Kenyans have been encouraged to work hard to ensure that they take charge of the development agenda of the country and not allow themselves to be treated like sacks of potatoes.
OAIC’s Secretary General, Reverend Nicta Lubaale speaking during a three day workshop at the Savelberg retreat centre in Nairobi, noted that people have the potential of driving the development agenda in the country to greater heights. Borrowing from Karl Marx’s view that peasant farmers are like a sack of potatoes as when you leave them at a certain spot, you will still find them on the same spot. This he stated should not be applicable to people who know their rights, as they can always ensure that they work towards a desired change with the help of the spirit of God.
The workshop sought to enlighten community mobilisers from several Counties in the country on how they could possibly help their Counties and transform them to be the best they could possibly be.
Reverend Nicta noted that it was possible for Kenyans to transform governance in the country and not necessarily wait for the politicians to spearhead the process.
“Why are we here? There is great promise, there is great potential, Africa is changing. We have to ponder and ask ourselves, why does a democratic process like the elections lead to people being killed? The recent killings in the Tana River were not a simple matter. We have hope that there is a promise and things need to change. You are leaders in your won right in your various communities and you need to take charge of the issues affecting your people. The citizens must transform their relationships with the leaders to be positive and development oriented and not antagonistic,” he stated.
He stated that the devolution process would be effective if the citizens followed keenly the proceedings and ensured that the legislators enacted the required laws on time and that the implementation process was well on course.
He noted that the recent strikes in the country by the various groups demanding for better pay have seen the improvement of their working terms and that simply meant that inevitable change was happening in the country. The fact that there was space for people to demand for their rights in his view is an indicator that the country has a free democratic space that should spur development.
He however, pondered why when people have a bigger cause than themselves they join hands regardless of their tribal affiliations but when they go back to their work places and homes, tribe was a big issue that guided their line of thought.
“As we go to the elections, we are saying that we are delegating people to take charge of our resources and transform this country. This meeting is not about elections but even as they are just around the corner, we still have a responsibility of ensuring that the right leaders are elected to power. We need to liberate the country from the people who have taken charge and mismanaged it. We need to keep reflecting on this process during and after the elections,” he stated.
“The idea that Members of Parliament should build churches is misplaced. Church leaders have encouraged this for a long time and one wonders if churches would not be built if politicians did not give their contributions. We should indulge the Members of Parliament in constructive development processes and hold them accountable and not telling them that since they did not give a mabati- iron sheet – to the church, they don’t deserve to be voted in. We need to transform these relationships and engage constructively for development to take place in our communities,” he added.
Reverend John Gichimu feels that detribalizing people’s minds would ensure that the country makes headway and occasion development in our country.
“Recently I was in a meeting with Kikuyu elites and it is sad to note that even the educated Kikuyu elites who ought to show a good example to the younger generation think that Kikuyu is the only tribe. Kikuyu is their community, their ethnicity, their nation as well as their world. Nothing else matters. This needs to change,” he stated.
“The trouble with many Non-Governmental Organisations is that they have organized themselves not to be seen to have a relationship with the government. “Non Governmental” seeing themselves as non-political, and have nothing to do with the government but with themselves. They need to look for ways that they can link with the government and that will make it easier to demand for accountability,” stated Reverend David Musumba.
Reverend Musumba noted that for a long time the churches have not been able to speak with one voice as some churches feel that they should be heard more than the others. Time and again the church has been blamed for keeping quiet when their voice needs to be heard and unity, in his view is lacking. He stated that there was need to move from simply being masses to being critical masses.
Bishop Betty Onyango from Kisumu noted that there is a dangerous trend in Kisumu where young people have started to group themselves and are calling themselves the Marines and the Chinese with each supporting different political groups. She is worried that the feelings of being Marines and Chinese are so much ingrained that if these groups are not stopped early, it may turn out to be tragic in the near future.
“The church in Kisumu needs to arise and say that what happened during the 20072008 post election violence shall not recur. The militia groups should be dealt with appropriately. The politicians have put them in a sack and they are like a sack of potatoes. They are fed on the negatives which make them believe that they are truly the Marines and the Chinese. Where have we been for all this to happen in our midst?” pondered Nicta.
He noted that there was a need for the church to not only take care of the spiritual nourishment of their communities, but also the social transformation.
“Peace cannot be there when people don’t have water. Over 9 million people are undernourished in Kenya. 400 of every 1000 women die during child birth. Is that peace? We need to transform governance as only then can we experience peace. There is peace once the economic management is transformed. Economic issues are now becoming political issues. These conversations need to start in our congregations,” stated Reverend Nicta.
Dr. William Ogara from CORAT Africa noted that through Christ, it was possible to surmount the challenges faced by the communities. He stated that the process of transforming the systems was a step by step process and with time the change would be felt.
He noted that recently, the National Council of Churches reviewed their constitution in view of them participating in the County level interactions.
“I recently got an email from a Catholic Priest. He told me that the time for offertory reached and as usual the congregants gave in their offerings. On this day he opened the offertory box before the church and asked the congregants if that was the kind of offerings they could give to God. It was a paltry Shillings 400. He took the money and gave it to the orphans who were sited at the back of the church and told them to go and buy sweets as that was what the community had given them. He then requested for a second offertory and this time around the money when counted was Shillings 8,000. He thanked them and told them that the orphans would be able to eat meat on that day. This kind of righteous anger is what we should all leave here with today as we go back to our communities and ensure that we initiate change,” stated Dr. Ogara.
Bishop Harrison Olala however, feels that church and politics might be seen as two sides of a similar coin. That the church might sometimes be afraid to indulge in politics in view of how its leaders had been treated in the past.
“The persecution of Bishop Njoya as he was championing for the rights of Kenyans, the late Bishop Okulu as he was in the fore for advocating for the repealing of Section 2A of the old constitution as well as the late Father Kaiser,” he stated.
Simon Kibor says that the country consists of about 85% of Christians and if the church could take charge of the situations, the country would have made headway in terms of development. He praised his member of parliament for doing tremendous developments in his area despite being one of the quietest in parliament.
“My member of parliament in Keiyo North Lucas Chepkitony is one of quietest MP’s but we will re-elect him as long as he is alive. The developments he has initiated the constituency is tremendous. He sits in the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) as the chairman but he has let the people lead the development process there. He is a very development oriented person,” he stated.
Bishop Betty Onyango noted that the people should ask the right questions and demand for answers. She says that instances where an ambulance is available to help the community but when an emergency occurs, the community is required to fuel it as well as pay the driver was ridiculous. She wondered why there were provisions for fuelling the ambulance as well as paying the driver who is an employee of the hospital but the community is still made to pay for those services.
Reverend Gichimu noted that there was an incident where a young lady had passed on in a certain hospital in Nyeri and the bill was a staggering half a million shillings and the hospital had refused to release the body even after being given 3 title deeds as surety that the bill would be settled. The members of the community we so infuriated by the incidence that when a fund raising was called for purposes of offsetting the bill, they surpassed the target and settled the bill. He however, stated that lasting solutions to problems in the communities should be sought out.
Reverend Phyllis noted that the idea of being content when things are going on well in “our communities” while the rest of the country was not faring on well ought to be discouraged. This she stated was the reason as to why people had become so tribal and thus the thinking that if my person is in charge of the country, then my life and my people’s lives will be better off.
Reverend Davis Musumba noted that the government had been blamed for a long time yet the church could take charge of some situations.
“As a church we need to look at ways of providing employment to the people of Kenya. We need to open our eyes and see. We need to look at ourselves as an equal employer. We need to be part of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and provide employment opportunities for our people. We need to be part of the Federation of Kenyan Employers. We need to think outside the box and start thinking of ways in which we can empower our communities,” he stated.
Reverend Gichimu was impressed that a lady who wants to be a senator, Orie Rogo Manduli took it upon herself to repair a road that she used every day as the elected leader seemed to not care.
Pastor Harrison Olala noted that the church is now viewed as “lovers of money.” A story goes of a person whose dog had died and when he took it to church to be prayed for, the pastor told him to take it to the next church. The person then asked the pastor if in the next church, the pastor would accept an offering of Shillings 50,000 and the pastor immediately responded by saying that the person ought to have told him that his dog was a Christian.
Reverend David Simwa and Elizabeth Sande concur that the church leaders have become money lovers as many have been seen and known to be singing the politicians tune after being given some money.
John Kamau, one of the participants noted that he had been able to develop a peace and reconciliation manual that has been used to train the members of his community and especially the youths who had turned to militia groups for solutions. He stated that tremendous change has been initiated and the young people now have renewed hope to face the future.
Reverend Phyllis noted that the church leaders need to be corrupt – less for them to have a moral authority to talk and tackle corruption in the community. She was also concerned that for a long time the women had been segregated and that it had increasingly become difficult for them to attend development forums as they would be seen as big headed. She wondered why the men did not view the prosperity of their women as the development of their families.
“Poverty is not a tribal issue. Jesus said name the demon and call it out by name. The demon is not Kikuyu, Kalenjin or even Kamba. We can cast them out by calling it by the right name. We need to change our mindsets. Step by step we will cast out this demon. We have been told that we are poor even before we knew it and we need to remove that from our mindsets,” she urged.
Reverend Nicta urged the community mobilisers from the different counties to indulge with the people who are already grounded in the community work that will be of great assistance in the advocacy process.
“In your advocacy work, make sure that you draw up a map of the issues that affect people in your various communities. Let the people visualise what the issues in their communities are and find possible solutions. Don’t think away from the institutions. There is a need to indulge them and ensure that they are effective. Before we go to the streets, we need to indulge the institutions and encourage them to discuss the issues that affect us. Face your leaders and tell them their flaws and ask them the hard questions. When the institutions cease to work, the individuals start working for themselves and thus the mushrooming of the various militia groups. We need to analyse things objectively,” he stated.
He urged the community mobilisers not to allow the politicians to detract them from their objectives. He stated that they also needed to be impartial in their quest for change in their communities. He stated that the best way to transform politics was to look at the issues rather than the personalities.
“As people want to stand for elective positions, we should understand that we are delegating our sovereign power to the leaders and this should not end with elections. We have degraded elections. We need to hold the representatives accountable. We are the principals and the politicians are the agents, we need to turn around these relationships,” he stated.
A community charted is currently being drafted to ensure that the leaders are judged against the promises they make.
The workshop was organised by the OAIC, Christian Organizations Research and Advisory Trust for Africa (CORAT Africa) and the Danish Mission Council Development Department (DMCDD).
Fiona Imbali, OAIC Communications.