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Outspoken Anglican Bishop Alexander Kipsang arap Muge’s death remains a mystery

KENYA @ 50
By Kenneth Kwama | November 28th 2013
The late Anglican Bishop Alexander Kipsang arap Muge who died in an accident on August 14, 1990. [Photo: File/Standard]

By Kenneth Kwama

Kenya: On August 20, 1990, Kenya’s Labour Minister Peter Okondo did the unimaginable - he offered to resign during an era public officials were not known to quit.

Okondo was bathing in criticism following the death of the then outspoken Anglican Bishop Alexander Kipsang arap Muge.

About three days before the bishop’s death, Okondo told Muge that he would not return home alive if he dared visit Western Kenya.

The daredevil bishop took on the challenge, but true to Okondo’s threat, he did not return home alive.

Some of those who were born at the time of Muge’s death now have their own families, but the legend has refused to fade.

Many Kenyans still remember him for his efforts in championing for democracy, fight against corruption, ethnicity and land grabbing.

The clergyman was born in 1948 in Nandi County and became the first bishop of Eldoret Diocese.

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He joined a bandwagon of clerics who were critical of the excesses in government and as a result, became a marked man.

The fight for democracy intensified in the late 80s and early 90s when the call for a multi-party system of government reached fever pitch.

Death threat

Like all the Kanu boys of the time, Okondo took the war against those who were fighting for democracy personally, perhaps to show how loyal he was to the regime.

There has been speculation that Okondo did not mean it when he issued the death threat to Muge who perished in a road accident along the Eldoret-Turbo road after a visit to Busia.

A former intelligence officer, James Lando Khwatenge, who worked with the Special Branch in Eldoret at the time, reportedly told the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) that the clergyman was killed by police officers who were sent directly from Nairobi to “finish” the outspoken bishop and to use an accident used for cover up.

Khwatenge was widely quoted in the media as saying that the bishop’s death on August 14, 1990, was the final job on what police called Operation Shika Msumari.

He said Kanu loyalists who wanted to assassinate Muge merely seized threats issued by the former Labour minister against the bishop and used him as a scapegoat.

TJRC listened to the former intelligence officer while conducting hearings on unresolved political murders since independence.

The bishop was killed when a milk truck crashed into his car as he was returning home after visiting Busia.

No evidence was, however, presented to show that his death was anything but an accident.

The driver of the truck was charged with causing his death through reckless driving and sentenced to seven years in prison, but he died after serving only five years.

The attorney general ordered an inquest in response to the public outcry over his death and widespread suggestions of foul play, but nothing came out of the inquiry.

The clergyman was famous for fighting corruption, land grabbing, political assassinations, bureaucracy and other social ills and did not confine the fight for what he believed in to Kenya’s borders.

Bishop Muge is also remembered over his open stand against homosexuality made on May 17, 1990 during a visit to the USA. He based his condemnation on classical understanding of the scriptures.

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