The Moi regime characterised Archbishop David Gitari, Henry Okullu, Alexander Muge and myself with the musical term, “Quartet”.
Just like Elijah the prophet, Gitari obeyed God’s command to defend humanity, sovereignty, hope and dignity of Kenyans by preaching Psalms 72: 1-4 and 12-14 that reads:
“Give the king your judgments, O God, and your righteousness to the king’s son; that he may govern your people with righteousness; and your afflicted with justice. Let the mountains bring peace to the people. And the hills, in righteousness. May he vindicate the afflicted of the people, save the children of the needy; and crush the oppressor. For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help. The afflicted also, and him who has no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy, And the lives of the needy he will save. He will rescue their life from oppression and violence, And their blood will be precious in his sight.”
That inspiration provoked the regime to profile Gitari as a Quartet.
The regime was so provoked by Gitari’s sermons demanding that the government governs the people with righteousness, saving children of the needy, compassion on the poor and crushing the oppressor that in Parliament a Cabinet minister thought his sermons were plans to take over the government.
Then Saboti MP Wafula Wabuge accused the Quartet of having “formed an invisible party to take over the government” (The Daily Nation, December 11, 1990).
This was before the rise of the secular civil society as an advocate of justice and, therefore, the “Quartet” was the only one speaking about government excesses. Gitari let God anoint him as Kenya’s king outside State House.
Gitari’s reign helped save retired President Moi and any future presidents from killing themselves by driving a reckless, autocratic state that didn’t have constitutional speed governors. In fact, the archbishop intervened at a critical point when the state had become dangerous to itself and was paranoid for failing to observe God’s precepts of Psalm 72.
By the end of the Kenyatta regime, the state had started suffering from two disorders: “in-bleeding” where it detained citizens without trial and “self-cannibalisation” by which it rid itself of its most intelligent and ardent Kanu supporters like Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya, JM. Kariuki and Robert Ouko.
Due to the Quartet’s divine selflessness and self-sacrifice, qualities rare among religious leaders, Gitari did not feign to spare his own life. He didn’t mind bleeding if his blood could save Kenya from the disorders of the government.
Inspired by our love of God, people and country, I have always shared common inspiration with Gitari since Kenya became independent.
Before Independence, I had heard Gitari was a staunch revival brother. I met him in 1961 during a week-long Kenya Students Christian Fellowship conference in Thika High School where he was a key speaker.
In that conference, Gitari’s speech was the first political sermon that I had ever heard by a revivalist. He talked of political freedom from colonialism and asked African Christian students to position themselves for taking over from the white man.
That sermon broke the barriers of the missionary tradition. No wonder when Independence came, Gitari found himself in a Quartet of preachers that refused to heed threats to their lives if they did not separate religion from public affairs.
The state wanted the Church to confine itself to its saltiness, light and holiness while it stuck to its rot, darkness, violation of human rights and exploitation of the poor.
But Gitari was always the salt and light of the world.
He was an honourable, saved and ecumenist leader par excellence; one of the most pragmatic and charismatic prophets that the world ever had.
In the National Council of Churches of Kenya, Lambeth Conference of Anglican Communion, World Council of Churches and other theological circles, Gitari was able to transcend his racial and ethnic identity. His universality was evident when he reached out to Hindus and Muslims especially when he joined Jukwaa La Katiba to defend Kadhi Courts.
Given his development record in the dioceses he served, Kenya knew Gitari as one of the best and most pragmatic statesmen and managers it ever had. His life was a political marathon, religious steeplechase and divine relay. In this divine relay, anyone who thinks they can take the baton and run like Gitari – and Jesus, who began and finished the race, must stand up to be counted. This begs the question – who is Gitari’s successor and heir? That is Kenya’s great challenge to all and sundry.