The Wall Street Journal reminded us today of the dangers to independence and freedom in Kenya.
I pay particular attention to Nairobi because I have a long-time friend there, James K. Waiya, a pastor. I met James through mutual friends, though we may never meet face-to-face in this life. My congregation began to support him when I was a pastor in the early 1980s. Since I left the pastorate in 1992 I have remained a friend with James and support him prayerfully and financially. You must understand that supporting African ministers and ministries (directly) requires a great deal of wisdom. (The same can be said for almost every other continent outside the West but this is particularly true for Africa and India, at least in my own experience. Be very watchful about these appeals and make sure you know what is really going on.) Knowing who to support and when is never an easy decision. The need in these countries is so great and our prosperity is known to all who live there. Appeals come to me almost every day. Knowing that I have a person to invest in that I know something about and can communicate with directly, via email, is a great joy. So you see my concern for Nairobi, and the country of Kenya, is a deeply personal concern rooted in the love of Christ for a people and a brother I know.
Last Thursday Kenya had a national election. The challenger to President Mwai Kibaki, Raila Odinga, seemed to have won the election, at least based on initial results. Then the final tally was announced and the incumbent had won by 2% of the vote, or about 200,000 votes. Regardless of who believes what about this election unseating an incumbent in Africa is almost never a simple task. Even having a free and fair election in Africa is difficult. Shortly after the results were announced violence broke out in Nairobi and continues today. Opposition groups claim the President’s party cheated. (We’ve heard this before and hear it in every election cycle in the U.S. but usually violence is not considered an option. We can thank God for this but must not take it for granted.) Reports suggest the complaints of an unfair election in Kenya appear to be legitimate. Independent observers have confirmed alarming problems.
For Africa the country of Kenya has been a beacon of hope for democracy and freedom. This is what makes this election and the resulting violence so alarming. Kenya has experienced economic growth of close to 5% annually for several years, a great trend. But tribal tensions, as in much of Africa, still loom very big in all of this scenario. The Kibaki government, with the firm insistence of the U. S. and Europe, must help guide Kenya so that it doesn’t go the wrong way in this present turmoil. This will involve recounting the vote, real redress in the court system, an accountable and solid governmental propriety and a real willingness by all to abide by fair decisions. The Wall Street Journal sums up my own concerns for Kenya well by concluding, "So many of the other bellwether states in the sub-Saharan Africa—Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo and potentially even South Africa—are already on the knife’s edge. Kenya cannot be lost."
I am led to observe here, once again, that America is not the world’s empire, nor its moral policeman. But the alternative—radical isolation from the world’s vast economic and governmental problems—is not an alternative for a benevolent and affluent nation that is already deeply involved throughout the world in numerous ways.
Christian interest in Kenya is huge for me. Believers will suffer the loss of freedoms and economic gains if we sit this one out. A seriously developed Christian view of social and political theory cannot simply withdraw from places like Kenya because the far left or the far right wants it and presumes that we should too. My friend James has suffered great economic hardship for many years and only recently have things improved ever so slightly. The freedom that he is afforded to live and preach the gospel cannot be allowed to crumble while conspiracy theories in the West drive us off the world stage and allow it to happen.