These are the famous words by Prof. Mbiti, who wrote a book on African religions and philosophy in 1966. He was describing the moral ethic and social organization the African people. He emphasizes the role of community comparable to the theory of communism in which “society incorporates relations of mutual service between equal individuals as crucial elements” (20). Mbiti is quick to note that there is a hierarchical order of the cosmos in which humans, the unseen powers and nature interact. I compared Mbiti’s reflections on African philosophy and Locke’s idea that “God gives us power of reason and discipline so that we could most effectively go about the business of preserving ourselves” (15). There has been an obvious digression from the ideals of society that Mbiti wrote about. Many rural African communities still uphold mutual responsibilities within the society. The rise of individualism has emerged due to the influence of definitions of an individual. In my personal reflections, this begins when there is pressure to be first in class. This ‘number one’ phenomenon was absent in many African communities which has councils of elders with no central head. It was fashioned similar to the ideal of ‘first among equals’. Those who prospered shared with the poor and were expected to do so. This has brought confusion in trying to define a gift and a bribe. I remember stories from my grandfather about how every young man was supposed to be a ‘njamba’ or a hero when they perform acts of bravery for others, not for themselves.
What is the modern social imagery for the Kenyan societal context? Taylor notes that the public sphere was and is ‘a new metatopical space, in which members of society could exchange ideas and come to a common mind’ (99). I will explore the political and socio-religious space that has been created in the recent past especially during the fight for democracy in Kenya. The civil society has been at the forefront for the fight against the evils of government. Some church leaders also joined the war against impunity and corruption from many fronts especially in the 1990s. The public sphere became the place where ideas of change were disseminated. Unfortunately the church was compromised by the allure of power especially when the opposition came to power. By the time of the 2007 post-election violence the church realized that it had been compromised and had to redeem itself. It was compromised when it took tribal stance in support of candidates they deemed as belonging to one tribe that had looted the country and awarded their tribes people prime land. The internally displaced people came from areas which experienced tribal animosity. The church during the 2013 election prayed for, repented on behalf of and reconciled the people.
With the raising poverty levels and the gap growing between the rich and the poor, the Kenyan society must begin to think of an order where people are able to access the basic necessities of life, such as food, water and security. With a new presidency and a new constitution and government, Kenyans are optimistic that economic resources will reach the poor masses in the slums and rural villages. The prosperity of the land will go hand in hand with the prosperity of the church.