The quiet despair of a dying nation

In June 2007 a man I found out about only yesterday, called Prophet Dr Edward David Owuor, of Repentence and Holiness Ministry, held a Pentecostal Christian rally in my home town of Nakuru, Kenya.

It was attended by Kenyans of many tribes and backgrounds. At this rally the man prophesied that Nairobi, a place of sin and iniquity, would be rocked by earthquakes. The wrath of God would descend on the country in December. He called on Kenyans to repent. He invited all Kenyan politicians to attend the rally.

This call seemed to catch fire. I found a trail of messages and prayers on a blog online. I am not a Pentecostal, but I found myself unbearably moved by the intensity and helplessness of the messages from Kenyans all over the world. After this rally there were rallies held in towns all over the country. Here there was no mention of tribe, or of politics — there was anxiety.

  • Janet Otieno, June 5 2007 at 2.56pm
  • “I attended the National Repentance meetings in Nakuru and saw the glory of God that I have never seen in my life. I saw a moon surrounded with rainbow at 3am in the night, a mighty blessing of God, the Mighty Holy Spirit of God lifted us from one level to another.”

  • Ben, July 30 2007 at 12.33 pm
  • “— Let me quote one JJ Kamotho on the scene in the darkened stairways of Co-operative Bank house after the bomb blast (1997): ‘Kila mutu alikua aki ita Mungu amuokoe. Everybody was crying to God, to Jesus.’ Repentance is a very small price to pay to preserve our way of life.”

    There is page after page of this sort of exchange, as people open their hearts and admit shame and fear and most of all a heartbreaking desire for a better Kenya.

    A few weeks ago the Waki report on the post-election violence in Kenya was released. It had collected evidence for several months and has a list of people — mostly politicians from both sides of the political divide — who funded, planned, incited and organised the violence the world saw in January.

    The idea was that this report would be used as a starting point to bring those people to justice, to have the full force of the law bear down on them. Back in January, when the fires were raging, it was clear to everybody that unambiguous justice of this kind was the only way to restore the authority of the state.

    We are, outwardly, a cynical people. We have come to expect little from our politicians. Whenever we have reason to believe that something good is rising, that a movement for better things is coming, our political class, over the past 50 years, has simply trampled on our dreams and hopes.

    You shall crawl, they say.

    Today in Kenya roads are being built, and broadband, and our civil service is awake and working, but we are at our lowest morale level. For we have seen these things come and go. They are bribes — brief and fevered and positive activity by guilty and childish political leaders. People we know to be warlords are trying now to make us forget by issuing policy statements.

    The Kenyan people are left to seek solace and coherence elsewhere. The evil that surrounds us is palpable and we are helpless against it. In offices people whisper. Does your neighbour have a plan for you? What devil will infect your colleague next time? We have found ourselves hidden within ethnic enclaves we do not like and did not choose.

    To win an election, our political classes released the beast. This beast is exactly as bestial as something out of Revelations.

    The tribal beast was born inside racist ethnographies, mapped on to our land by Social Darwinists from Scotland who drew our maps, divided the labour, pacified the “savage beast”, took him to school, and taught him his bestiality.

    This beast was used to govern. A cynical and disengaged colonial government played one created beast against another. Their heirs, and the children of those heirs, now our political class, have continued to use this card. Political ethnicity lives — as a political tool and a crude identity it serves no purpose except to maintain the power of self-serving “tribal leaders” .

    Kenya is dying. Arrest and charge the perpetrators.

    Or the beast will rule us.

    Turning to god
    A prayer of repentance at Karura Community Chapel, Nairobi by Andrew Mnjama, August 13 2007 at 5.39pm

    “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame because of our unfaithfulness to you … The failure to provide godly leadership … the political confusion; the blatant and unapologetic greed by our members of Parliament; tribalism and ethnic hatred; mistreatment of refugees; pride and prejudice, particularly against neighbouring countries; injustice in our law courts and police cells … the robberies, violence and insecurity; the Mungiki challenge; the domestic violence; lack of love for our spouses … O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O our God, do not delay, because we bear your Name! We bring repentance as individuals and on behalf of our families, our tribes, our neighbourhoods, our church — Karura Community Chapel, the Church of Jesus in Kenya — and on behalf of our entire nation.”

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