One Prayer Breakfast led to the assassination of a Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister in March 1990
By Mbatia wa Njambi
By now you know the annual National Prayer Breakfast held at the end of every May in Kenya is not about prayers-but influence peddling – as the new series on Netflix informs us on good authority. But before the Kenyan version, there is the American Prayer Breakfast, where it all began.
Just this week, President Uhuru Kenyatta was invited by the United States Congress to attend the 68th National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC, USA where over 2,000 international guests including political and business leaders, diplomats and religious leaders will be in attendance.
President Uhuru, who will pitch Kenya as an ideal business, investment and tourism destination, has tagged along former Opposition leader Raila Odinga who now has his two Bondo feet firmly planted in the Jubilee government.
The local version of the National Prayer Breakfasts will be held this May in Nairobi.
One American invitation, though, led to the assassination of Dr Robert Ouko, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Minister in February 1990.
That was just two weeks after a delegation comprising the president and government officials attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington – not to pray to God-but to beseech for military assistance and continued development aid to the country.
Indeed, although there is usually a breakfast, is neither national nor about prayers: It is all about state and church power blending to create a global theocracy; more or less, a ‘Christian Mafia’ ruling through soft diplomacy.
With Dr Ouko’s murder, the idea of having a National Prayer Breakfast was shelved until 2003 when President Mwai Kibaki came to power.
If it’s a National Prayer Breakfast, why is it not held at Uhuru Park?
That was the year our first National Prayer Breakfast was held at the Safari Park Hotel & Casino in Nairobi where annually stars 3000 invited guests, most of them from different countries.
But Kenyans have never been party to it. They are never asked to pray in their homes, offices or churches.
Come to think of it, if it’s a National Prayer Breakfast, why is it not held at Uhuru Park where national events are held and Kenyans can access?
After all, the tab is bankrolled by taxpayers, but the bill is never made public in the closed door, National Prayer Breakfast.
Kenyans only follow it live on television from where they watch attendees, some of dubious distinction, sipping milky tea, forking at greasy potato wedges, starchy arrow roots.
Kenya is bedeviled with blighting corruption, moral decay and other ills which are incongruent in a country sprouting with churches in every corner, village and hamlet. It thus might do with a National Prayer Breakfast.
But legal researcher Kaltum Guyo argued in June 2019 that “God has been made deaf or refused to listen; otherwise, we would have solved all our problems through national prayers in the 17 years we have been at it.”
Though fashioned as a Prayer Breakfast, there are very few religious leaders playing any key roles. Some attendees are of dubious distinction.
National events including the opening of Parliament has prayers offered by religious leaders from the Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Muslim and that Maasai elder, Shopon Lekolol, who clad in traditional regalia, represents indigenous sects.
But, the National Prayer Breakfast is largely Christian themed and features Presidents, politicians, High Court Judges, diplomats, policy makers, lobbyists and captains of industry. Of 16 guest speakers in Kenya, only one was a religious leader: the late Bishop Cornelius Korir of Eldoret in 2010.
Guyo lamented that the “Christian community is having too much sway and it explains the challenges other faiths have in ascending to power because they don’t have the numbers and the influence where it matters” and that , though “a great idea, but it seems to be reserved for only those in power.”
Indeed, the mission of the Kenya National Prayer Breakfast which is organized by the National Assembly, is “using Influence as a strategy in reaching out to National Leaders to positively transform Kenya and beyond.”Not prayers.
In the run up to the event, small prayer groups meet at the Muthaiga Golf Club, Nairobi Club, Qaribu Inn, Loresho, the Hotel Boulevard in Nairobi, the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden and in Parliament (Wednesdays). It is from these gathering that the National Prayer Breakfast is executed.
The Prayer Breakfast is molded from, The Family, a secretive quasi-theocratic movement like the Mafia-but minus the violence
Notice the locations. They are far from the madding crowd. The attendees are mostly the political elite. And Alpha Male. In fact, after the National Prayer Breakfast there is Men’s Gathering, another marathon meeting last held at the Great Rift Valley Lodge-owned by the Kenyattas.
The idea of the Breakfast was heavily borrowed from America where it was born in 1935 when Norwegian-born evangelical Abraham Vereide founded The Family to “provide space for men of power to meet regularly for prayers and Bible Study.”
Vereide died in 1969 and was succeeded by Doug Coe who morphed and modeled it as The Family, a secretive quasi-theocratic movement like the Mafia-but minus the violence, racketeering and drug trafficking.
He had a mission to rope in the political establishment in an invisible merger of Church and State and thus founded the Presidential Prayer Breakfast sponsored by The Family in 1953 with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in attendance.
The Family shortly became a sort of Christian Mafia intent on creating a global theocracy through “non-consensual diplomacy.” Coe, before his death in 2017, was the ‘most powerful man in Washington whose name you don’t know.’
Members of The Family even rooted for the irreligious Donald Trump who read from ‘Two Corinthians’ instead of the Book of Second Corinthians when he graced the Prayer Breakfast as America’s President in 2018.
The President’s Prayer Breakfast changed names to its current one in 1973. Like in America, every Kenyan president attends and in 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were the chief guests after coming to power.
The Family used prayers as veil to handpick political leaders some, straight from college for future political positions to influence the world order according to American journalist Jeff Sharlet’s 2008 book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.
Sharlet, was recruited as a member of The Family and his book inspired an eponymous documentary a series now aired on Netflix.
It is from the non-threatening gathering of the Prayer Breakfast where invited guests would mingle for influence peddling in a ‘Corporate Christianity’ setting.
Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse argues in his 2016 book, One Nation Under God, that The Family had more to it’s backburner than spirituality. At the time, Vereide was opposed to the socialist agenda of US President Franklin D Roosevelt. His idea was to employ The Family and influence political direction by merging Christianity with corporate capitalism. He went on to infiltrate and influence labour movements. Today, the Prayer Breakfast was spread by The Family to Argentina, Nicaragua and Ivory Coast “courtesy of American congressmen who use their official status and clout to form unsanctioned back-channel agreements and relationships—all inherently rooted in Christian dogma—on the US taxpayer’s dime.”
Kenya borrowed the idea without elements of The Family as a secret society.
While it took root from 2003, the idea has been marinating since Kalonzo Musyoka, then Deputy Speaker, was invited for the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington in 1987. The meeting of political rivals in a prayer breakfast so intrigued Speaker Moses Keino in 1988 he urged then President Daniel arap Moi to attend, but couldn’t due to Kenya’s poor political and human rights record. America was harsh on such countries and their presidents.
Though Washington was not keen on Moi attending, he still went for the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington that February 1990. Moi and his delegation were not attending for religious reasons, but to lobby against the threatened suspension of US military assistance to Kenya.
Then American President the late George H.W. Bush had no time for corrupt tin pot dictators and cold shouldered Moi and his entourage. Bush secretly met Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Robert Ouko instead.
That Ouko could be the blue eyed boy of Washington and a potential presidential material was anathema to some players in the inner sanctum of the Moi regime most notably Internal Security PS the late Hezekiah Oyugi and Minister of State Nicholas Biwott.
British historian David Branch in Kenya: Between Hope and Despair 1963-2007, points to the Prayer Breakfast in Washington as Ouko’s waterloo. Though he had frosty relations with his Cabinet colleagues over his stand on official corruption, it was one of the reasons that precipitated his assassination in February 1990 when his charred remains were found at Got Alila Hills, near his home in Koru, Kisumu County.
Government authorities laughably explained that Ouko set himself on fire before shooting himself!
The National Prayer Breakfast never took off in Kenya after Ouko’s murder and only resurfaced after Moi left power in 2003.
But such is its history as an off-shoot of The Family whose members are “driven by the belief that they’re “God’s chosen, hand-selected by Him to lead” but in so doing “shore up political and social influence right beneath the population’s nose.”