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Put an end to this prayer breakfast circus

Saturday June 1 2019

 Parliament choir

The Parliament choir performs at 17th National Prayer Breakfast at Safari Park Nairobi on May 30, 2019. PHOTO | KENNEDY KIMANTHI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

NJOKI CHEGE
By NJOKI CHEGE
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The 17th edition of the National Prayer Breakfast — the yearly brilliant assemblage of hypocrisy, masquerading as a special day for prayer — finally went down at the prestigious Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi.

A high-calorie and greasy breakfast that included milky tea,  oily potato wedges, carcinogenic sausages and choky ndumas — which have been painstakingly grown by poor Kenyan farmers — was served in copious amounts in a feast befitting our insatiable leaders.

MOCKERY

The parliamentary choir, in their usual glory, belted out a pathetic rendition of Amazing Grace (How Sweet the Sound), only that their sounds were anything but sweet — an ear-splitting, deafening cacophony of off-key voices.

Truly, the Kenyan parliamentary choir is the stones that Jesus told us would sing for him, if we did not sing for the Lord.

Jokes aside, I think I speak for many Kenyans when I say that it is time for us to finally put an end to this annual circus that is the national prayer breakfast. The prayer breakfast event, which began as a noble idea for leaders to assemble in prayer and supplication for the country, has since spiralled into a detestable political rally. The most recent one was particularly an acerbic “national jokers breakfast” in which leaders took the opportunity to mock each other in the full glare of the nation.

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You’d think that perhaps our leaders would take the time to at least pretend to be in a prayer mode for the country, but it was quickly turned into a battle of wits and mockery.

It was particularly a pathetic show of victimhood for Deputy President William Ruto to use the opportunity to advertise his rags to riches story in a desperate campaign bid in which he played the underdog role, pitting himself against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga.

Well, I have to admit that the story was touching enough, maybe even tear-jerking for some of us, but was it really necessary at such a time as this?

UNCOMFORTABLE

The DPs woeful story about being the boy who sat his CPE exams on bare feet — as his counterpart (President Uhuru) basked in stately luxury — was not just out of context, but also in poor taste. Get me straight here, I have no doubts that Ruto has done superbly well for himself. I mean it’s a good story to have; a village boy who rises against the odds to sit at the high table next to the son of the founding father. However,  a prayer breakfast in a country wallowing in debt, facing a food security crisis and corruption is the last place you want to share your sob story.

After all, Ruto’s story is neither unique nor ground-breaking. The majority of Kenyans have grown from nothing to something.

Kenyans want our systems to work, we want doctors in hospitals, teachers in classrooms and an affordable cost of living. As DP Ruto went on in a carefully worded speech that went like “some of us have more to thank God for than some of you”, the President sat there embarrassed and uncomfortable, perhaps aware of the fact that he was the “some of you” being referred to. The President too, took the opportunity to “hit back” at his deputy, offering to donate to the UK “a couple more leaders” in order to give him “peace’’ for the next three years. It was an exhausting breakfast to watch, altogether.

UNCHRISTIAN

In a country susceptible to frequent droughts, it is the most unchristian thing to host an expensive prayer breakfast in which MPs and senators gather to gorge on the finest steaks, as children in Baringo County sleep hungry.

It is for this reason that I implore the organisers to make this prayer breakfast the last we will ever have. Let us use the money for other important things, such as freeing  mothers and toddlers who are detained in hospitals for failing to foot their medical bills.

Having some of Kenya’s biggest thieves in suits meet on a cold morning to eat and drink on the tab of Kenyans is an insult to the many who pay tax to a government that cares little about its people. The President was right; let’s stop talking and start acting. Down with the National Prayer Breakfast!

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