Our #MCM this week is Rev Timothy Njoya, a retired Minister of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa and a human rights advocate in Kenya. He has received a number of awards for his humanitarian work, including the John Humphrey Freedom Award of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development.
According to Dr. David Gitari’s autobiography, Troubled but not Destroyed, Timothy Njoya and Catholic bishops Ndingi Mwana a’ Nzeki and John Njenga were the only critical voices against the government in the 1980s and 1990s. Then President Daniel Moi had silenced all opposition against KANU, including the church, which preferred to either stay silent on many issues or support the government.
His criticism of the government made his superiors send him to Tumutumu near Nyeri, hoping to keep him away from human rights demonstrations in Nairobi and to discourage him from boldly criticising the Moi regime.
Before all these acts, Njoya started his activism in 1983, praying for political detainees and visiting their wives. He would hold prayers for these women at St. Andrews Church, where the women would attend but after sometime he turned his focus to the mothers of the prisoners because, the wives started getting afraid.
In 1984, the church defrocked Njoya for questioning why the government was persecuting then Minister for Constitutional Affairs and former Attorney-General Charles Njonjo. Njonjo, who was linked to the 1982 coup attempt, was accused of abuse of office and the president set up an inquiry into his actions. He had to resign.
Although he started calling for multiparty politics in 1986, he did not get the support from other stakeholders. He became the first Kenyan in 1990, to call for the restoration of multi-party politics in the country. It was a daring move then, considering that most people who opposed the government were detained. Bishop Okullu and Kenya’s first vice president Oginga Odinga soon joined his call, demanding the legalisation of opposition party.
The fight for democracy did not stop with multi-party system. KANU was busy thwarting attempts at real democracy, causing protests and marches in Nairobi. On July 7, 1997, Rev Njoya beaten up at a pro-democracy meeting at the All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi. The same was the case in 1999 during a procession outside the parliament, where state-hired private army beat him up resulting into the dislocation of his arm.
He had sustained injuries from a severe beating in 1977 years earlier in President Jomo Kenyatta’s hands. Rev Njoya had to stay in Intensive Care Unit for months to recuperate and he still has a scar to show for it
The violence and constant arrests and summons he faced did not stop him from criticising it. In an interview, he said that he accepts the harm done to him because his struggle produced the fruit of change in the country.
Men for Women
Rev Njoya did not keep his activism to the politics of the day; he is also an enthusiastic supporter of women’s rights. In 1999, he founded the Men for Equality with Women, an organisation that focuses on informing men about gender issues and encouraging them to respect the rights of women.
He has recently published a book, the Divinity of the Clitoris, in which he writes about his mother’s escape from female genital circumcision to earn an education.
“DIVINITY OF THE CLITORIS celebrates my mom, P4 Teacher Cert 1931, build schools, produced 2 MPs and a Mayor of Nairobi,” he explained in a tweet, adding that it book signifies the equality of men and women.
The book’s title created such a fuss that the Rev was forced to repeat the meaning and the message and retaliate that a woman is equal to a man.
The Reverend is also an author of a few other books including his memoir We the People, The Divine Tag on Democracy (1987), Out of Silence: A Collection of Sermons (1987), Human Dignity and National Identity (1987). Under MEW, he published The Crisis of Explosive Masculinity.
Currently, the 76-year-old Rev does his research on masculinity. He is vocal about various issues in the country and uses Twitter to engage with the youth.