Curtains fall on Kabonokia sect’s leader

Members of Kabonokia sect pray during a Sunday service on September 8, 2019 at the home of their leader Gitonga M’Mpunguru in Irunduni village,Tharaka North.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Gitonga M’Mpunguru led faithful for over 50 years.

Members of Kabonokia sect, which has its roots in Tharaka-Nithi, Meru, Embu and Kitui counties, have been thrown into a spiritual tailspin after their self-declared leader Gitonga M’Mpunguru died.

The 71-year-old resident of Irunduni village in Tharaka-Nithi died last Thursday after falling ill the previous day. The man, whose faith does not subscribe to modern medicine,  was buried almost immediately as sect doctrines dictate. 

The fate of the sect, whose doctrines also consider national identity cards, birth certificates and education as 'satanic', now hangs in the balance.

To the thousands of Kabonokia faithful, M’Mpunguru, who has led the sect in Mt Kenya region for more than 50 years, has not died but “left the sinful world and transformed into a spirit to live with the angels”.

The church’s regional head- quarters is at M’Mpunguru’s home, where the faithful congregate on Sundays to worship.

Since they don’t build churches, men, women and children sit on logs under a makeshift structure made of poles and maize stalks as the roof just to protect them from the sweltering sun that Tharaka-Nithi is known for.

Since his demise, about 2,000 sect members from across Mt Kenya region have been camping at the home of the spiritual leader — not mourning him but praying to God to reveal through a vision, the successor of M’ Mpunguru.

The sect’s activities have always captured the country’s attention especially when faithful are arrested in their tens for failing to take their young children for immunisation.

Last year, the sect was in the news after its members declined to be listed for the government’s Huduma Namba, claiming it was a satanic ritual. They had also declined to be reveal their details during the national census.

Last October, at least 11 candidates in Tharaka North who dropped out of school earlier in the year after their parents joined the sect did not turn up for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination.

When journalists visited his home on Sunday, his followers declined to speak about the death of their leader and maintained that their sole business was to pray for revelation of their next leader.

Mr James Musyoka from Kitui said they will continue praying until they get another leader.

He said M’Mpunguru had led them well for the many years despite immense ‘faith challenges’ posed by police and government officers, “who force us to sin by engaging in earthly things like going to school, seeking medical services, acquiring identity cards and the recent national census exercise”.