• In spirituality, the principle of the altar is a foundational one.
• Some politicians visit witchdoctors as far as Tanzania and Zanzibar, especially during the electioneering period, in pursuit of victory.
One’s popularity and longevity on the scene, tribal bloc, money, the propensity to influence others and build alliances, are perhaps the most notable qualities for one to contend and become president in Kenya.
It is also a delicate process because all of Kenyan presidential elections after the 2002 one, have been nail-bitingly close-run.
In 2011, as we sat at a barber shop in Buruburu, Alex Chamwada explored the above factors with me as we tried to dissect who was likely to succeed Mwai Kibaki in 2013. Alex mentioned one more factor that affects the political scenarios in the country — death. His projection was not far-fetched because the following year, a strong contender for presidency, George Saitoti, tragically passed on in a helicopter crash.
A student then, the accuracy of Chamwada’s projection startled me. The learning point was that nothing is ever cast in stone in power politics as unexpected factors can determine who occupies the main seat of power. Indeed, most of the time, what appears to be the dominant determinant can turn out to be of little impact.
Despite the International Criminal Court cases, Uhuru ascended to power as the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin communities overcame the 2007-08 violence to have a joint ticket with Ruto, and condemn Raila Odinga, the most popular politician then, to painful defeat.
It is said that Daniel Moi became president ‘by accident’ following Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s demise, and weathered strong onslaughts to remove him from power, including the 1982 coup in which Raila is often mentioned. It had been widely believed that those around Kenyatta would determine his successor, and some believed Mzee would live much longer. Possibly the first failure of the ‘deep state’. Not even presidents in Kenya have been able to determine their successors because even Kibaki and his circle are said to have had initially settled on Musalia Mudavadi.
Brings us to an inescapable point. Humans are integral beings comprising five dimensions — physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual. The last aspect can brood contention, if brought up in an intellectual engagement. However, people with the same understanding are many and we can dissect it for their reflective benefit. After all, life itself is a miracle notwithstanding our physicality, which gives us right of existence and so we. We cannot ignore the spiritual dimension.
In spirituality, the principle of the altar is a foundational one. It has often been said some politicians visit witchdoctors as far as Tanzania and Zanzibar, especially during the electioneering period, in pursuit of victory.
A minister close to President Moi on a flight back to Kenya from a neighbouring country in 2002 asked him why had settled on 41-year-old Uhuru Kenyatta to be his successor. Moi took him through reasons he considered to overlook others branding some as “untrustworthy” and others “dangerous”.
It was interesting that, according to the powerful minister, Moi dismissed one of the most popular candidates within Kanu apparently because “he spent the day at church but the night at the witchdoctor’s altar”.
A devout Christian, Moi supported the church devotedly. He gave them backing in form of land, construction resources, buses and a lot more albeit his government was accused of mega corruption.
For Christians, building or helping build the church altar, or giving sacrifices invokes the support of the almighty God. Some strongly believe this to be a key reason Moi ruled for over 24 years. It is actually Moi who elected to retire from politics, after surviving vigorous opposition in 1992 and 1997, and was not defeated in elections.
William Ruto is believed to have ‘raised many Christian altars’ across Kenya by generously giving to churches, as Raila and Azimio criticized him for “giving stolen money to church”. Ruto’s competitors chose to brand him a ‘thief’ from the time he declared his interest to take power after Uhuru, linking numerous graft scandals to him. Some went to the extent of christening him ‘Nabii’ which is Swahili for prophet, as they sought to demonize his close association with the church.
At some point, Idah Odinga made a statement that ruffled feathers of the Christian community, when she called for the disbandment of ‘small churches’. She promptly apologized, but significant damage had already been done considering the hypersensitive Christian community that abhors such lines of thought. It was a politically gullible gaffe, especially considering its timing.
One bishop, explained to me that there are principles of God, that just like the day and night, cannot change or be defined by anyone or anything else.
“Sacrifice is crucial towards accessing the blessings of God…While spiritual war is about an altar against another, the more powerful altar wins. Spirits are real. The man is a spiritual being who, through dependence on God, sacrifices, and declarations can cause things to take a direction he desires. The principle of the altar is crucial indeed,” he added.
Towards and during the 2022 campaigns, many Christians prayed together in solidarity against violence and for peace. They prayed for cleansing against evil altars raised by the shedding of blood from pre-independence to the deadly violence of 2007-08 asking God for forgiveness and a new start.
As they say “a man’s gift opens doors for him” and Ruto had demonstrated to them that he was their man. Indeed, it was clear during his campaigns that he was banking on his God, and when the Supreme Court confirmed his victory, Ruto straightaway sank to his knees, cried and gave thanks, images that stirred many Christians across the country.
Ruto and Rigathi Gachagua’s swearing-in clearly demonstrated where their faith lies. An altar was erected at State House as various Pentecostal churches attended and celebrated Ruto’s victory. Recently, as I sat with a friend at the lounge waiting to see a popular bishop in Nairobi, a pastor wondered aloud whom the Christian community will have to start grooming to be the next president after Ruto.
Indeed, the likes of Gachagua, Governor Johnson Sakaja and others will want to chase a strengthened relationship with the Christian community, who will be bullish that they can affect the future of the country from the altar. Ruto intensely set his focus on the church’s blessings ever since the ICC came calling.