Kakamega bishop gifted car by DP Ruto in September dies


Shem Shamalla died aged 84. [Willy Lusige, Standard]

African Church of the Holy Spirit high priest Shem Shamalla is dead.

Shamalla, 84, died on Wednesday morning, October 27, at his Malava home in Kakamega County.

The church’s secretary, Bishop Samson Khalwale, told The Standard that Shamalla died after a short illness.

The church’s doctrines do not allow the bodies of its members to be preserved in morgues.

Deputy President William Ruto hands over a new car that he donated to the African Church of the holy spirit high priest Shem Shamalla at Malava in Kakamega on September 18, 2021. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

That means Shamalla’s body will be preserved at home until Saturday, October 30, his burial day.

Shamalla hit the news on September 18, 2021, when Deputy President William Ruto gifted him a Suzuki Escudo, a sport utility vehicle.

Deputy President William Ruto with the African Church of the Holy Spirit leaders led by high priest Shem Shamalla before donating a new car to them on September 18, 2021. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The DP visited the church as part of his countrywide campaigns ahead of the 2022 General Election.

“His deputy Alex Misiko would have taken over but he is serving a suspension. The likely scenario is that the church’s council of elders will have to make a decision on who will fill his leadership post. But there’s no hurry to that,” said Job Mukangai, who runs communication tasks at the church.

Shamala, 84, will be remembered for being a frequent visitor at Ruto’s Sugoi residence which is a short distance from Malava where his church sits.

In his last public speech when he hosted the DP at the Church in Tumbeni village, Malava made an appeal to the President to have a "handshake" with his deputy for the sake of a peaceful 2022 election.

“It is biblically acceptable for brothers to live in peace as attested by Psalm 133.  President Uhuru [Kenyatta] and Ruto were elected on a joint ticket and it is prudent that their friendship remains,” he said on September 18, 2021, before receiving the car donation from the DP.

Church’s members had pleaded with Ruto, saying their High Priest was “always hiking rides on bodabodas”, which prompted him to gift him the vehicle to “ease his missionary wor".

Shamala and his members in turn gave the DP a cow in return.

He was the fifth High Priest of the church which started in 1927 and has a majority of its following in Malava subcounty in Kakamega.

Although not official the body of the High Priest will be buried on Saturday at a “holy” ground at the church in Kakamega.

Shamalla rose to the throne of the church’s leadership in 2014 after beating opponents in a highly contested church election.

The African Church of the Holy Spirit

The African Church of the Holy Spirit, headquartered in Malava, has a membership of approximately 2,000 people.

The World Council of Churches states that the African Church of the Holy Spirit came into being in 1927, as the result of a split in the Friends African Mission.

This was caused by a Pentecostal revival led by a missionary who baptized people in the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands. Converts spoke in tongues.

The council adds that they were expelled from the mission and the ACHS was officially established as an independent church in 1933.

In the years following, the church faced great hardships and persecution. It was registered as a religious community in 1957.

Holy Communion is not celebrated because the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer takes the place of the eucharist.

The leaders of the church are elected by the members and carry the title of the high priest. Members are identified by a cross on their clothes. 

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