Within days of being appointed only the second Kenyan Cardinal ever, John Njue has made a major goof that paints the Kenyan Catholic Church in very poor light.
Twice in public he has expressed his personal feelings about a very sensitive political issue, namely the proposed Majimbo form of government. Firstly on the day he was appointed, a journalist asked him about the issue and without thinking he blurted out his personal views showing clearly that he was against it. Yesterday Njue called a press conference to repeat his personal views but this time told the world that they were the views of the entire Catholic Church in Kenya.
Kenyans are generally a very religious lot but these developments have angered and confused many. Firstly this latest development is behind a backdrop of some very strange behaviour the Catholic church has displayed ever since President Mwai Kibaki took over power in late 2002.
During Moi’s tenure this church was at the forefront of criticizing the government and speaking out on behalf of the down-trodden masses of Kenya. Many have fond memories of the church coming out to talk very strongly against the politically instigated clashes in the Rift Valley at the onset of multi-party democracy in 1991. The church spoke when nobody else would dare speak and many Kenyans were very grateful for that. This is why the relative silence of the Catholic church during President Kibaki’s watch has been deafening to say the least. When the church has made a move it has been to support the Kibaki administration like their clear support of the Banana side during the 2005 referendum. Ironically that constitution the church supported then contained a Majimbo governance system.
As you read this tens of thousands of innocent Kenyans have been displaced in extremely violent land clashes in the Mount Elgon area. The Catholic Church has not said much. In fact addressing these clashes would have been an ideal initial statement for Njue to issue the day he was appointed Cardinal instead of getting entangled in a very hot political issue. Two days ago when Cardinal Njue made this statement he quickly added that the church is not supporting any presidential candidate which was ludicrous after expressing a clear stand on such a major issue that divided the two candidates. It is common knowledge that the president is a Catholic and has been very close to the Catholic church leadership for many years. President Kibaki has in fact got two names given to him by the church that he never uses. They are Emilio Stanley.
It does not help the cardinal’s case with skeptical Kenyans (who have seen years of tribalism in high places being practiced even as the government swears that it is fighting against it) that he hails from the Mount Kenya region.
Then there is the very real danger that the cardinal’s tactics could easily reduce the country into a Muslims versus Christian battle of wits, since it is clearly known that most Muslims strongly support the Majimbo system of governance.
This is the kind of behavior that would be serious enough to provoke a protest note to the Vatican because the entire image of the Catholic Church has been ruined by these goofs by the church and most recently by the newly appointed cardinal.