We need to learn to live and let live

Tolerance is a virtue Kenyans should learn to embrace

In Summary

• My old acquaintance Stephen Ndichu is making headlines that caught my attention 

Image: OZONE

The Bill of Rights to be found in Chapter Four of the Kenya Constitution is very clear when it states: “Every person has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.”

My old acquaintance Stephen Ndichu, who once upon a time owned, wrote, edited and published a newspaper called the Thika Times, seems unable to understand this constitutional clarion call for tolerance.

He appears to be seized with the notion that if people do not believe in God, they are acting against the Constitution.

I find this strange because the Ndichu I knew back in the early 1990s seemed to be fairly intelligent. And even though we didn’t necessarily agree with each other's politics all the time back then, he seemed quite tolerant.

He was a newspaper publisher at a time when the government of the day thought that the “alternative press” was only slightly less abominable than the political opposition.

The “alternative press” was what people called the non-mainstream press back in that era, when there were four mainstream daily newspapers and two TV stations, one the state broadcaster and the other owned by the ruling party.

As a member of the alternative press, once or twice, he felt the brunt of the state’s thin-skinned intolerance of even the slightest criticism.

But it seems that in the nearly 30 years since, he has forgotten those times and become as intolerant as the Kanu party whose thugs he once reportedly drew a gun against during a confrontation in the precincts of Parliament.

Speaking of which, the man seems to be very quick to reach for his gun, as was apparent in a 2021 incident, when, as speaker of Kiambu county, he again reportedly drew his gun on someone who differed with him in the chamber.  

Perhaps in light of this, I should be careful about what I say, but then if I do so, it may blunt my words. So here’s me throwing caution to the wind.

In the years since I interacted with Ndichu, he seems to have gone on a journey where, apart from being handy with a firearm, he also became a man of the cloth.

I have no issue with this, and if it has made him happier within himself, then it can only be a good thing. 

I also understand that as a preacher, it is part of his job description to proselytise, which involves converting people from one religion or belief, to his own. But surely, if people don’t want to be converted, it’s their own "shauri".

This is where the next line of our glorious constitutional bill of rights comes into play: “Every person has the right, either individually or in community with others, in public or in private, to manifest any religion or belief through worship, practice, teaching or observance, including observance of a day of worship.”

Of course with time, many people change their positions on politics, beliefs and even their favourite colours and foods. It is part of the evolution of their person, and Ndichu is as free as the next person to change his positions.

But he should not seek to force others to align with his beliefs, as he has been doing since 2016, when he called on then AG Githu Muigai to ban the Atheist Society or to resign.

The Constitution says in black and white: “A person may not be denied access to any institution, employment or facility or the enjoyment of any right because of the person's belief or religion.

“A person shall not be compelled to act, or engage in any act, that is contrary to the person's belief or religion.”

So my old pal Ndichu needs to calm down, breathe and accept that the Constitution that guides us all, both believers and non-believers, gives us all an equal right to exist and pursue our beliefs, and no amount of huffing and puffing or bible bashing should change this. 

Chill, Steve, chill.

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