From Jesus to John the Baptist: 'Prophets' of the Mulembe nation

From left: Elijah Masinde (top), Nabii Yohana V, Jehovah Wanyonyi and Yesu wa Tongaren. [File, Standard]

Claiming to be gods, a number of sect leaders have treated the Mulembe nation (western Kenyan and parts of North Rift) to drama in the last six decades.

From ‘Prophet” Elijah Masinde of the Dini Ya Msambwa - a religious political sect that was popular from the 1960s to 1990s, to the self-proclaimed Jehovah Wanyonyi, to Nabii Yohana (V) and the latest of all, Yesu wa Tongaren, through their belief in ‘false doctrines’ and heretic teachings, their word is the law that has blinded the flock they shepherd.

The sect leaders, mainly from Bungoma County and parts of Trans Nzoia, have seen their followers go out of their way to get blessings from the ‘gods’.

In a fairy tale, some of these prophets even claim they will never die, and if they do, they will resurrect and bring salvation to humankind.

Eliud Wekesa, popularly known as Yesu wa Tongaren, hit the headlines recently after he was arrested and charged at the Bungoma Law Courts and later released. He spent five days in police cells and was freed by Bungoma Principal Magistrate Tom Orlando for lack of evidence.

Religious cult

The police accused him of running a religious cult similar to Paul Makenzi’s in Shakahola, Kilifi County, where 237 bodies have been exhumed and over 600 people are still missing. Most of Makenzi’s followers are believed to have starved themselves to death in the name of fasting to meet ‘Jesus Christ’.

The police had accused Wekesa of engaging in cultism, claiming to be Jesus Christ.

Yesu Wa Tongaren (centre) with his wife, Nabii Benjamin, at a police station when he was accused of engaging in cultism, claiming to be Jesus Christ. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Mr Wekesa, who hails from Lukhokwe village in Tongaren Constituency, Bungoma County, alleges that God visited him in a dream and told him he was the messiah the people had been waiting for to save humankind. “God came to me and gave me the name Jesus, and so I am not to be referred by the names my parents gave to me,” Mr Wekesa Told The Standard in an interview.

Unlike Jesus, who remained a Nazarite (never married), ’Yesu wa Tongaren’ has a wife with seven children whom he refers to as angels.

He owns the ‘New Jerusalem Church’ and has 12 disciples. His wife, who is among the disciples, is referred to as Nabii (Prophet) Benjamin. “My task is to preach to people to repent their sins and go before God in submission so that their names are written in the Book of Life,“ he explained.

Unlike other Christians who celebrate Easter in April, Yesu wa Tongaren and his followers do so in July of every year.

He has since released a new bible dubbed ‘The Third Testament’ that will outline how his crucifixion and death will be handled come July.

He has banned his followers from attending funerals. They should also not touch dead bodies, and those who disobey him risk getting expelled from his church.

Elective seats

In Nandolia village in Kanduyi Constituency, one Nabii Yohana (V), 82, claims to be the reincarnated John the Baptist. Nabii has 46 wives with 289 children, with the youngest of his wives being 24 years old.

He claims to have powers to heal an array of ailments, including HIV/Aids, cancer and witchcraft, and to help politicians win elective seats. His neighbours claim he can heal even mad men.

Nabii Yohana (V). He claims to be the reincarnated John the Baptist. [Juliet Omelo, Standard]

Nabii Yohana who wrote his Bible containing 93 books, uses it to preach at his Muungano Church where his flag is surrounded by 12 stones.

“I was born in Egypt, and after five years, I went to Israel, where I lived for 230 years. I later went back to my creator. I prepared the way for Jesus. I was 203-year-old the time Jesus came. I consecrated him to begin his work before I went to heaven,” said Nabii Yohana.

 “I am the way, the truth and the last prophet sent by God to save mankind from corruption, homosexuality and bad governance. When Jesus Chris was crucified, he gave me the power to raise the dead.”

The man told The Standard that Jesus was to preach and save human beings from sin for 109 years, but he had not finished his work when he was crucified. Nabii Yohana claims God later sent him, on February 15, 1941, to complete the work of Jesus Christ and bring light to Africa. The self-styled prophet alleges that God commanded him to marry 48 wives, and he is keen to obey that instruction.

“I have attended to over 70,000 people from all over the world who come to him with different problems that I have solved,” said Nabii Yohana.

“I do not charge anything for my services here. When one is healed and feels like rewarding me, then I accept but I don’t demand any payments. All my teachings are linked to the bible. I am the only man of God who is set to change the gospel of this world.”

After praying for the sick, he takes them to a nearby river and baptises them in the water, signifying the washing away of their sins. “The herbs I use sometimes to treat my clients may have side effects, and as such, I have set aside some rooms to act as wards where they rest while I pray for them, “said Nabii.

Meanwhile, followers of Jehovah Wanyonyi still offer beer and wheat flour to the man they claimed was the god who died in 2015 and was never resurrected.

The self-proclaimed god was the leader of the Lost Israelites Ministries.

Jehovah Wanyonyi. He considered Mount Elgon, located near his home, to be the biblical Mount Zion. [File, Standard]

From his base at Chemororoch village, Uasin Gishu County, he found time from his ‘heavenly’ duties to preside over 70 wives, most of whom were aged between 14 and 18 years. Jehovah Wanyonyi claimed he could cure various diseases, such as Aids, cancer and hypertension. Wanyonyi one day demanded Sh3 billion from the Kenyan government, lest he punished the country with HIV/Aids.

He considered Mount Elgon, located near his home, to be the biblical Mount Zion. “I came in a human form to redeem my people, the lost Israelites,” he told his followers in his fiery sermons.

When he died in 2015, aged 98, his followers were told to fast and await his resurrection after three days.

They are still waiting by the time we went to press. However, members of the clergy drawn from various churches in Bungoma have distanced themselves from these self-proclaimed gods and prophets.

The religious leaders claimed that all three were just confused and lacked an understanding of the Bible. “We are all followers of Christ, and there is no one who can be human and at the same time be Jesus. All these people must be ignored,” said Calistus Barasa, interfaith chairman of Bungoma County.

And who can ever forget Mary Sinaida Akatsa, the prophetess from Ebusiralo village, Luanda constituency in Vihiga County? Her father was called jogoo (Cockrel) by his peers because he loved moving up and down Luanda town with women of all kinds.

The prophetess made headlines on June 11, 1988, when she claimed she was going to bring Jesus Christ to her church in Nairobi’s Kawangware area. Akatsa, who is the founder of the Jerusalem Church of Christ, prophesied that the Messiah would drop by her church.

On a fateful day, residents of Kawangware who had woken up to the unexpected return of the Messiah, thronged her church while repenting their sins, only for a tall, bearded, barefoot man dressed in white robes, his head covered in a turban, to emerge accompanied by the self-proclaimed prophetess.