No amount of prayer will fix system failures

Kenyans pray at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, during National Prayer Day on March 21, 2020

What you need to know:

  • Burying people in prayer is a well-known political strategy that makes them feel personally responsible for their leaders’ poor choices and actions, which denies them the right to actively question authority.
  • Kenyans should pray for the courage to see their leaders for who they are; a self-serving minority whose concern is how to use the people’s gullibility to justify their greed.

This past week, Kenyans were treated to the charade of national prayers as a way to reset the country’s seemingly unhopeful state of affairs.

If there’s anything we all agree on about Kenya is that it’s a country where prayer is used as the answer to systemic dysfunction, which is why it’s a charade.

Prayer can soothe and make several issues manageable because prayer offers the relief of surrendering to a higher being, but systemic dysfunction or bad leadership is not one of those issues. Praying away systemic or leadership issues is not, and never will be, a solution.

Therefore, leaders coming together on a so-called national day of prayer, after months of structural plunder that subjected already vulnerable people to increased vulnerabilities, is the greatest form of manipulation.

And because this manipulation won’t end unless people refuse to be manipulated, Kenyans should shift from being pacified by prayers after being abused, robbed, disregarded and led by contemptuous leaders to start praying for themselves.

Poor choices

Kenyans should start praying for the courage to understand that structural failure is a direct failure of leaders, which has nothing to do with the citizens. That blaming structural failures on some kind of spiritual deficit among the people is a distraction to keep them buried in prayer without time to demand leadership accountability.

Burying people in prayer is a well-known political strategy that makes them feel personally responsible for their leaders’ poor choices and actions, which denies them the right to actively question authority.

Secondly, Kenyans should pray for the courage to see their leaders for who they are; a self-serving minority whose concern is how to use the people’s gullibility to justify their greed.

For example, because leaders haven’t done their work, police brutality, loss of lives and livelihoods, malnutrition, failing systems in health and education as well as lack of social protection have either doubled or tripled.

Lost livelihoods

Yet, somehow, Kenyans are being asked to pray when no amount of prayer can fix a brutal police force or restore lost livelihoods and lives.

Thirdly, Kenyans need to pray for the courage to pursue wisdom that allows them to see their role in the structural mess.

Structures exist within a context and the Kenyan context is heavily tribal and poverty-burdened. Which means most decisions people make regarding leadership are pegged on tribally induced poverty structures.

Kenyans should be seeking spiritual strength to speak the hard truths about how tribalism has denied opportunities to the majority of poor people.

Kenyans should be honest about their perpetration of tribal narratives and begin unshackling themselves. Prayer should be where we go to remind ourselves how far we are from the country we deserve, not where we go to erase our realities.

  okoreschea@gmail.com