In this Christmas season, it is befitting to reflect on the things that belong to Caesar and on those that are God’s. We read in the Synoptic Gospels, of Matthew, Mark and Luke, about pharisaic and Herodian tricksters who once tried playing Jesus Christ against the Roman authorities. Mark reports this in Chapter 12:12 – 17. “Teacher,” they said to him, “We know that you are a man of integrity. You teach God’s ways according to the truth. You are not swayed and you have no respect for people’s status. Tell us, is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar?”
Having seen through their tricks and reprimanded them, the Lord asked them for a coin. He asked them about the head on the coin, whereupon they answered that it was Caesar’s. “Then give to Caesar things that belong to Caesar and to God those that are God’s.” Now, when you see Caesar’s things messing about with God’s things, you should worry. For, they are like oil and water. When they mix in your engine, it will cease. Indeed, in another biblical narrative, we read of the Lord accosting moneychangers and animal vendors in the temple in Jerusalem. The Lord angrily descended upon them with a belt, telling them that his father’s house was a house of prayer and not a den of robbers (Luke 19: 45 – 47). The holy cathedral and the worldly stock exchange market are cast worlds apart in John Bunyan’s authoritative Pilgrim’s Progress. When you see them in an amorous tango, please smell a rat. That is why an invitation to a proposed “national conversation’ by what claims to be a religious fraternity, the business community and “like-minded diplomats” reeks like a rat.
Indeed, how could these three minds from three distant worlds be alike? The invite reads in part, “The 2017 election once again exacerbated deep-seated divisions in Kenya. Representatives of business and religious communities, with support of ‘like-minded’ diplomats, propose that Kenya engage (sic) in a ‘national conversation’ to ensure these issues don’t keep coming up every election year.”
The document is signed for the business community by “Arch Lee Karuri and Rt Rev Alfred K Rotich, Bishop Emeritus, Military Ordinate in Kenya.” They propose to convene what they call a “multi-sectoral” forum that will bring together a cocktail of institutions to “hold a conversation structured in line with Kenya’s Vision 2030.” It is supposed to be a conversation on “Kenyan dreams for socio-economic development.”
That Kenya has a crisis is not in doubt. Equally important is the role of dialogue. Yet, everything about this proposed “conversation” stinks. There is a saying among our people in Emanyulia that a man who has elephantiasis of the scrotum should never pretend that he is only suffering from a sprained toe. He will never get the relief he so badly needs.
What ails Kenya today are not “dreams for socio-economic development.” Kenya is in the doldrums because of serial mismanagement of presidential elections. Any “dialogue” that ignores electoral injustice is a pathetic waste of time, effort and other resources. It is instructive that after being sworn-in for a controversial second term of office as President, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta told the world that he was open to a dialogue on development, “but not on politics and elections.” He repeated this message a few days later, at a burial in Murang’a, asking “those interested in dialoguing on politics and elections to wait for William in 2022.”
Is it a coincidence that both the diction and the thematic thrust of the proposed “conversation” echo Mr Kenyatta? Equally significant are the names of those coordinating this effort. Without exception, all are closely associated with the Jubilee government. Indeed, I dare be bold enough to state that all the eight names on the list are well known Jubilee tacticians and technicians, regardless that they operate behind the pulpit, or in capital markets.
Any “dialogue” in the hands of such a team is dead on arrival. It is a one-sided choreography with a script and an agenda. It sweeps under the rug the real grievances that have habitually erupted at election time. There is high-level hypocrisy in this stock exchange-shrine led dialogue. First, having correctly observed that the present crises in the country were sparked by elections, they ought to have acknowledged the painful ventilation around the presidential election.
Having recognised the grievances around the polls, you would expect the mediators to directly reach out to the parties in the conflict, seeking to help them to talk. You don’t peremptorily send out press releases to all and sundry about a smoky “conversation” on “the country’s dreams on socio-economic development.” Having identified the protagonists, you get them to agree on the agenda and the fundamental issues to be discussed.
The protagonists must also agree on the mediators and on the sponsors of the conversation. Finally, they must agree on the structure of the dialogue and on a tentative programme. Anything that imperiously presumes to define the mediators, sponsors, issues, structure and timeframe of a mediated process is a hypocritical stage-managed choreography. It as a text book lesson in futility. It is doomed to fail, ab initio, even if you go through the motions. That is where the current effort by Kepsa and an amorphous potpourri of religious groups belongs. It is a deodorised mockery of those who have been calling for dialogue. Yet, given the names on the list, we should perhaps not be too shocked.
Finally, when the holy mask drops, the commercial prelate does well to remember where it has been written, in 2 Peter 2: 3: “And through covetousness, with deceptive words, they will make merchandise of you: for whom judgment of old is not idle, and their damnation slumbers not.”
- The writer is a Strategic Public Communications Adviser. [email protected]