How Gen Z has whipped church back into its role


Members of Generation Z during special Saba Saba day prayers at Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi in honor of those who were shot dead during the anti-tax protests on July 7, 2024. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Other than forcing President William Ruto to climb down on his taxation regime, Gen Z has also reinvigorated the church which in the 1980s and 90s kept the government in check.

The church lost that edge after the Narc administration under President Mwai Kibaki came to power in 2002.

The past more than 20 years have seen the church playing cat and mouse on public interest issues sometimes saying nothing even as successive governments seemed to steer the country the wrong way.

The clergy led by Anglican Archbishops Manasses Kuria, David Gitari, Catholic Bishop Ndingi Mwana-aNzeki, Cardinal Maurice Michael Otunga, PCEA’s retired Reverend Dr Timothy Njoya among others gave a ‘no holds barred’ stinging criticism at the then Kanu administration under Kenya’s second president late Daniel arap Moi

On many occasions, the government was forced to withdraw some of its policies deemed anti-people.

At one point during the Moi administration, Archbishop Gitari, Henry Okullu and Alexander Muge were dubbed a “dangerous quartet” by former powerful Local Government minister, the late Moses Budamba Mudavadi, for ‘being a thorn in the flesh of the regime’.

They were powerful human rights crusaders and anti-establishment mouthpieces who from time to time unleashed venomous and stinging sermons against the government. From the pulpit, they preached against dictatorial rule, corruption, tribalism and advocated the release of political prisoners.

At one point, security officers broke into Gitari’s home in Embu and the ageing man of God had to climb and hide in the roof of his house to avoid torture and arrest. But his friend Njoya was not as lucky. He was cornered while leading protests along Parliament Road and clobbered senselessly by ruling party operatives, popularly known as Jeshi La Mzee.

However, the church’s role on calling out the government over its excesses took a nose dive when the third President Mwai Kibaki was elected in 2002 with its only remarkable stand being rejecting the 2010 constitution when the church teamed up with President William Ruto, then Eldoret North MP to oppose the constitution.

Since then, as opposed to the church watching government programs that appear oppressive, it actively played politics. During the 2022 general election, the church was divided between President Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga.

Members of the Association of Pentecostal and Evangelical Clergy of Kenya crisscrossed different parts of the country campaigning for Ruto under the slogan ‘Kanisa Kwanza’ where they mobilized Christians to vote for Ruto over claims that his opponent was against free church in Kenya.

Almost every Sunday from 2017 to 2022, Ruto would be in one church or the other showing the faithful that his beliefs were compatible with theirs.

He knelt down in supplication and was brought to tears by the Word. Ruto wore religious attire of obscure sects and even became the butt of jokes online. He was called deputy Jesus.

Another set of clergy met and claimed that God had chosen Raila to succeed former President Uhuru Kenyatta. The church became the theater of politics, drama and the exchange of harsh words among politicians.

But with the emergence of the new crop of Kenyans now leading protests against bad governance, which warned of occupying churches in a bid to ‘cleanse pulpit’ from the politicians’ dirt, the church has in the last few weeks seemed to have woken up from slumber.  

Yesterday, the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) joined Generation Z for a special mass at their churches across the country even as it hit out at the government two days ago over its taxation regime. 

“Over the last three years, Finance Bills have progressively increased taxation to unmanageable levels. This has increased the sense of exasperation and despair among Kenyans who are already in mental anguish,” read the statement signed by NCCK Coast region chairman Bishop Peter Mwero.