Naivasha sect where children are denied treatment, buried on church compound

The sect, popularly known as Kanitha Wa Ngai, in Maiella, Naivasha.

Photo credit: Festus Lang'o | Nation Media Group

A Naivasha-based sect is in hot water over the deaths of four children in the past four months after their parents reportedly refused to take them to hospital for vaccinations and medication because of their religious beliefs.

According to locals, members of the Church of God sect do not use modern medicine and some of them, including minors, have been suffering in silence at home from undiagnosed illnesses.

Following the recent deaths linked to the strong beliefs of the sect's followers, the public now wants the institution, located in Maiella, to be investigated by the authorities and closed down if it is found to be promoting radical cult-like teachings. 

Locals told the Nation that four sick children had been rescued from the controversial church's compound in Naivasha, with residents claiming that four others were buried in the same compound under unclear circumstances after falling ill and dying.

"The leader of the church is still at large with details emerging that some of the dead minors were buried in the church compound. Members have been exercising their pastor’s teachings of not going to hospital to seek medication when sick," revealed a resident, John Kariuki.

Recently, police and members of the public rescued four sick children and their parents were arrested for neglect. 

Area Assistant Chief Mary Njeri confirmed the arrest of the parents and the existence of the church, adding that her seniors had been informed of the church's activities.

Gilbert Njuguna, whose wife has been converted to the church, said he was suffering after one of his children died and was buried on the same day while he was away from home.

Njuguna, who is the Nyumba Kumi elder and community health promoter, revealed that sect members do not believe in taking medication.

"Church members normally prefer to engage in feverish prayers instead of taking their sick to hospital," he said.

According to residents who want the church shut down, the sect's activities appear to be driven by indoctrinated zealots.

"Most of the children, whose parents are adherents of the Church of God, mostly opt out of school after Standard Eight," another resident, Mary Wambui, told the Nation.

Some members of the church, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, told the Nation that they do not seek medical attention because of their faith.

"Faithful do not seek for medical help. Instead, we pray for healing from God. Even most of our women give birth at home," said one sect member.

The Nation found that this is not the first time that the church's followers have refused to take their sick to hospital.

The church has been operating since 2016 and its activities always come to the fore during polio or measles immunisation campaigns, when members prevent health workers from vaccinating their children.

Bernard Kamau, a resident, said the sect's membership has been gradually increasing since 2016, resulting in more suffering for children who don't have access medicines when they are sick.

"The Maiella issue must be investigated urgently by authorities. What happened in Shakahola in Kilifi earlier this year is similar to what is happening in Naivasha. I call on the government to investigate the matter before more lives are lost," Kamau warned.

A member of the church, Ann Njeri, said they would not abandon their faith, noting that their treatment and medication was in heaven and not on earth.

She confirmed the death of one of her children, saying the minor was buried in the church compound. This, she said, was normal in her daily life.

It has also emerged that some of the church members have been arrested in the past and jailed for months for refusing to take their sick children for medical treatment.

Locals say the sect members always serve their prison sentences and rejoin the church after their release.

On September 27, 2016, members of the Church of God, also popularly known as Kanitha Wa Ngai, made headlines for refusing to take their sick to hospital.

Locals in a remote village known as Kijabe in Maai Mahiu, Naivasha, were forced to intervene to take a woman who had been ill for weeks taken to hospital.

Their earlier efforts to get her to seek treatment had failed when they were confronted by the ailing woman's mother and her equally menacing grandchild.

After being turned away, they sought the help of Maai Mahiu Ward Administrator Stephen Kung'u, who intervened with the help of the police and took the sick woman to hospital.

It was a dramatic moment when the ailing woman's mother challenged the villagers, before retreating into her house.

Her 18-year-old grandson, a primary school dropout, then joined the fray, eager for a fight.

However, the teenager's antics ended when he was confronted by armed police officers. He retreated, warning those involved of dire consequences. "Mtakufa nyote (You will all die)," he said.

The incident came barely two weeks after an 11-year-old boy was admitted to Naivasha Sub-county Hospital with burns on his legs and body.

Although the Standard Five pupil suffered life-threatening burns while lighting a fire, his parents, who are members of the sect, refused to take him to hospital, citing religious beliefs. Instead, the sect followers decided to pray for him, as they do not believe in conventional medicine.

Revelations of the church's strange behaviour come at a time when the country is still in shock after more than 400 bodies were exhumed and dozens rescued in Shakahola Forest, Kilifi County, in what has now been widely described as the Shakahola massacre.

At the centre of the massacre is Pastor Paul Mackenzie, a controversial preacher who reportedly indoctrinated his followers, some of whom dropped out of school while others quit their jobs to follow a religious mirage.

Members of what has now been described as a religious cult were told to fast themselves to death with the promise of meeting Jesus.

Hundreds of followers of the controversial pastor from different parts of the country and abroad are believed to have abandoned their homes, with some selling their property before travelling to Malindi to join the killer fast.

At least 429 corpses have been exhumed.