Why the Church won’t Help Ruto
By Herman Manyora
During the campaign for the 2010 Constitution, President Ruto the ‘No’ side that opposed the new constitution.
Although the ‘No’ side lost in the referendum, its chief proponent, William Ruto, posted a good showing.
For a single, not so seasoned politician to lead a side challenging the entire political and administrative infrastructure and do so visibly well is a testament to his abilities.
Ruto had the support of the church but his votes then, came from his Kalenjin community.
He also managed to mobilize a good section of the pastoralist communities to vote against the draft constitution.
The point here is that the church did not vote against the constitution despite there being issues that the church was against.
The church leadership had no impact on the flock who chose to vote in favor of the draft constitution.
Why did the church fail Ruto in 2010 and why did it become the pillar of his presidential campaign in 2022?
The reason is simple. Kenya has only one demography when it comes to voting in elections.
There is therefore no such thing as a christian vote. Kenyans are their tribe when voting and only become those other things (like being christian) after leaving the voting booth.
For this reason, the christians abandoned Ruto in the 2010 referendum and voted ‘YES’ with their tribal leaders (Kibaki, Raila, Kalonzo etc).
Although the church helped Ruto in the 2022 presidential elections, it must be remembered that the political context was unique.
For the first time, the Kikuyu did not have a presidential candidate (forget about the wannabe candidate). So it was easy for Ruto to penetrate the Mt. Kenya vote basket mainly through the church.
This is why Ruto’s main engagement with the church was in the Mt. Kenya region, especially among the Kikuyu. And he continues to attend more church functions in the region than he does elsewhere in the country.
The president needs the church as he navigates through his first term that seems to have a turbulent start. He also needs the church for his 2027 re-election bid.
Will the church help the president go through this rough stretch and eventually win the 2027 election? I very much doubt so.
First, the church is not a serious constituency in this country when it comes to elections.
As stated earlier, the church was only able to help President Ruto in the Mt. Kenya region because the community had no presidential candidate.
It is most unlikely that the region will sit idle and watch the rest of the country participate in the next elections.
The church will also have to reckon with structural challenges in its attempt to throw its weight behind Ruto now and in 2027.
The first obvious challenge is the clear dichotomy between the church leadership and the flock.
As it happens elsewhere across the country during elections, most church leaders receive handouts from politicians seeking political seats.
And nearly always, the ordinary church member rarely follows the pastor or priest when he casts his vote.
This situation is made worse by the resentment brewed by the sudden riches, possessions and opulence displayed by church leaders who host President Ruto. President Ruto is a generous man.
Above the intra-church split that sets the pastor against his congregation is the inter-denominational and inter-sect divisions that will divide the church so that even at the church leadership level, not all will support President Ruto.
And of course there’s the feeling of discrimination that will come from those left out of this marriage. Top on this will certainly be the Muslims and other non-Christian faiths.
Finally, the president will have to deal with those who detest the idea that the church is being elevated to a point of being a partner in state matters.
So powerful is this school of thought that the push to stop the country from being clerical, rather than a secular state is gathering national appeal.
This fear that those in power are bent on making Kenya a theocracy is going to produce a counter reaction that will greatly water down the support that Ruto is getting from the church.
It is therefore clear to me that if President Ruto is banking on the church, he is headed for thorough disappointment.
And the church is setting itself up for an exodus that will see the church lose members in amazing numbers that they may find themselves singing hymns such as “Amazing Grace” in empty churches.
It has happened elsewhere.
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