It takes bold actions to break through inertia in public life

We are stuck with the same type of politics and politicians which we know from experience will not deliver to us the Kenya we want. What we are seeing is a game of musical chairs sat on by same recycled players who lack the vision to inspire Kenyans to a better future. Those bold, aggressive and radical words didn’t come from seasoned activists or political commentators, but from the country’s Catholic Bishops.

In a statement that revealed their desperation with the government’s abysmal failure to reign in graft, the clerics stated, ‘Your inaction is breeding anger among the people’. The Bishops stopped short of calling for a revolt but the message delivered is that this government has failed Kenyans on every front, and we need change in leadership urgently, ‘Corruption and corrupt people have become immune to all measures and continue to slide the country into a bottomless abyss of hopelessness, poverty and despair.’

This statement from the Episcopal Conference was refreshing, bold and confrontational. No more private parleys at State House, no more friendly chats with well-connected friends; gloves are off as the Bishops issued their boldest statement in over a decade and rediscovered their voice. 

A few weeks earlier Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, head of the Anglican Church had issued his own statement on the vice of corruption and the damage done to the economy and morality of the country. He noted that the country had a national debt of $49 billion that represented 56 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) confirming that a huge percentage of our taxes and that of generations to come will be used to pay debts for ‘ghost projects’ like the dams. In the same vein, the Catholic prelates said that ‘given our culture of corruption, a huge chunk of these loans will end up lining the pockets of corrupt officials who are only seeking their own interests’.

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Churches may have found their voices but who is listening? What efforts will be made to disseminate this message to the faithful at the grassroots level? Will the statements be forgotten as soon as the next church harambee invites kleptocrats as ‘guests of honour’? Will politicians still be allowed to preach division in church sanctuaries and vehicles be handed over as the next batch of prelates installed? In other words, can the Bishops of all churches walk the talk? Is this a one off affair or are witnessing a new strategy?

The Catholic Bishops ‘pledge to fight corruption by all means, by rejecting all forms of corrupt practices’ but does that include accepting politicians at fund raising events? The best that Archbishop Sapit could say on this matter was, ‘The Anglican Church is evaluating holding of fundraisers in their sanctuaries by politicians.’ We were not told when the evaluation report will be ready. The challenge is to ‘kusema na kutenda’ to rehash the Jubilee mantra.

Last week Cardinal Konrad Krajewski did just that in Rome when he ditched his red garments, donned a boiler suit and crawled into a manhole to restore electricity to 400 homeless people living in an unused state-owned building in the eternal city. They had gone a week without electricity and water as they had been disconnected for failure to pay a bill of Euro 300,000. Krajewski broke a police seal in the process but said he was unrepentant as this was a desperate gesture of mercy and he was not apologising for breaking the law. Justice and mercy come first.  

The Cardinal is a brave and passionate man who had just returned from the Greek island of Lesbos where he was distributing humanitarian relief on behalf of the Pope. Point here is that it takes dramatic and bold actions to break through the inertia, despair and cynicism that dominate public life.

Imagine for a moment if the Bishops invaded Parliament and boldly told the MPs they will not allow them to add another Sh250,000 house allowance per month to their already extravagant salaries! Again, what if they raided the grain stores in the North Rift and hauled it off to feed the starving in Turkana! Or what impact they would make if they busted their way into a Cabinet meeting and ordered the Cabinet Secretaries named in corruption scandals to go home immediately.

There are countless other suggestions that might awaken the conscience of the nation as the Bishops suggested. However, left to stand on its own the statement will have a very short shelf span.

- [email protected] @GabrielDolan1

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