Kenya's Churches Enter Fray against President Prominent Anglican Says Moi Regime Has Been 'Weighed and Found Wanting

Article excerpt

Students who protested again yesterday against the repressive regime of President Daniel arap Moi in Kenya picked up an important ally over the weekend: Kenya's churches.

Churchgoers here are not usually described as radicals or agitators, yet from the first rousing strains of "Onward Christian Soldiers" in the All Saints Cathedral last Sunday, it was clear that the church in Kenya meant business.

Less than a week before, on July 7, armed members of President Moi's police had burst into this same cathedral, hurling tear gas, breaking furniture, and savagely beating pro-reform demonstrators, politicians, and even a Presbyterian clergyman who had taken refuge inside. At least nine people were killed by police clubs or bullets as the authorities drove opposition demonstrators from the streets of Nairobi and Thika that day. Police also briefly invaded the compound of the Christian Science Society to pursue protesters who had taken refuge. Librarian Tom Oyoko said that security guard Nicholas Omondi was assaulted as he tried to prevent police from entering. Some diplomats worry that the government's continuing reluctance to discuss reform could lead to an armed insurrection. During his 19-year rule, Moi has skillfully exploited ethnic fault lines in the opposition. His opponents claim he was able to rig Kenya's first multiparty elections in 1992 by a combination of bribery and repression. The July 7 attack on the cathedral shocked Kenya, a deeply religious nation, and highlighted a point that few outside the country had yet fully realized: that in the struggle against Moi's heavy-handed rule, the mainstream churches are now at least as important as the secular opposition. Kenya's opposition politicians are regarded by many ordinary Kenyans as self-serving and ineffectual, squabbling constantly among themselves and jockeying for advantage. The Christian churches, on the other hand, seem increasingly to speak with one mind, and in a language the people appreciate. Witness the slow-fire sermon preached last Sunday by the Anglican primate Archbishop David Gitari in Nairobi. The service was described as a "cleansing" ceremony to bless the All Saints Cathedral following the "defilement" of the week before. …