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Why I pity MPs, ignore the Church

By | April 7th 2010

By Andrew Kipkemboi

Debate about the Proposed Constitution in Parliament last week exposed the incredulous lack of debate and a House deficient in serious thought and patriotism. First, a peep into Parliament threw us deep into the maelstrom that defines Kenyan politics, where the depth and breath of argument is wanting. What is more, chronic absenteeism and internal party feuds manifested in the numerous points of order, obstructed and paralysed debate on the historic document.

Many of the MPs looked disoriented and those who spoke could not cogently argue their cases without dragging in their raw feelings and exposing their ignorance.

It was a theatre of the absurd, to say the least, as the publicity-seeking types and the purely obstructive drowned the otherwise sober discourse of a life-altering document.

There were the sulky ones and those who passed off as genuine champions with causes. Then there were the spoilers and the charming frauds.

The protests, especially from those who claim to speak for the minority, are hedged with bitterness and an astounding sense of victim-hood. For them, half loaf is no bread at all.

It would have been worthwhile to distill the debate and argue on what really matters. It is a pity that did not happen. As usual most MPs couldn’t elevate the level of debate.

Nevertheless, willingly or unwillingly, Members of Parliament unanimously passed the Proposed Constitution unaltered.

The debate also exposed the bewildering levels of religious prejudice in our society.

Unsurprisingly, it is the inflexible position of the Church and not the intrigues and machination of the politicians that pose a greater threat to the dream of a new constitution. The sentiments of some of the clergy are objectionable and, regrettably, repugnant.

Seeds of discord

Against all dissuasion, the Church has remained adamantly opposed to the inclusion of the clauses on abortion and Kadhi’s courts. Again, make no mistake, I profess Christianity, but my brothers are letting my God down when they sow seeds of disharmony. I cannot be the one to cast the first stone.

The Church’s vituperative attack of the Committee of Experts the PSC and anyone who supports the push for a new constitution augurs ill for Kenya.

Actually, the blustery sermons from the pulpit pose an equally greater risk to the flock than to the unbelievers. About the two clauses, there are many Christians who would rather they let sleeping dogs lie.

Unfortunately, it is becoming obvious that the clergy do not speak for everyone. For a fact, many Christians attend Sunday service to thank God for the miracle of life and seek forgiveness after a week spent in sin: corruption, adultery, bad-mouthing bosses and jealousy. As far as they are concerned, God provides and takes care of them and the wages of sin is death. Many seldom want to fight for God because after all, He is all-powerful and all-loving.

No doubt, Christianity and the belief in God have always been the bulwark against the injustices of government and society in general. The Bible exhorts us to rejoice in hope and be patient in tribulation.

Indeed, the hallmark of Christianity is tolerance, love and peace. I am afraid that is not what we hear from the mouths of the men of cloth. And that is why we need to ignore them on this one.

Set against the current Constitution, the new document is brilliant and gives voice to the hopes of all Kenyans. The few shortcomings could be ironed out. By all means, no one is saying that the Church has no place in our lives. Though many have a dim view of the Church, it will be foolhardy to downplay the value of the voice of the clergy in the affairs of the nation. The Church has been the antidote to the bout of chronic cynicism associated with the political class. It has been an invaluable arbiter, forcing the hands and hearts of many kings and securing compromises in their decisions. One would shudder to think what the world would be without the guidance of the Church. The contribution of the Church to local communities in education and health cannot be gainsaid. Obviously, left to their own ways, politicians can abort the quest for a new constitution, like they have done before. Having that in mind, should we therefore burn the haystack looking for the needle?

Bill of Rights

Should it be defeated, we will rue the missed opportunity. We will have put into the freezer such progressive ideas like the sovereignty of the citizens, the Bill of Rights, equitable share of resources and Affirmative Action. Just wondering, what makes the clergy feel that anyone who has sought dual citizenship could think twice because of the inclusion of Kadhi’s courts?

Yet when all is said and done, it is up to President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to try and smooth things and bridge the gap with the various aggrieved groups. History will never forgive us for squandering the opportunity to put Kenya on a new path.

The writer is The Standard’s Foreign News Editor.

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