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Multi-party democracy icon, Arch Gitari passes on

NAIROBI, Sep 30 – Retired Anglican Church of Kenya archbishop, David Gitari, passed on Monday afternoon at a Nairobi hospital following a long illness.

A hospital source told Capital News that Gitari succumbed at around 2:15pm upon being transferred to the Intensive Care Unit after he was resuscitated from the theatre where he had checked in for an operation.

The retired cleric who was one of the fiercest critics of retired President Daniel Moi has been ailing for a while and he was the third African archbishop of Kenya and bishop of the diocese of Nairobi in the Anglican Church of Kenya.

Born on September 16, 1937 Gitari attended the famous Kangaru High School in Embu before attending the University of Nairobi for a Bachelor of Arts degree and was ordained to priesthood in 1972. He married Grace Wanjiru on March 31, 1966 and God blessed them with three children.

Gitari’s pastoral work, however, led him into political controversy. He preached and campaigned against land grabbing by powerful politicians, challenging economic injustice on a national as well as a local level.

In particular, he preached against constitutional changes which introduced voting by queuing (in a specific place, publicly indicating your chosen candidate) instead of by secret ballot. In 1988, he took the lead in opposing the rigging of the general election during the infamous mlolongo (queuing) voting system. He publicly condemned political assassinations and any undemocratic political practices.

Gitari’s deep concern for the Kenyan people was not without cost. On the night of April 21, 1989, at the height of his struggle for justice, a large and heavily armed gang of thugs numbering about 100 raided his house. They dug out the security bars and shouted that they had come to kill him. He and his family escaped to the roof and called for help from neighbours who came to his rescue just in time and the thugs fled.

In 1997, Gitari was elected third archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya and enthroned on January 12. He remained in this position until his retirement in September 2002.

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Leaders from across the country mourned the Church leader with the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leadership among sent their messages of condolences.

“Dr Gitari was a true defender of democracy and a man who stood his ground on what he saw oppressive and dictatorial leadership. He was among the few members of the clergy who spoke about the ills that affected Kenya as a society and never shied away from telling the truth. We shall remember him for his efforts in championing for political pluralism, an effort that bore fruits and ended the single party rule of independence party – KANU,” ODM Secretary General Anyang’ Nyongo said.

During his days as the head of the Anglican Church of Kenya, Dr Gitari oversaw significant changes in the way the church was run and has continued to offer his services to the church even in retirement.

“His death is a big blow to the country and the Christian community which he served diligently and loyally,” Nyongo said.

“On behalf of the ODM Party Leader the Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga who was Dr. Gitari’s personal friend, and that of the ODM fraternity, I wish to convey the message of condolences to the family, relatives, friends and the entire community of the Anglican Church of Kenya on the demise of Dr. Gitari. May his soul RIP.”


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