Why politicians have turned pulpits into campaign rallies
Top political leaders have increased their presence in churches and funerals as the country races towards the 2022 General Election.
In the wake of the ban on political gatherings to curb the spread of Covid-19, politicians are using places of worship and funerals to kill two birds with one stone.
With ready crowds and congregations, they are now using the two avenues to sell their ideologies as well as worship or “console the bereaved”.
Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga, ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi, Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka and Kanu’s Gideon Moi are among the political bigwigs who have amplified their presence in churches and burials in the recent past.
“Without doubt, pulpits and funerals have become a serious political platform as political meetings stand banned,” says Prof Hezron Mogambi, Communication strategist and lecturer, The University of Nairobi.
“That’s why many politicians are now attending funerals of people they do not even know and sending condolences to families that they know not for political reasons,” Mogambi said, adding that pulpits and funerals are even “cheaper” as there are no planning expenses.
He added that policitians do not need a license to attend a funeral or church service, one just walk straight to the event.
“Again, no one can dare deny or cancel a funeral or disperse a church service, for example. It can lead to chaos and negative perception,” he added.
For instance, DP Ruto has almost made it a ritual to attend a church service every Sunday alongside his Tangatanga troops to popularise their hustler nation narrative.
Raila, on the other hand, has found comfort in attending high profile funerals across the country.
Last month alone, the former premier attended a record seven burials including that of ODM national Treasurer Timothy Bosire’s wife Jane Munda and Vihiga Deputy Governor Patrick Saisi’s wife Ashura Saisi.
So is the case for Musyoka, Mudavadi and Gideon Moi, who both have attended four burials each.
Last Sunday, Ruto joined faithful at St Joseph’s Catholic Church - Karagita, Naivasha, Nakuru county.
On the same day, Kalonzo, worshipped at Victory Life International in Makutano, Yatta constituency.
While attending a service at AIPCA Chaka, Nyeri county on July 25, Gideon said the church must shun leaders who perpetuate the politics of incitement, intimidation and threats against those we do not share the same political views.
On July 24, Kalonzo while attending the burial of Mzee Elias Musaili in Mbuvu, Mwingi Central, retaliated his call for a peaceful country.
On the same day, Mudavadi joined faithful of Ol Joro Orok SDA church for the closing of the church’s camp meeting.
Mogambi says many politicians find an appropriate forum in pulpits and funerals because the attendance is always very good.
“Again, even those who would not, in normal circumstances, attend political rallies, or listen to politicians would attend church or funerals and “somehow” have to listen,” he says, noting that some funerals have had to be “reorganised” to allow prominent politicians to attend or even consult them.
His sentiments were shared by Javas Bigambo, a political analyst who opined that the realisation that polls are a year away has reduced the ordinary platforms for popularisation of political agenda, politicians are now scrambling to use the limited but permitted platforms to push for their agenda.
“This puts ordinary Kenyans at risk, and is counterproductive to the desirable efforts to curb the spread of corona virus,” Bigambo added.
Archdiocese of Nyeri Bishop Antony Muheria says Kenyans are being bullied into accepting that funerals as well as pulpits are platforms to further the “present agenda” of political elites.
“For them a funeral or a pulpit is an opportunity to whip emotions and harvest votes,” Bishop Muheria said.
According to the Bishop, there is a weird believe by some Kenyans that a funeral without the politician is a “failed” funeral; an “unfitting” funeral.
“ Kenyans are held hostage by the political class, who come, hijack and make banal the solemn moment of prayer and “send-off” of our loved ones, in total disregard of the grieving families.
Surprisingly the family and the faithful, sit back helplessly watching this “desecration”, feeling powerless to this “spell,” he said.
“Have we lost our humanity, besides having lost our spiritual sensitivity? he posed.