Rogue 'pastor' sweeps village of its maize harvest

Some 15 years ago, Kamara village in Molo suffered a blow after a fake pastor disappeared with the farmers' maize harvest in a bizarre series of events that left many shocked and angry. The preacher appeared sometime in June and somehow fitted himself into a small church that had less than 20 members at the time. He came in to preach every Sunday then left till the next weekend.

His sermons were always laced with lofty economic plans. He had a deep understanding of local and world politics and never missed a chance to excite residents with this knowledge.

By the time maize was harvested in November, he had already convinced the villagers about getting them a more lucrative market for their produce.

The villagers marvelled at the chance of selling a bag of maize at more Sh3,000, three times the price offered by middlemen.

"I had harvested 25 bags and I was full of plans about how I would use the Sh75,000 I would receive for them. It was a lot of money at the time when an acre of land was going for just Sh50,000 here," says a resident who lost his entire harvest.

The pastor told the villagers that they would sell to the World Food Programme (WFP), which was supplying relief food to South Sudan.

True to his word, he came back with some papers emblazoned with the WFP logo where villagers filled in their names and number of bags they had supplied.

A 'procurement officer' from the organisation came to 'inspect' the maize collection process. The residents believed the pastor's word because this 'officer' had a diary, a cap and a shirt with the WFP logo.

"He also appeared very 'official' because he was checking for specific things. He didn't bite the grains to check the moisture content but used a small gadget that he carried in his car," the resident says.

A week later a trailer was parked outside the store and in went hundreds of bags of maize. The 'officer' gave the pastor 'kitu kidogo' for the farmers to use as they waited for the cheque to be ready.

"We got Sh40,000 from the man that we shared among those who had supplied the first batch of 400 bags." 

As the truck drove off leaving behind expectant farmers, the pastor found his place in the passenger seat. He never came back to preach that Sunday or any other Sunday since.