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Human nature is so fickle and it is not uncommon to see the glee with which most people watch a wrestling match, bullfight or tussle between two perceived bullies. The combatants rarely disappoint.

Yesterday was no exception only that Church and State seemed to be going hammer and tongs at each other. Counter accusations followed in the wake of each other even as the solemn gathering was a fundraiser for a noble cause to cap a month of tearful and heart wrenching tragedies in Sachang’wan, Molo and Nakumatt, Nairobi, fires.

If it weren’t so comical, one would be forgiven for thinking a new dawn could be breaking. Here was a case of the kettle calling the pot black even as they sat in the kitchen, sharing the same hearth.

The obvious divide between Church and State is both a legal and moral one. As one rules the secular lives of citizens, the other takes care of the spiritual needs.

In Kenya’s 40-something-year history, faiths have had a privilleged seat in affairs of governance. Many a time, former President Moi was guided by Pastoral letters by the Ecumenical Council. Many a time too counsel and divine guidance has been sought by political leaders whenever the country found itself at a crossroads.

Faiths have always had sway in determining grassroots political direction over the years, mostly because of the perceived proximity of clerics to wananchi. All swearing-ins, opening of Parliament and majority of assemblies are preceded by prayer by one or other faith, lending credence to Kenya as a God-fearing nation.

With this in mind, it was not strange that all faiths — without exception — took sides and entrenched their followers to a particular stand during the referendum on a new Constitution.

There were no questions asked when politicians donned as many different collars and robes as they set out across the country in a vote seeking exercise during campaigns for the 2007 General Election.

Yesterday’s rebuke of the assembled array of politicians by leaders of all faiths showed a clergy that had come full circle. They were accusing politicians of having broken the social covenant with the people by condoning corruption.

The accused did not roll over and accept the criticism. They took to the podium and repudiated the accusations and even pointed fingers of their own.

Dashed hopes

It is true clergy are realising that the message from the grassroots is an indictment on all leaders, irrespective of whether they are religious or political. Even in their far-flung parishes, temples and mosques, they are witness to poverty, hunger and sense of betrayal from the political class. They have a front row view of the welling bitterness and growing pile of dashed hopes.

Anglican Church head Benjamin Nzimbi said clerics were mulling leading a citizen’s rebellion. Prof Abdulghafur El-Busaidy of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims termed politicians the ‘greatest threat to peace and prosperity’.

Those were heavy words indeed. No wonder even the normally staid Head of State felt obliged to repudiate the accusations.

Nonetheless, the clerics merely expressed popular frustration over the unsettled Internally Displaced of post-election mayhem Kenya, the billions lost in a depressed financial services market through suspect brokerage houses, an energy sector saga, the disappearing maize stocks from the Strategic Grain Reserve, a bungled General Election that saw all candidates promise so much.

Notably, some of the problems like the devastating drought that has left Kenya parched cannot be laid at the feet of politicians. However, popular sentiment is that issues that hoisted these leaders’ to high office like land adjudication, respect for the environment, a crusade against impunity, upholding of human rights, freedom of assembly, worship and information seem to have been forgotten.

Perhaps, the messenger may have been tainted but the essence of the message resonates clearly: Fight corruption and impunity in all its forms. And that is the Kenya the citizens want.

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