Kitengela ACK church service disrupted as rival groups clash

Kitengela Holy Trinity ACK Church

Worshippers at Kitengela Holy Trinity ACK Church carrying placards during a service on May 26, 2024.

Photo credit: Stanley Ngotho | Nation Media Group

Worshippers at Holy Trinity Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) in Kitengela clashed for the better part of Sunday morning, prompting police officers to intervene to quell the standoff that had degenerated into a physical fight.

Worshippers who were aggrieved by the recent disputed church leadership elections, stormed the church around 9am, blowing vuvuzelas and whistles and carrying placards as they protested against the church leadership.

For an hour, a worship group sang praise songs as a group of women blew vuvuzelas and whistles.

Journalists were roughed up and chased out of the church compound, and Kenya Television Network cameraman Josphat Kinyanjui suffered leg injuries and had his video camera damaged.

The chaos prompted police officers to intervene, with Kitengela OCS David Shani taking on the role of quelling the standoff. The placards were confiscated and police stood guard throughout the service.

"I'm here to maintain law and order, let's try to resolve our grievances outside the place of worship, it's not good," said Mr Shani as one of the factions heckled him.

The service, led by the vicar in charge, Canon David Lawi, took place in the presence of the police.

"Let the media come to the podium and greet the congregation, our bishop Gadiel Lenini is in a better place to address the media," he said during the sermon.

A few youths who had camped outside the church during the melee were arrested.

One group of agitated worshippers said they were against the new church leadership, saying the recent elections were flawed.

"Some church leaders are inviting worshippers along tribal lines in a well-orchestrated plan to loot," said Saronei Ole Dwiga, an elder who condemned the police presence.

Ms Joyce Mbugua claimed the new church leadership's chest-thumping had caused division in the church, saying the bone of contention was the church academy and church development funds.

"We don't want the current vicar, let the bishop intervene before it gets out of hand," Ms Mbugua said, vowing that the standoff would continue.

The two factions have been at each other's throats for the past three weeks since elections were held and new officials were installed.

Attempts to reach Kajiado ACK Bishop Gadiel Lenini for comment proved futile as he didn't pick up calls or respond to text messages.