“President [Mwai] Kibaki and the Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga have met for the first time since the disputed General Election and shaken hands before a battery of journalists” ahead of face-to-face talks. This report from Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper came late on Jan. 24, 2008, after a mediation contingent led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan met privately with both sides.
Unfortunately, Mr. Annan has said that full talks could take a full year to complete. As of yet, the result of these high-level meetings has not been nearly as positive as was hoped.
Tragically, they have done little to stem the tide of ethnic cleansings in Kenya’s Rift Valley area. Scores of helpless civilians have been massacred and burned by armed youths who have closed the country’s main highway and barricaded key towns.
There can be no positive outcome of such violence. The only “benefactors” of these atrocities are the ruthless politicians who encourage them. While corrupt politicians may seem to profit from the situation, the victims of this ongoing disaster are not limited to the dead and wounded. For those citizens who survive, the turmoil serves to worsen personal poverty and hinder the ability to maintain the interpersonal relationships that are necessary for their continued survival.
Additionally, the interruption of supplies, fuel, food and transportation make the toils of daily life in Kenya even worse. A potential collapse of the tourism and agricultural industries are also a foreboding reality.
As Aidan Hartley wrote in the Jan. 11, 2008, New York Times, “On the political front, perhaps the best we can hope is that Big Men will reach a deal and the tribes will put away their machetes and rifles.” Then the local residents can “return to their daily struggle to survive.”
Two types of leaders
In the Bible, Proverbs 29:2 Proverbs 29:2When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked bears rule, the people mourn.
American King James Version×states, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.”
A “leader” is defined as one who affects the behavior of another. Each of us must make a choice as to who and what we will allow to influence our behavior. In general, there are two types of leaders. To put it most simply, there are upright, honest and just leaders; and there are also corrupt and dishonest leaders.
Jesus spoke of Satan as the leader and “father” of liars and murderers in John 8:44 John 8:44You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stayed not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
American King James Version×. He presents God as the leader and “Father” of those seeking love and peace. Sadly, there seems to be only one of the two types of leadership available in the world right now. The predominant type of leadership is very apparent in Kenya at the moment.
Kenyans want and need change, including a change of leadership. Without it, life seems nearly hopeless. Realistically, what type of change is available to them? What are the present leaders and politicians offering the citizens of Kenya? The incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, based his campaign on promising to give the people more of the same, keeping the status quo.
His rival, Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga, has a long history of pursuing personal power at all costs, including involvement in an attempted coup in 1982. Odinga promises change, but what type of change? At what cost? There is considerable evidence that Odinga is just another politician, saying whatever it takes to be elected.
Whether or not Odinga has meant what he has said or not, he has demonstrated a lack of concern for his own Christian-based country and Anglican religion. Neither of these men has demonstrated a genuine love and concern for anything other than power and money.
According to the BBC, this Kenyan population “has seen successive governments rob billions from the public purse in well-documented scandal” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7205762.stm).
It cannot be denied that the two rival presidential candidates of Kenya are filthy rich and are becoming increasingly wealthy. Meanwhile, the average Kenyan survives on one U.S. dollar per day. Kenyan politicians pay themselves more than their counterparts in the West and hoard stashes of corrupt funds that stagger the imagination.
Conditions such as these are not uncommon throughout the continent of Africa. However, it is quite shocking that this is taking place in Kenya, a country that is supposed to be a democratic model. It appears that Kenya’s “democracy” only goes as far as allowing its citizens to vote for the next round of politicians who will pillage them for the next five years.
Tribal tensions reignite
As the wealthy squabble over power and politics, the resulting chaos opens the door for a restless population to attempt to take local matters into their own hands. In the current vacuum of godly leadership, the tribal tensions that have been and continue to be an integral part of Africa have been reignited. As a result, some 800 deaths and countless thousands of mutilations have occurred as of the date of this writing.
Ethnic reprisals and police crackdowns have been so widespread and severe that the International Criminal Court is monitoring events in the country. Angry youths from warring tribes bring terror to towns and communities, and the economy is often at a standstill. The main highway through Kenya has been frequently disrupted by mobs burning supply vehicles, stopping buses and killing passengers, and looting and burning businesses and residences.
While these acts of brutality appear to be extreme cases, stop to consider that the Kenyan government leaders, police and military have often demonstrated similar methods in order to get what they want.
The Kalenjin tribe, best known for their champion marathon runners, has used these current tribal strains to demand a clearing of all tribes from their ancestral lands. Portions of their territory in the Rift Valley were taken by the British during colonial rule. Later, the British sold the lands to others, instead of returning them to the Kalenjins.
Throughout the years, this region has become home to Maasai herdsman migrating from the Sudan, and to Kikuyus who were displaced by British colonists. The Rift Valley is also a great tourist attraction, associated with the most famous game parks in Africa, including the Maasai Mara and Serengeti.
Now, the Kalenjins are claiming the huge Rift Valley region in Kenya, from Tanzania to Ethiopia. During recent peaceful decades, there has been an assimilation of people from various tribes resettling throughout Kenya, including the area that the Kalenjins view as their territory.
While they have been tolerated on a local level, these “foreigners” have never really been accepted. Consequently, the Kalenjins have begun attacking and burning local villages belonging to the other tribes. They have even set fire to the offices and homes of the local government representatives.
Throughout the Rift Valley, from Sotik up through Eldoret, homes have been torched and people killed. Numbered among the dead are approximately 40 Kikuyu women and children who were burned alive in a church. Champion Kalenjin and Kikuyu runners were also among those slaughtered in the attacks.
In a heartbreaking response to the murder of members of their tribe, young Kikuyus in the Eastern Rift Valley have sworn to kill three people for every one of their members killed by other tribes. Raids through the areas of Nakuru and Naivasha have seen at least 100 deaths within a few days, including the burning alive of women and children.
Only God can solve the problem
The resulting interruption of transportation that brings maize and other food to the famine-stricken region has caused what food is available to be priced at a level that is out of reach for many citizens.
A United Church of God deacon in Kenya reported, “We are now in another world. Commodities prices have hiked up; transportation is too high; life has changed dramatically. But, this is where we are now. We are just praying, since only God is able to solve the problem and bring our country [back to the] normal life we were used to.”
Reviewing the ebb and flow of personal ambitions, struggles for power and obsession with property that are taking place in Kenya and, to a greater or lesser extent, in other countries today, can be a truly disheartening experience.
However, in stark contrast to these tragedies that are brought about in part by a lack of proper leadership, there is one leader who is bringing a different kind of change through a different method. This leader focuses not on Himself and His own ambitions, but on the good of others.
He devoted His time and limitless resources to create the physical universe that all humans inhabit, in amazing detail and complexity. He then divested Himself of all power and glory, and came to earth as a mortal man to give humankind a lone example of right behavior. He gave His life to serve and to help others to have life, and to have it abundantly. He offers His entire inheritance and a sharing of His power to all who will join Him. His true leadership is defined by law, justice, mercy, prosperity, happiness and peace.
It is He, the ultimate leader, who will eventually bring both Kenya and the entire world to peace.
To read more about this leader, be sure to request or download the booklet Jesus Christ: The Real Story . In the meantime, we must dedicate our behavior to be influenced by the Leader of leaders, as we wait for His perfect Kingdom to come.