Friday, February 29, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Arusha, Tanzania

My good friend Prof Mkenya tells me that human beings do not change because they have seen the light. They change when they are faced with extreme heat. He has a compelling analogy to illustrate his theory.

The other day he gave me an example when only the threat of burning hell made human beings see the light. He had this folklore about 19th century missionaries coming to Africa to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The good men of the cloth armed themselves with the Bible and the cross as symbols of the scripture and salvation. In their minds, they had assumed that native Africans would listen to the word, see the cross and believe that truly Jesus the son of God had suffered for them and that they would repent their sins and follow his teachings. Unfortunately for them, things became harder as days turned into weeks and months turned into years with nothing to show for their efforts.

This setback called for a return to the drawing board in search of another strategy that would break the impasse. Like the Eureka law of gravity, one missionary developed an interesting theory. It had dawned on him that it was not enough to promise the natives life after death since many of them already believed they would automatically join their ancestors in the underworld upon death any way. They had to be promised something more drastic and painful for those who refused to accept Jesus!

He came up with the idea of a burning hell! And he didn’t stop at hell. He explained that the heat in hell was many times hotter than normal earthly fires and that those incorrigible sinners who did not believe in Jesus Christ would burn for a thousand years as they gnashed their teeth! Meanwhile the believers in Jesus Christ would have endless bliss in heavenly eternity!

Professor Mkenya tells me that soon after the natives heard of hell, they trooped to mission centers in droves and went down on their knees asking for forgiveness of their sins! Hell had finally made them see the light!

Martha Karua is a renowned hardliner of a negative type. She is the kind of person who cannot see anything any other way except her way. Another thing, she comes across as a person who was traumatized in her childhood; persecuted perhaps. The more reason she is permanently on the attack mode, angry with the world and tends to be a control freak. To observers, she comes across as one woman who has a grudge with society; more so the men competing with her for power.

Martha Karua participated actively in derailing the Bomas Draft Constitution after parting ways with Raila Odinga in early 2003. Kenyans may recall that prior to 2002 she was a bosom friend of the Odinga family and almost lost her life in an air crash in her rush to go to Bondo.

The moment Martha Karua realized that Raila Odinga and Kibaki had disagreed over the 2002 Memorandum of Understanding; she changed colours and switched allegiance to her party boss. And, give it to her; she has been the most steadfast defender of President Kibaki since then.

When Kibaki reshuffled his cabinet in 2005 after losing the referendum, Martha Karua was elevated to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs whose docket included constitutional reforms. At first Karua misled Kenyans to believe she was tough enough to midwife the process through. Instead she ensured the demise of the Bomas Draft!

As I wrote this article in a hotel room in Arusha Tanzania, a news flash from a Kenyan television network made me sit up. Martha had done it again! This time she had had the temerity to insult the characters of Kofi Annan and Benjamin Mkapa in public! I felt like going under the table in the presence of my Cameroonian friends! We watched in dismay as Karua ranted about Annan and Mkapa’s alleged past international criminal activities!

For the first time in my life I felt ashamed to be a Kenyan. I felt pity for my country and sorry for President Kibaki. Under Moi and Kenyatta’s watch, no cabinet minister would dare go this far to embarrass the entire nation and retain that office for one extra day. However, this is the new Kenya where the likes of Martha Karua are able to get away with murder.

Had the international community not promised PNU mediators real hell, Karua would have derailed the talks!
February 29, 2008.