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We the People: Conversations with Reverend Timothy Njoya [by Michelle Korir]

When the good reverend was barely a man, he led two strikes in his school and ended up in a room full of men who were accusing him of being a communist. His counterparts who had already undergone this interrogation had ended up expelled after confessing. When asked this question, Njoya first said to his teachers that he would only confess if they shaved their moustaches, and then declared the question moot because Jesus had died for both communists and capitalists. When his interrogators were served tea, he unabashedly asked for a cup as well.
Such were the stories Reverend Timothy Njoya told during the Storymoja Edition of Courage Stories. It is clear that the firebrand spirit of this man was not ignited only during the Moi regime; he has been fighting for justice his entire life.

I walked into the session at the Louis Leakey auditorium to find Reverend Njoya retelling the story of the crusade he held in the 90s despite orders from President Moi himself not to. The story was by now familiar, as I had heard it told twice before in stellar form by the Too Early For Birds cast. The reverend confirmed that the story did happen and retold it in more accurate detail, much to the delight of the audience. And that’s the thing—the things that happened to the reverend courtesy of Moi’s tyranny were nothing short of horrible. But when you listen to him (or read his tweets) you get the sense that the past has no hold on him. He carries no bitterness, has long forgiven those who persecuted him, and urges the rest of us to do the same. You can delight in his stories because he does not paint the pictures of his experiences with pain or resentment, but rather gratitude that change eventually came.
Speaking to Marcus Olang’, Reverend Njoya addressed some of the questions we have all wanted to ask him for the longest time. His soon-to-be-released book on the ‘Divinity of the Clitoris’ sparked outrage when he first spoke about it on Twitter and during the session he highlighted why he wrote the book, why he gave it that title and why such conversations need to happen.

He spoke about FGM and how women, just like men, were made in the image of God but had their dignity and integrity taken away by men. He told stories of his mother and great-grandmother who were both strong women who rejected male rule over their lives and cites this as part of his reason for being a feminist. He is also a feminist, he said, because when men insult him for talking about the integrity of women’s bodies he becomes the archetype of a woman as these men accord to him the ugly things they think about women and women’s bodies. Kind of like how Jesus became sin because of taking on the sin of men. He is only ‘a dirty old man’ because he talks about the female form and the men think the female form is ‘dirty’.

The reverend, who described himself as a creative and a man who engages in aesthetic and artistic pursuits, acknowledged that some people will like his new book and some will hate it. Knowing he cannot please everybody allowed him to pour his creativity into naming his book without fear or reservation. He further commented that he prefers environments that allow for dynamism between divergence and convergence: people are meant to be different, to have different choices, and have also the choice to come together. This is why he fought so diligently for Kenya to become a multiparty state.

As the session drew to a close Reverend Njoya spoke passionately about believing in the power of the people. People, said the reverend, need to be loved and to be encouraged in order for them to tap into the power that is within them. You cannot come from outside and say that you want to change a society. That task belongs to those within. The power to effect change in our country, in our society, lies within We the People.

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