From: Ouko joachim omolo
The News Dispatch with Omolo Beste in images
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2013
Although the clerics drawn from various denominations argue that they have endorsed Amani Coalition presidential candidate Musalia Mudavadi because he is non-confrontational, peaceful and the only one who can unite the country, the fact that the East Africa Methodist Secretary General Isaya Deye who endorsed him on behalf of church leaders come from his ethnic community tell a lot how some churches in Kenya are tribal.
To understand how churches became tribal in Kenya we should go back to history. It started when formal partnership between Kanu and Kadu made the collaboration not less but more painful to minority tribes.
Kanu was a giant party dominated by Kikuyu and Luo elites. As such it became a discriminative to the minority ethnic groups such as Kalenjin, miji kenda, Maasai, Luhya, and Kamba among other ethnic communities.
When Kadu was formed to cater for the needs of minority communities, churches were also started to cater for the minority tribes who felt were discriminated. Kanu was identified with Roman Catholic given that in Central and Eastern among the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru the Consolata missionaries had already taken deep roots, while in Nyanza were the Mill Hill missionaries.
But even though not many people from these two communities were happy with Catholicism, which is why the first breakaway church was Nomiya Luo church founded by John Owalo.
Like Catholicism, Anglican churches in Kenya were run by white missionaries. That is why when Owalo had realized that the Church of England was biased and viewed black people as beggars, people who must be fed, their children taken to school, free medical care, among other things, Owalo left Anglican to become a Muslim.
He did not last long as a Muslim because he realized that followers were forced to pray and learn things in Arabic. He saw this as discrimination of the high class. He then tried Catholicism and still felt the church was discriminating against the black.
Owalo then opted to found Nomiya church in 1907 to cater and serve the needs of the minorities. Dini ya Roho (Holy Ghost Church) was the next to be founded in Maragoli location in October 1927 by Jakobo Buluku and Daniel Sande.
The two founders had broken away from the American friends’ mission at Kaimosi. They claimed that Americans were running the church like colonials. Against the background that Buluku and Sande preached against foreign religious leadership and advocated the expulsion from Kenya of the American missionaries.
The African Israel church was the third church to be founded in 1940 in Nyangori location near Kisumu by Kivuli. He broke from Pentecostal assembly and preached the expulsion of foreign missionaries, advocating leadership of the church by Africa Christians.
Other church to be founded to cater for minorities and particular tribes were Dini ya Msambwa by Elijah Masinde. It was called so because it adapted to African tradition, or the religion of the old customs.
Masinde claimed that the kingdom of Africa had been ruined by the British Empire and as such it was time churches in Kenya went tribal to cater for a particular interest of some communities.
His sect became so popular, spreading all over Western Province and between the Kalenjin and some parts of Uganda. The Mill Hill missionaries (MHM) tried to convert these sects into Catholicism in vain.
Before the Mill Hills, Friends African mission (FAM), Church Missionary Society (CMS), Church of God (COG), Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC), Nioltic Independent Mission (NIM) and Seventh Day Adventists (SDA) had already taken root in Western Kenya, while in Central other churches like Akorino were being formed.
In Nyanza and Western the Mill Hills only managed to establish itself in Lugulu in 1914, Kibubii in 1931, Nangina in 1927 and Rangala in 1920. This time though, Ngiya and Butere were captured by CMS in 1921 and 1912 respectively.
Other areas Mill Hills managed to occupy included Mumias, 1904, Mukumu, 1906 and Eregi, 1914, Kisumu, 1903, Asumbi, 1913 and Nyabururu in 1911. The Mill Hills could not manage to penetrate Kendu Bay because SDA had taken a strong hold in Gendia by 1906 before spreading to Kamagambo in 1913 and Kisii.
Although in Rift Valley among the Kalenjin major Christian sects include the Africa Inland Church (AIC), Anglican and Roman Catholic, there are some Kalenjin communities that still hold on traditional religion based upon a belief in a supreme god, Asis or Cheptalel, who is represented in the form of the sun, although the sun is not God himself. Beneath Asis is Elat, who is believed to control thunder and lightning.
Against the background that it is almost impossible for churches in Kenya to unite in one voice in calling for a national peace policy that will advocate for co-existence among all communities. As such it is very difficult for churches to preach against tribalism for the sake of peace in the country.
Churches cannot take strict position against tribalism because they were part of the 2007 skirmishes because they took sides just as some have already began now. In 2007 some churches retreated to their respective tribes, going as far as publicly supporting particular presidential candidates.
Tribal clashes have been a recurrent feature in Kenya’s political scene especially since the birth of multiparty democracy in 1992. But the worst case was after the 2007 elections in which 1,133 people died and more than 600,000 displaced. The church either took sides or failed to condemn the acts.
Fr Joachim Omolo Ouko, AJ
Tel +254 7350 14559/+254 722 623 578
Real change must come from ordinary people who refuse to be taken hostage by the weapons of politicians in the face of inequality, racism and oppression, but march together towards a clear and unambiguous goal.
-Anne Montgomery, RSCJ UN Disarmament Conference, 2002