Will ACK ‘cast first stone’ to drive out negative ethnicity?
Once upon a time, churches were voices of reason, but today tribalism is part of the gospel. As the Anglicans seek Wabukhala’s successor, Kenyans are watching to see if leanings towards colonially-assigned regions of dominance will be challenged
The saddest thing about negative ethnicity in Kenya is that it has infiltrated and reared its ugly head deep in the church. The naïve assumption is that the church will always rise above tribalism, but the reality is the same people who spew hate in the streets are the same ones who worship in the churches. This comes against the general uncomfortable reality of a church that will go to any lengths to water down any tribal talk within its ranks just to keep the boat afloat.
An Anglican friend of mine once joked that you will never get the right candidate in an election in Kenya because even his archbishop was a compromise candidate. He then explained to me the intrigues that led to Dr Eliud Wabukhala winning 75 per cent of 162 Anglican Church of Kenya Electoral College votes. He beat Maseno West Bishop Joseph Wasonga in the fourth round after seeing off Taita Taveta’s Bishop Samson Mwaluda and Bishop Stephen Kewasis of Kitale in the earlier rounds.
The fire burning under the ash was that majority of ACK congregation felt that the Mt Kenya region had given Kenya two Archbishops in Manasses Kuria and David Gitari who led the church for a total of twenty-three years until 2003. It was thus agreed that the Mt Kenya region bishops withdraw from the race.
At a glance, Joseph Wasonga was the strongest candidate to clinch the seat. He had lost to Nzimbi in 2003, so people thought he was going to be the next archbishop until murmurs were heard in Central Kenya about their discomfort with him. This led to a search for another bishop who would be accepted by central Kenya region in place of Wasonga. It is Central Kenya delegates who tilted the votes in favour of then little known Bishop Eliud Wabukhala of Bungoma to avoid a split, thus the “compromise candidate” tag.
Even before the ink that wrote the memo asking interested candidates for the archbishop seat to pick nomination papers dried up, Bishop Wasonga delivered a strong sermon at St Peter’s church in Siaya. Typical of today’s clergy, he urged the Electoral College to elect a younger bishop in a process that should be devoid of tribalism. If that call had come from the late Bishops Henry Okullu, Alexander Muge or Archbishop David Gitari, it would have shaken the Anglican Church. Today, the clergy prefer to shoot from the hip when tackling controversial matters.
It is also reported that the late David Gitari once told the late Bishop of Maseno South Henry Okullu that a Luo will never lead the Anglican Church in Kenya. This was captured in one of Okullu’s writings and was highlighted before Gitari was buried, to puncture his impressive human rights defence record. Looking at this with the murmurs from Mt Kenya, one gets the elephant in the room that the ACK will do its best to cover in evangelical draping.
Once upon a time in the 80s, many Kenyans were afraid to speak against the abuse of human rights, looting and grabbing by government officials in the Kanu government. Apart from a small group of radical activists who propped up their head once in a while, the voice of reason came from the church.
Upon the opening up democratic space
Clergy at a meeting.