Why Colonial Christianity is the No. 1 problem in Africa: An illustration

I posted the blurb below on facebook a few days ago. I want to explain myself further by drawing from concrete examples.

Christianity is the no 1 problem in Africa. If it is not no 1, it is certainly in the top 3. Christianity is used to entrench oppression of African peoples. All our leaders are “God fearing”? The Christian God is a paradox. The most intolerant people you will ever encounter are Christians, especially the born again variety. Zambians are praying because they have a cholera outbreak. Zambians were praying a few years ago because they had no electricity. In Kenya, we have something called a national prayer breakfast which is led by politicians who are responsible for all the misery and suffering of the Kenyan population. They meet in posh hotels and stuff their mouths with sausages and sing hymns to the Christian God. And we say we are a Christian nation. What Christian values do we live by? We have more churches than schools, universities and hospitals combined in Kenya. Christianity has destroyed Africa because it hinders thinking completely. All the major political parties in Kenya in the last election were using Christian sloganeering. Never mind that there are many people in Kenya who are not Christians, but since the Christian God is the best, the rest should just fall in line. Poverty of ideas and high degrees of insensitivity. One of the few respectable Kenyan retired clergy, Rev. Timothy Njoya refers to this behaviour as “mocking God.” Christianity tells Africans that no weapon formed against them will prosper. Unfortunately, slavery prospered, Slavery is prospering in Libya and the Middle East, colonialism prospered, neocolonial encirclement is prospering, misgovernance is prospering, even the clergy are prospering at the expense of the people.

Example 1: The Kipande 

I once visited an elder who has a home museum. He has got a collection of impressive objects created by Africans before the encounter with colonialism.  It was at this Museum that I saw the Kipande for the first time. The Kipande was metallic container that those worked in settler farms in colonial Kenya wore around their necks.  His son explained to me how you would not get a job (from another white settler), without providing a reference letter from another settler. In other words, you would not be enslaved on your own land without approval from the person who stole your land. He opened the tin and pulled out a long document that contained approvals, permissions, and so on. This was his father’s Kipande. His father, whose hearing was deteriorating sat nearby and looked on. The son explained to me how the Kipande was a tool for humiliation, and why it was one of the main issues in the struggle against British imperialism in Kenya.  He then told me how the church wanted to ex-communicate his father. Reason? He was accused of having witchcraft because of the objects that he collected and kept in his home. The father did not want to be ex-communicated from the church. He was ready to burn all those objects. Then, the pastor asked him to bring all the objects to the church so that they could inspect them. So, he packed all his objects and went and set up a sort of exhibition in the church compound.  The pastor and the congregants looked at the objects and thought they were harmless. He survived the ex-communication.  When missionaries came to Africa at the beginning of the colonial period, they told Africans that all their creations are witchcraft and primitive.  They were to be destroyed.  The same missionaries collected some of  these objects and you will find them scattered in Museums around Europe and North America. Yes, of course, they make money from this African witchcraft and primitiveness.  In this elder’s collection, you will find evidence of very strong cultures and African creative genius. You will find evidence that Africans were forging objects out of iron, well before the encounter with colonialism. Assuming the church had not been reasonable, this elder would have destroyed this collection. That would have denied me an opportunity to touch a kipande and see it up-close. My encounter with that Kipande greatly shaped my research interest in anti-colonial struggles in relation to conservation, environmental justice, the protection of African heritage, etc.  The colonial version of Christianity remains the greatest threat to the protection of African heritage.  A lot of  African objects have been destroyed due to the influence of Christianity. Hence, an African will grow up thinking that Africans have never invented or created anything. How do you find out that they did if all the stuff you see around comes from Europe, N. America, or China?

The Kipande

Example 2 : Nok Terracotta Sculptures 

I was attending the World Archaeological Congress last year where a delegate from Nigeria took the floor and started speaking about the threats to heritage conservation in that part of Africa.  He said that one of the major issues is the destruction of Nok Terracotta sculptures by both Christians and Muslims. When people find them in their gardens, they destroy them, because religious teachings of both faiths have convinced them that anything associated with African cultures is witchcraft. The culture of making these figures/sculptures was practiced for over 1,500 years.  Of course, if they are destroyed there is no chance for Africans to benefit from them in any way – e.g., research, education, or even cultural pride. In the meantime, antique hunters from Europe collect and make so much money from them.  Since Africans think it is witchcraft, they cannot benefit from this heritage in any way. Christianity is, therefore, in direct conflict with African prosperity in many dimensions – intellectually, economically, etc.

Nok Teraccotta Sculpture. Image Source: Muzeion

Example no 3: Gucugia Mwana 

A friend invited me to a beautiful ceremony known as Gucugia Mwana. This is a cultural practice of the Agikuyu people in Kenya. The ceremony is an opportunity for one’s grandmother to celebrate their grandchild.  In this case, the daughter brought her child to the mother’s home. The mother invites friends over – there is singing, dancing, and lots of food.  The baby is given gifts by the grandmother and others. They sing for the baby and rock the baby back and forth.  Most of the attendees in this ceremony were Christians and you could see the clash and tension between this cultural practice and Christianity.  It felt like the people were feeling guilty for practicing this culture, which I think is a beautiful thing, in terms of keeping the family together, celebrating life, keeping the society together. But, you could feel and see the tension.  Christianity makes Africans feel guilty for practicing African culture, even when it is something as harmless as Gucugia Mwana! So, Africans end up not singing their songs any more. All the songs are about praising Jesus. The African culture is killed or is stunted.  Christianity makes Africans either hate themselves and everything about themselves, or  makes them feel guilty – all the time.


Example 3:  Seed and food sovereignty

I was working with a certain community in Kenya last year. Over the course of this work, the community highlighted the pressure they were facing with regarding to abandoning their foods, seed preservation practices, pressure to use to pesticides to grow their crops and so on.  We agreed that it would be good to have a forum to discuss these issues and craft solutions. I spent a lot of time and energy looking for someone who understood the issues around global corporate capture of food production, imperialism, capitalism, neo-colonial encirclement,  and destruction of the community’s cultural infrastructure. I needed somebody who spoke the local language, and who could explain these issues in a clear manner and relate them to the community’s daily struggles.  When I found a person who could this, we organized a full-day community workshop to interrogate these issues.  The facilitator opened the discussion by saying that we should remember our ancestors. Fair enough, I thought. The rest of the discussion was very interesting. At some point, some young men in the group raised an issue with the elders – they said that they felt confused because they got conflicting messages from their church and from other cultural expectations. One man said that his pastor says that paying dowry is wrong, and yet he is also expected to pay dowry-culturally. There were two pastors in the group. They could not offer him a satisfactory explanation on how to address this conflict. But that is not what I wanted to highlight through this example.  The fact that Christianity is in direct clash with African culture has been established in the earlier examples.  Two days after the workshop, one community member called me and told me that some of those who attended the workshop were not happy, because I brought them a non-believer (a non-Christian). What was the problem?  The facilitator has said that “we should remember our ancestors”. So, I called the pastor, who told me that yes, there was quibbling because “we are saved and we do not believe in that”. Now, you tell me, here we are – Africans are under siege from all sorts of mutli-national corporations, who do not even want them to save the seeds they harvest and plant them in the next season, who want the farmers to buy seeds from them every season, who want to enslave them and shackle them to poverty forever – but what concerns Africans most is that another African said that we should remember our ancestors?  Is it possible to be African and Christian at the same time or are they completely incompatible?


Example no 4: Governance 

I do not want to dwell on this one. I think the block quote at the beginning highlights how much of a problem this is.  The colonial governments used Christianity to entrench oppression in Africa. They said colonialism was the will of God.  Present day African leaders use exactly the same logic to bamboozle the people. It is not uncommon to hear Africans saying that leaders are “chosen by God”. So, all manner of despots use Christianity to entrench mass torture of the people they are supposed to be leading. When these despots and their sidekicks die, churches hold services for them – to pray so that they go to heaven.  Never mind that they made life a living hell for people right here on earth.  Christianity enables bad governance, which then entrenches poverty in Africa- both material poverty and the poverty of ideas. And the latter is worse than the former.



25 thoughts on “Why Colonial Christianity is the No. 1 problem in Africa: An illustration

  1. As long as we are committed to ignoring the fact that we are not focused on being ourselves as we were before intrusions, we will continue crying foul and waste our energy towards bitter thoughts and perspectives. This is another form of captivity, where our minds are always occupied with what has already been done.
    We have not yet desired freedom to it’s entirety, where our identity is our primal concern. It seems we still desire acceptance, some sort of validation, trying to be equal with a people that can only see us as servants, no matter how much more like them we try to be. Nanjengoko ndilubhale ngalo olo lwimi lwabo ululuvo lwam ngenkqubela phambili, impuhliso nengomso lwabantu abamnyama, izixhobo zam zokulwelwa ilungelo lam zibuthuntu, zikwavela kwakulo utshaba lwam. I wrote that bit in isiXhosa to acknowledge the fact that I’m still out here writing in English attempting to address an issue of our erased identity. Knowing all that we know we still chose to think that presenting arguments is going to yield results. The more questions we create around the oppressor is the more oppressor orientated we become. We need to search for our precolonial history and learn how to be ourselves again. That is where our focus should be.

    S. Nongwe


    1. Siyamamkela, I really appreciate your thoughts. Thank you. Do you not think that the example no 4 on discussing seed and food sovereignty with communities is an attempt to go back to pre-colonial ways of life?


    2. Wow I’ll make sure this goes viral! This is what I’d prefer to listen to on the media platforms be it radio, TV but the reality is that the “cause” or culprits of these problems pay billions to keep us ignorant to the same media companies. It makes perfect sense why Pan African Revolutionists such as Bantu Biko, Sobukwe ,Thomas Sankara & Patrice Lumumba had to be assassinated. It pains me that the generation does not engage in such topics on a regular basis as they should, but we also have that responsibility to direct them toward such subjects. THANK YOU!


      1. Thanks for reading sizw! Capitalism and Christianity feed off each other. You are right, the media would never seek to challenge this. In fact, they air live church services- for a fee of course! All those who fought for liberation of Africans have been killed by Europeans in collaboration with treacherous Africans in some cases. You might like this ones too: https://gloriakendiborona.wordpress.com/2017/06/22/africans-jesus-did-not-die-for-us/


  2. “Poverty of ideas “..well put. This needs to go viral. Religion is hypocrisy… Religion is anaesthesia.. We cannot rely on spirituality alone it must be combined with action even when white men landed on our shores, our spiritual systems did not prevent Us from being vanquished. It was our lack of technology. We can do something about that today


    1. “Religion is anaesthesia.” Oh yes, absolutely. That is why we keep saying “achia mungu”. You have bad leadership that provides no basic services to the people it taxes heavily? Achia mungu, because after all, leaders are chosen by God. Colonial Chrisitianity had destroyed Africa.


  3. So I watched a video of someone saying that Africa should break up with it’s past as that’s what keep it from developing. Now the issue of Christianity within Africans is something that is now deeply ingrained in them by people who they thought were superior to them at the time. Of course this is a form of cultural imperialism where they (white people) the African Gods were fake and forcefully turned people to Christianity. And now this is the thing with everything else – running from dressing to food to music to political systems and among many other things. It is now to find things that are purely African without western infiltration. Our dressing completely changed to follow the western standard of dressing which was considered cool and “modest”. Similarly we’re quickly adapting our diet to the western one with many of our kids preferring chips over ugali or pizza over viazi. This change is taking away Africa and before we know it Africa will be no more. Our political system, the so called “democracy”, was it really ours ama we’re just copying. Why are we still following it when it is clearly not working out for us. The culture of giving our children English names and teaching them to speak and cherish English rather than Swahili or their mother-tongue. At the end of the day, we Africans are really killing our own culture and claiming that the west is taking over us. In terms of religion, Christianity is used by many African as a shield to “protect them” or rather something to cover themselves with. Africans feel the need to use Christianity like that as their previous shield was taken away and without this they would otherwise feel “naked” and unprotected. That is my take on Christianity ruling Africa. Many of the devoted Christians do not realize that it is this same religion holding most Africans down and lazy with the thought that “Oh I leave it all to God ama Mungu akipenda itafanyika” This makes them lazy, incompetent and inefficient.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As a white female American, I find this article to be fascinating and devistating. I mention I’m female because so much of the trouble and war around the world has been caused by men, especially white men.
    I was brought up Christian, and while I think the Christian values as taught by Jesus Himself are beautiful, I see consistently, across the board, that christianity around the world is not followed correctly and instead used to rule over people, separate and divide. Here in my own country there are ugly political battles being fought daily with our new president and his hateful cabinet of “Christian” old white men. They want to throw brown people who have been here since they were children out of the country, and it’s hateful and dispicable. It’s racist and intolerant and I will fight against it with everything I have in me.
    These horrible things, done in the name of Christianity have made me question my own faith and distance myself from the church, instead seeking the divine in the world through real spirituality and a connection to the world around me in love, inclusiveness, nature, and all that is true. I condemn all the ugly things done in the name of “Christianity”.

    In college I studied anthropology and I have a deep love for our wonderful world and all of its peoples. At 53 years of age I am now studying conservation, with a focus on wildlife and in particular, big cats around the world. This study is bringing me to Africa in May for my first time. Our horrible president has made derogatory remarks about other countries and as a white American traveling, I bring with me a shame over the pain, theiving and dishonor that “my people” have wrought throughout history and continue to do. They never once spoke for me. I am so sorry for the way so many whites have acted over history. I cannot explain it or condone it. Also, as a white American traveling, please know that I will be the kindest, most polite person I can be, honoring whoever I come in contact with and just making sure that I travel responibly and kindly, helping, not hurting, wherever possible. The Africa I seek to find is probably no longer there, I read about the deep troubles all over the continent, and my heart weeps for what has been done to the people and the animals. I’m ashamed of the heinous wealthy sick in the head white hunters who come to slaughter the beautiful animals of Africa, her Crown Jewels, her treasure. They are so disconnected from the natural world, from all that is good, they just take and take and take, and they feel they are entitled to it all. I’m ashamed and sickened by anyone who would tell a people that they shouldn’t sing their songs, have their customs and farm their land in their own way with their own seeds. I cannot undo any of the damge these forces have done, but I read your piece with sadness and I fully agree with everything written here. Thank you for your words and wisdom.


    1. Bigcatadvocate! When I saw your handle, I thought you might be interested in conservation. Well, I agree with most of what you say. Christianity has been severely misused for the oppression of African peoples and others around the world. Now, that you are interested in conservation in Africa, you should know that that is a whole other realm of evangelism. I strongly recommend you to read a book by two Africans on conservation in Africa – It details the white capture of conservation in Africa, with a focus in Kenya. The book is called ‘The Big Conservation Lie’: https://www.amazon.ca/Big-Conservation-Lie-John-Mbaria/dp/0692787216

      I have written a blog about the book. That can be found here. https://gloriakendiborona.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/reading-the-big-conservation-lie/

      There are also some talks about it on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_YuC29wS0c&t=23s


    2. Sorry but messiah wasn’t Christian and no I’m not here to make a fuss but as all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve we must wake up to the order of the lie. Christianity was started in 325 ad by Julius Cesar and the Council of Nicaea and the Bible was already written. Now is the time for fact checking/studying/ and researching! HalleluYAH!


  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts ithis blog post. I disagree that Christianity is the problem. I think it is our own culture as Africans that was and still is the problem. It is a culture of blind and unquestioning ancestor worship. There’s little wrong with respecting our elders and the contributions they have made to our society, history and culture, but the blind and unquestioning reverence and compliance with traditions which is commanded and demanded of Africans – very similar to what corrupted teachings of Christianity do – make us pawns to be used to further defend and entrench the interests of those who benefit.

    The problem is not even Christianity or traditional African religion. It is the thinking and behavior of the people. Our ancestors SOLD their fellow Africans to Europeans for money, power, ammunition and liquor. Don’t tell me that this is to be “remembered” as though it is a positive thing!

    In my opinion none of these examples you have given illustrate Christianity as the problem. People don’t steal, kill or misgovern because they are Christians. They do so because they are HUMAN.

    Chiefs used to say – and some still say – that they are chosen by the gods to rule their people. If politicians are spewing the same rhetoric today, how is that a blight on Christianity? If some pastors, – two actually – are myopic in their thinking, how does that make Christianity the villain?

    This tendency to apply the actions of individuals to make allegations and assumptions about entire groups of people is the problem. White folks came to Africa and the truth, the reality is that SOME of the Africans they encountered WERE practicing witchcraft. And just like you are doing now, they took the actions of a few people and made grand assumptions about all the darker skinned people’s they encountered.

    You are now inviting us to do the same in reverse. And I for one refuse to.

    Christianity is not the problem. Blind adherence and unquestioning compliance to traditions (African or Christian) is the problem.


    1. Hi Realityovertruth,

      Thanks for reading and leaving such a detailed argument. I appreciate your thoughts. I still think Christianity is a problem in Africa, as is any other religion, including the indigenous ones. I am not saying that they are infallible, by the way. Each one has its inherent weaknesses. I am interested in the liberation of African peoples. And I still feel like Christianity has been used to entrench their oppression. If you say that African cultures are the problem, and that its is because we are HUMAN, what is the solution then? Nothing? Because we are human and that is just the way we are? My greatest issue with Christianity is that it tells Africans that their past was one wasteland of non-achievement and that there is nothing good about it, we can not learn from it, we can not use that knowledge to build African institutions etc. If you read George Ayittey’s ‘African Indigenous Institutions’, you will see that there is much to draw from African cultures. You will also see that Africans were quite rebellious to oppression, even from within. We tend to think that Africans just naturally love oppression. Nothing can be further from the truth or reality. Truth over reality. Reality over truth. Reality and truth.


  6. Why does Islam get a free pass in Africa? Compared to Christianity, what has Islam done for Africa? Notwithstanding the ills of Christianity compare the state of majority Islam countries to that of majority Christian countries and then you be the judge.


    1. GoC,

      Thanks for reading. I am not familiar with Islam. I am critiquing what I know. If you are familiar with Islam, please go ahead and speak about it. As mentioned in the blog, in the case of the Nok sculptures, Islam was also encouraging the destruction of that heritage. Boko Haram tried to destroy all the manuscripts (Very important African heritage) in Timbuktu, but ordinary people succeeded in hiding most of them. I was watching a documentary about the trial of Hissène Habré, the Chadian dictator. During his trial in Senegal, he constantly held his prayer beads. When he was tried, he raised his had that was clutching the beads. These are just examples. I tend to think Islam is as problematic as Christianity, but as I said, I do not know much about it.


    1. Thanks for reading Ronnie! I am aware that Christianity is not western. Ethiopia and Egypt both practice an orthodox form of Christianity that predates Colonialism. My issue is the Christianity that came to Africa via the colonial encounter. That one has destroyed the minds of Africans.


  7. I cannot believe that I have stumbled across this blog in 2018. It’s 4a.m. in the morning and I m trying to binge read all the previous posts. It is quite informative to say the least. I resonate with your thoughts. Totally love it! Keep it up Kendi!


  8. Hi Kendi. My name is Martin Wahogo. I’ve loved this article and agree with you wholeheartedly. A lot of our culture has been lost and is still being lost, yet it was rich and based on hundreds if not thousands of years of experience and knowledge. In my pasttime, I write about Kenya, it’s history and other touristic stuff. I am wondering if you could introduce me to the family you met which had memorabilia from the older times, such as the Kipande. I’ve been looking for such a family since there is some stuff that is practically unavailable in our museums. I would be really grateful. A quick one by the way, did you by any chance see a sample of the forgotten Kikuyu written language called Gikandi? You can check out my work at https://www.facebook.com/knowmykenya or in the Know Kenya book on Amazon.


    1. Hi Martin, thanks for reading. That family is based at the Equator Cultural Centre in Meru. Unfortunately, I do not have their contact, but if you drive to the Equator via the Embu side, you can easily locate the Mzee’s home. I did not see a Gicandi in that home. Thanks for the link to your FB. I will have a look.


  9. I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you, Kendi for this article. In response to your sentiments, I will begin with a question, is a religion the problem or those who practice it? To put it into perspective, history is significant here, the Arabs, the Portuguese like Vasco da Gama practised Atlantic slave trade before Christianity. But the fact is that we cannot separate Christianity and colonialism. Not because Christianity support superiority over others but because the missionaries were of the same native as the colonists. At the same time, they used it to justify their action.
    African culture is rich, and Christianity is not against it, but some western imperialist. Christianity is not in conflict with African prosperity, but the deprived concept passed to the Africans by the biased westerners is against our prosperity. It is in a common knowledge that some of them never desire to see African prosper, for the fear of being inferior.
    Gucugua mwana is part of our African culture and it is not in any tension with Christianity. The tension was created by culturally biased westerners who brainwashed the Africans to believe it is bad. The last time I checked people still practice it, apart from those who are drunk and enslaved with western thinking.
    Back to my starting question, what should your critique target, is it Christianity or colonialism and its perpetrators. The misuse of religion by some missionaries to justify their injustices and actions should not then compel us to attack religion but to attack imperial colonists who were filled with ethnocentrism. Therefore, what should be done is to decolonize the African mind and liberate Christianity from its cultural captivity. This can be done by teaching an authentic Christian worldview that is free from western philosophy.
    Christianity speaks against injustice. God stands with the oppressed, however, the colonists hindered this truth in order to practice their evil. They corrupted the true religion and wrongly interpreted the scriptures, for example, the Dutch in South Africa who theologically justified apartheid. Their justification does not make them right, they were wrong all along. Violent and unjust acts of Christians should not be the basis to denounce Christianity. Christianity is about Christ Jesus who is depicted in African terms as a ‘warrior’, ‘or an ‘ancestor’ just to contextualize.
    The mistakes of the Christians should not invalidate the Christian teaching. Their mistakes depict their sinful nature and need to turn to Jesus. Forgiveness of those who miss a mark is part of our African traditional culture. Therefore, it is not just a Christian thing. But I concur that indeed the Christian belief differs the practice of the Christians which is saddening. But God desires that people strive for justice. Nevertheless, the scripture and the Christian beliefs can be authentic even though it is not accurately followed.
    Now to the question, is it possible to be Christian and African at the same time or are they completely incompatible? I think from colonialists’ perspective, it is incompatible. But from a personal opinion, I think there are a lot of compatible beliefs but also some practices that need to be reformed. About ancestor, missionaries never understood us, we respect and honour ancestors, but we don’t worship them. We remember the ancestors by pouring libation in their memory, but not worship them.
    Lastly, Christianity does not support bad governance. But missionaries used it to justify their action, but it does not make it right. So, with this, who is the problem is it Christianity or the imperial colonial missionaries nature? In conclusion, religion exists ideally for the sake of God, therefore it ought not to be egocentric.


  10. Kendi great work and the comments followed. Im Thulani Benitsius who I call the Son of the Soil the heir of the Nama Herero and thatvis associated in Africa. I cant beleive how this article is still fresh so fresh and i stumbled on it as im on a discovery of who I am as an African and at the same time an staunched Christian which I have put a pause on it and discover myself and listened to alot of Prof Patrick Lumumba Dr Umar Johnson and the list just goes on added with articles similar to yours but a bit back dated. I have realised in Africa especially South Afruca the country of my origin that this people had a system well orchestrated that a higher percentage of my people have subscribed to including myself which im gradually seeking my true origin however because of such article and comments im even learning growing educated of my Africanism Thank you Kendi and all. Is there books which be recommended and studies ti registet im si hungry to know me and spread it to the generation now and after me please assist:


    1. Hi Thulani,
      Thank you for reading the blog and it is nice to hear that it resonated with you. There are several books I can recommend – Look for all the work by Basil Davidson (he also has several videos on youtube), look for the work of Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Franz Fanon, Wangari Maathai, Okot P’Bitek, Chinua Achebe, Binyavaga Wainaina (How to write about Africa)…there are many many. I also write blogs about some of the books that I have read. Go through my blogposts to see that. If you are on facebook, you can friend me – Kendi Borona. I also share stuff there. Keep enlightening yourself.


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