Wednesday, June 25, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
June 23, 2008

Rev Timothy Njoya is a great Kenyan. The man has struggled for the freedom of the individual for as long as I can remember. For those Kenyans who were politically conscious in the 1980s, Timothy Njoya’s name reminds them of the late Bishop John Henry Okullu, the late Bishop Alexander Muge and Bishop Gitari, all radical men of the cloth at the darkest period in Kenya’s political history.

My first contact with Rev Timothy Njoya was one miserable afternoon in 1983 when I was a trainee talk- show host on Voice of Kenya at that time. The terror of the station then was one Cornelius Nyamboki, a former parliamentary reporter with the Daily Nation who, due to patronage had suddenly found himself the Head of the Presidential Unit and then Director of Voice of Kenya in quick succession; thanks to Simeon Nyachae his tribesman who had assumed the all important post of Chief Secretary and Head of the Civil Service when Moi assumed the presidency.

On this occasion, I had invited the controversial Timothy Njoya to come on my radio show to talk about the history of Religion and Politics over the ages. I was interested in issues like the King of England rebelling against the Catholic Church in Rome and ending up founding the Church of England- the present Anglican Church. I was keen on the history of Martin Luther; that German theologian that rebelled again the Catholic teachings from Rome and ended up being the inspiration behind protestant churches that we know today.

What nobody at VOK told me at that time was that because of his highly charged anti- establishment liberation theology, Njoya had been banned from ever stepping inside VOK by Cornelius Nyamboki as long as Nyamboki was the Director of the then only broadcasting house.

On arrival at the gate of the Broadcasting House, Njoya naturally asked the security officers at the gate, most of whom were members of Kenya paramilitary General Service Unit to let me know that he had arrived. As I walked to the gate to sign Njoya in, word had spread in the Broadcasting House like a bush-fire that the prohibited Njoya had been spotted in the station premises.

As I led Njoya to the studios where one Otieno Adalla my producer was waiting for me, I wasn’t aware that as we went on with the recording, one diligent staffer had called Cornelius Nyamboki in Mombasa where he was holidaying, that one ignorant trainee had invited Njoya to the studios against his orders.

Within minutes of concluding my recording, there was an urgent message from the Director’s office that one Cornelius Nyamboki was on the line! When I picked the phone, there were only two questions I heard from Nyamboki both of which I had no answers for. The first asked why I had brought Njoya to the studios. The second asked for the whereabouts of the tapes containing my interviews with him. When I told him that the tapes were with the producer, he asked to speak to his secretary.

I later learnt that the secretary had express instructions to retrieve the tapes from the producer, lock them up in the Director’s office to await his return. That was the last time I heard of the tapes. The programme never went on air.

Kenyans may recall that in the heady days of 1997 to 2002, Njoya was one of the casualties of police brutality when Moi’s regime was bent on suppressing agents of change at whatever cost. Images of Njoya bleeding profusely on the streets of Nairobi will forever be engraved in our memories.

Despite this colorful past in terms of the liberation struggle, Rev Timothy Njoya may want to call it a day because circumstances are changing. And with time, it would appear like his interests in dealing with present regimes are clouded by other interests- which is natural with human beings.

During the Bomas Draft way back in 2003-2004, Njoya played a very suspect role in going to court to derail the constitutional process. Despite every effort and resources invested in the process, Njoya’s court case gave impetus to the opponents of the Bomas Draft. The process was stopped in its tracks. When a watered down version was presented to Kenyans for draft, Rev Njoya didn’t return to court to oppose it! However, Kenyans rejected the bastardized document at the referendum.

Right now Rev. Njoya is extensively quoting his case to justify another process of scuttling the process. He believes very strongly that the constitution of Kenya can only be written by Kenyans! Which Kenyans does Rev Njoya have in mind? Do we really have people called Kenyans other than Kikuyus, Luos, Kambas, and Kalenjins among forty two other ethnic nationalities?

Njoya may want to recall that when Parliament set the process in motion under Moi and Raila Odinga in 2001, the so called people’s forum under the auspices of the NCCK, the Catholic Church and then Kibwana’s NCEC set up a parallel Constitution Review Forum at Ufungamano House with Mutava Musyimi and the late Ooko Ombaka as the main drivers. That process failed before the very proponents of the parallel process came back to derail the Yash Pal Ghai group.

If truth be told; there are two types of Kenyans who have always worked against the constitution review in this country. They are the clergy under the umbrella of the civil society. The other group consists of human rights and constitutional lawyers. Their grandstanding and selfishness have always denied Kenyans the constitution. They profess to know everything about constitution making. They claim to have solutions to every problem affecting Kenyans. Most importantly, whenever they hear of the constitution making process, they smell money! It is money and money alone that drives the CSOs and lawyers to fight tooth and nail to secure a seat on the front row of constitution making. It has nothing to do with patriotism. It has everything to do with selfish greed and bloated ego.

Right now Kenyans are so polarized in every sector of society such that bringing any group of Kenyans to write their own constitution will amount to wishful thinking. Tribal feelings will render any meaningful discussions impossible. The more reason there is merit in involving outsiders who have no interest in Kenyan politics.

The other day when President Kibaki decided to pay an unscheduled visit to parliament, he made an interesting remark. He looked at James Orengo and to told MPs that if they really wanted to have a new constitution, they should give the task to James Orengo and he would complete the process in three days. The remark may have been made with a light touch but it spoke volumes.

Rev Njoya fought the good fight in the past and lived to tell his story to his grand children. Now it is time to leave the arena for other players with new ideas. If his kind would like to still remain relevant, let them play the role of senior citizens capable of offering advice from behind but not from the front. The time is now for Njoya’s group to pass the button.