Crisis after court stops PAG church election, refers matter to mediators

The High Court has put on hold the Pentecostal Assemblies of God church’s elections over wrangles.

This follows two petitions by four members of the PAG church, who termed the exercise discriminatory and unconstitutional.

The petitioners want certain clauses in the church’s constitution amended before new leaders are picked.

On Friday Justice Jesse Njagi upheld orders issued on November 8, last year barring the General Superintendent Patrick Musungu from organising the election until the suit is determined.

Earlier orders

Mr Njagi said respondents - Rev Musungu, Attorney General and the Registrar of Societies - had not appealed earlier orders by a Nairobi court that prevented the elections.

The judge ordered deputy registrar of societies to constitute a mediation team to negotiate the matter out of court and submit a progress report on January 7.

PAG holds elections every five years. This year’s elections had been planned for December 6, as per a notice the General Superintendent issued on July 11.

Two petitions seeking to block the elections had been filed in Nairobi and Kisumu before they were consolidated and referred to the High Court in Kakamega.

The petitioners - Elijah Kathiari, Daniel Nyakundi, Mark Kakai and Solomon Kipkemboi - have termed clauses they want changed repugnant.

They said the constitution enacted in 1998 was outdated and not consistent with the country’s laws.

Through lawyer Arnold Oginga, petitioners say the clauses are discriminatory, unreasonable and curtail fundamental rights and freedoms of church members.

They claim the constitution has not been amended or reviewed even after various laws were enacted, including the 2010 Constitution.

They have taken an issue with Clause 12.4, which creates positions of General Superintendent, General Secretary and General Treasurer. The clause says holders of the mentioned offices shall be men not younger than 40 years of age.

Petitioners say this clause discriminates against members on the basis of age and gender by barring women and youths from vying for these positions.

At the same time, only pastors are allowed to elect holders of the offices, which the petitioners say locks other members from voting.

They say Clause 7, which states that an assembly shall comprise not less than 50 adults, is against those under 18.

“An election is not a one off event. We want the election to take place but after repugnant sections of the church constitution have been amended to conform with the Kenyan Constitution,” said Oginga.

The petitioners have castigated Registrar of Societies “for failing to suspend or cancel registration of the church, whose constitution does not conform to the country’s laws.

They have accused Musungu of opening an illegal bank account and including two signatories who are not supposed to be church endorsers.

“Opening and operating an account without involving church members as per the constitution is an illegality and an avenue to misappropriate funds. It constitutes a criminal offence,” reads the petition.

Respondents, through lawyer Aggrey Musiega, asked court to lift orders barring the elections, arguing that most members wanted the church to hold elections under the current constitution and allow amendments thereafter. “Most members are of the opinion elections should be conducted as per superintendent’s notice since two of the petitioners have withdrawn from the petition,” he said.

Term expired

Musiega said the current leadership’s term expired on December 6, adding that failure to hold elections might plunge the church into chaos and make amending the constitution impossible.

He expressed concern that petitioners moved to court three months after elections notice had been issued.

Musiega said Registrar of Societies and the Attorney General had pronounced themselves on the matter, saying amendments would be impossible with remaining time.

Mediators will hear the matter in a month’s time.

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PAG churchelections