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Heed Michuki for the sake of God

By | December 16th 2009

Andrew Kipkemboi

To draw people to the empty pews in their village church, a friend told me, the drum did the trick. Beaten hard, it worked on those still readying to come to church or the undecided who were always willing to take the plunge to Christianity in exchange for a Sunday spent away in busaa dens by the river banks.

Even the coming of the City Clock and the Disco wristwatch has not rendered the drum obsolete. It is unfathomable to my friend, a bank employee, to have a Sunday away from the city life, devoid of the jingles and the razzmatazz of the percussion instruments and string instruments that will be punctuated by the deafening noise of the preacher as he delivers his sermon.


He dreads the haunting feeling of nostalgia because the new regulations on the noise and vibration levels will no doubt curtail his Sunday morning amusement as the different sects try to outdo each other.

It is tempting to wave off Environment minister John Michuki as he tries to bring order into the cacophonous situation that defines our daily lives in town centres, travelling and when worshiping God or Allah.

The infamous raid of our offices three years ago has always been a rod to beat Michuki when as Security minister, he sanctioned the notorious break in. His view of the media as ravening beasts aside, he earns praise for pushing the obstreperous matatus and religious groups to the wall noise over pollution.

I agree with Michuki on the noise regulations because the rights of select groups should not be inimical to the comfort and tranquility of many.

The blinkered protestations from the Muslims and Christians do not match the peace and quiet that we all desire. Actually, people seek nirvana in quietude.

Therefore, it would help the preachers to moderate their rough hewn statements about singing their way to jail or whipping up religious fervour to oppose law and order.

The near stand-off over noise regulation involving two of the main religious groups mirrors our chronic disdain for law and order. Obviously, since the matatu industry mirrors the low road that our society has taken, one would expect that the religious leaders would have thought twice before plunging into the mire and especially waging a losing confrontation with Michuki.

Civility predicates that as you go about your business, mind my peace too. The matatus know nothing of that and I would least expect my church to fall into the temptation of not minding about the welfare of others. Actually some of the proponents of the rule, do a disservice to my progressive God. In my friend’s case, the beating of the drum signalled that it was time to start off the Sunday Service. But why in this time of the Seiko 5?

Modern technology

Instead of haranguing Michuki, the men of cloth should instead thank God for modern invention and attune themselves to the realities of technology.

A pigheaded man, goes a Swahili saying, wouldn’t even hear the toll of a mosque bell. But that is not reason enough to propagate impunity and challenge modern science.

For opposing science that says too much noise spoils the eardrum, the religious nabobs are akin to the man who jumps from a tree to see if he can break any limb or those who believe that since they were given the authority over other creations, goes ahead to slaughter the wildlife and cut down the trees. Or who sees a wall of raging flood waters and gets down on his knees to pray.

Yet despite his faults, Michuki lacks the ingratiating spin and the rampant egomania that pervades the cabinet. Michuki is an unflinching believer in the rule of law. A former officer of the colonial government, he cannot romanticise about an anomie society, yet that is what the religious groups want. He is not self-serving. He is an avowed believer in thrift and hard work and never minces his words. State and religion have always maintained an arm’s length relationship. Many want that to remain just that. For driving the clean up of Nairobi River, the UNEP recognised Michuki’s efforts last week describing him as a man "who is not driven by short-term interest, but by public interest."

As Transport minister, he resolutely brought order in the matatu industry and we cheered. His successor, Chirau Mwakwere to the chagrin of many, has made heavy weather of the docket. Many feel that he lacks the stamina to push for reforms or the muscle to enforce them. For standing up to the religious organisations and the Prime Minister, Michuki has stirred up a contest of wills and spirit all in the interest of the public.

Actually, the new rules only added fuel to the fire already sparked by certain provisions in the Harmonised Draft Constitution and were it not that the groups already embittered were now brothers in arms, the battle would have been long drawn-out. Nevertheless, Michuki would have triumphed.

The writer is The Standard’s Foreign News Editor

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