Pastor Ezekiel's followers vow to stand with him, say arrest a witch hunt

Pastor Ezekiel Odero.

Televangelist Ezekiel Odero.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

The arrest of Kilifi Televangelist Ezekiel Odero of the New Life Church Centre, Mavueni has paralyzed business activities at a trading centre adjacent to the church.

Many shops and food kiosks were closed in Mavueni, apart from a few targeting some of the followers who did not travel to their homes and are still looking forward to the release of Mr Odero, and workers at an ongoing multi-billion construction project in the area.

The police are linking the preacher with Shakahola cult leader Paul Mackenzie of the Good News International Ministries in Malindi. The police are investigating the two preachers over the Shakahola massacre.

The followers who gathered around the church praised the preacher for his healing powers saying many people come from hospitals to seek healing at the church. Even after the government closed the church on Thursday, Mr Odero’s followers were still around.

The agitated worshippers, shouting at random, claimed that the preacher’s arrest and murder allegations against him are a witch-hunt, and promised to fight for his release in solidarity.

They expressed hope the courts would release Pastor Ezekiel to continue his ministerial work.

“All that is going on is witch haunting, but we are ready for anything. We will match to Court on Tuesday and come out with Pastor Ezekiel,” a follower said.

They said pastor Ezekiel fed the hungry and supported vulnerable families with shelter and sponsored bright and needy children to school.

The followers faulted the County Government of Kilifi for failing to defend him even as he faced murder accusations.

“We are not happy at all. Our Pastor used to order trucks of maize flour from millers and other foodstuffs to feed people who were starving. But Kilifi County has not come out to speak about this while people are crucifying our leader,” another follower said.

The men and women said Pastor Ezekiel had not held them against their wish.

“We are adults, and no one locked us in a room, but the police arrested us while praying. We are angry with the government and will match to Mombasa on Tuesday,” said a woman.

A businesswoman operating guest houses said the arrest of Pastor Ezekiel and news linking him to the Shakahola massacre had instilled fear in their customers.

“My customers book their rooms, and they spend several days. They keep calling me to ask if they are safe because of the death allegations [against the local preacher],” she said.

Security guards at the New Life Church, Mavueni, had blocked the way to the church.

The guards had taken charge of the security at the way, and only people going to the church premises were allowed in.

They were alert and chased away anyone they suspected was not their follower.

"We are not allowing anyone even across the roads because this is private property," said a guard.

One of the security officers told journalists that they would allow journalists on the premises if they came with a court order.

“The people you see in those vehicles are students in our school, but we have instructions not to allow anyone here.

“We will only allow journalists if they present a court order because we are just doing what the government has instructed us to do,” the Chief Security Officer, Musa Mbwengo, said.

The security men armed with walkie-talkies disclosed that they were disappointed in the media for failing to highlight the positives about the preacher.

Mr Mbwengo, said the church dismissed people after the arrest.

“There are no prayers, and we released the worshippers to go home after the church was closed, and everybody knows the whereabouts of Pastor Ezekiel,” he said.