What you need to know:
- One way Moi contributed to church growth was by participating in fundraisers to put up sanctuaries as well as providing general support to church staff.
- Most of these church leaders first established themselves as defenders of the faith in as far as Moi and the ruling party Kanu went.
A popular story goes that one day, Rev Denis White, the Guyana-born Canadian who was the pastor at Nairobi Pentecostal Church (now Citam) Valley Road, posed a strange question to President Daniel arap Moi as the service was going on.
“Mr President, are you a member of the Freemason?” Rev White reportedly asked Moi.
Moi, being an obedient faithful, told the pastor that he was not a Freemason but a Bible believing Christian. It was this kind of exchanges that showed the other side of Moi.
Shorn of presidential trimmings of power, Moi loved church just like your next door neighbour.
It is instructive to note that although Freemasonry is a legally registered entity known all over the world, in the minds of many Kenyans, Freemasonry and devil worship are two sides of the same coin, and being seen as belonging to any was, is worse than the Original Sin.
Always wearing his faith on his shirt sleeves, the former president fitted into any church from the Roman Catholic to any of the local offshoots of the mainstream denominations.
The former Head of State, however, seemed to have a soft spot for NPC Valley Road - every Sunday he went to seek spiritual nourishment.
Apparently, this love affair with NPC did not go down well with all and sundry. Some people questioned Moi’s real motive for always being present in the pews with other faithful.
Speaking in 2009 when he returned from Canada — where he is living in retirement — Rev White disclosed that when he started beaming sermons across the country, with the former president almost forever present in the services, some detractors thought he was subtly endorsing Moi’s leadership.
The article says that according to Rev White, there was an understanding that Moi attended the church purely for spiritual reasons and not because he would accrue political mileage from association with the church.
“I’m not a politician, and my work was not to endorse politicians,” he was quoted as saying. “Moi told me, ‘Denis, I’ve come for Service, nothing else,'" Rev White recalled in the interview.
FORTIFYING THE FAITH
In a diabolic twist of fate, Rev White himself would be accused by some of his detractors of being a Freemason.
He disclosed that being accused of Freemasonry — and by extension devil worship — as the lowest moment of his missionary life in Kenya.
Incidentally, it was the late Joab Omino — a former deputy Speaker, Kisumu Town MP, Gor Mahia patron and Kenya Football Federation supremo — who publicly confessed to being a Freemason.
This was at the Ouko Commission of Inquiry where Justice Richard Otieno Kwach asked Omino whether he was a member of the brotherhood (another name for Freemasons).
Back to Moi and his churchy ways. One way Moi contributed to church growth was by participating in fundraisers to put up sanctuaries as well as providing general support to church staff.
Early in his presidency, many churches would allow him to sit at the altar with the church leadership, but the strict nature of the Catholic Church put paid to this habit.
Consequently, the former president had on his side a contingent of church leaders who were fiercely loyal and would defend him at the slightest provocation.
Men of cloth such as Bishop Arthur Kitonga of the Redeemed Gospel Churches, Bishop Ezekiel Birech and Bishop Silas Yego of the African Inland Church, as well as Kisumu-based Washington Ogonyo Ngede, to name a few, were known to have Moi’s ear because of their closeness to him.
Most of these church leaders first established themselves as defenders of the faith in as far as Moi and the ruling party Kanu went.
On the flipside, there were those who never had the time of day for Moi, Kanu and all that therein.
David Gitari, Alexander Muge, Henry Okullu, all from the Church of the Province of Kenya (now Anglican Church of Kenya), held fast to the anti-Kanu gospel.
For their troubles, Kanu hardliners scornfully referred to their church as the Church of Politics of Kenya.
Also proving a thorn in Moi’s flesh were Mutava Musyimi of Nairobi Baptist Church and Timothy Njoya of PCEA.
In his autobiography Troubled But Not Destroyed, Gitari says that he was first and foremost a patriot who wanted the best for his motherland, hence the frequent brushes with the Moi government.