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'Bomb Pastor' charged, fails to raise bond

Updated Tuesday, July 20th 2010 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Nancy Akinyi and Cyrus Ombati

John Kamau Mbugua, the 50-year-old pastor allegedly caught with bomb-making material over the weekend, spent the night in the cells after failing to raise a Sh500,000 bond and surety of a similar amount. Police also beefed up security in his rural home amid tension over his safety.

Kiambu OCPD Samuel Mukinda said they feared villagers could attack Kamau if and when he arrived home following his release on bail.

"We are taking precautions because we are informed there is a problem in his village," said Mukindia on the phone.

John Kamau Mbugua, the 50-year-old pastor allegedly caught with bomb-making material

He said Kamau’s Keratina home was tense with fears he could be attacked if and when he went there.

The Kibera courtroom exploded into life when the pastor entered. On normal days, the courtroom is usually a dull affair, but yesterday was different for everyone present as the "man of God" walked to the dock in handcuffs.

A calm Pastor Mbugua arrived in court shortly before 9am under the tight escort of police officers from the Anti-terrorist unit. He looked slightly dazed by all the attention lavished on him; probably more than he ever mustered in church, albeit for the wrong reasons.

He was driven to the venue in a special van and walked into a courtroom packed with journalists, cameras and members of the public keen to catch a glimpse of the man dubbed "The Bomb Pastor" by police.

Even suspects awaiting the hearing of their cases on unrelated matters, and who had no idea what was about to unfold, were clearly intrigued by the "man of God" in the dock.

Also packing the court were journalists and curious members of the public, all eager to get a glimpse of the man whose face first burst into public limelight on the pages of The Standard yesterday. The story had been the talk of most FM radio stations in the morning, increasing interest in the case.

The pastor, who is also a nominated councilor in Githunguri, was charged alongside quarry worker Samwel Chege Gitau and a student at Pentecostal Computer College John Chege Kamau.

Clad in his official religious collar and a silver shirt , Pastor Mbugua stood pensively in the dock, as tens of cameras flashed away to capture his image.

The man of the collar pleaded not guilty to the charge was read to him, smiling and boldly answering: "I am not guilty your honour."

He allegedly ministered at Victory Church in Githunguri, which has since disowned him. Interestingly, Pastor Mbugua opted to represent himself in court

The charge against him read: "That on July 17, 2010, at 3.45pm at Karura forest in Kiambu, jointly with others not before court, without reasonable excuse had in his possession explosive materials intended to be used for purposes prejudicial to public order.

The said explosives were listed as two kilos of ammonium nitrate, one aluminium detonator and two feet of red safety fuse.

Kibera Senior Principal Magistrate Grace Nzioka slapped a Sh500,000 on him plus a surety of a similar amount.

Immediately the pastor raised his hand and pleaded with the court to reduce the bond, saying Sh500,000 was on the higher side.

But the Magistrate stood her ground, saying that the bond term was appropriate given the section of the law — Section 89(1) of the Penal Code — under which the suspects had been charged.

The offence attracts a penalty of not less than seven years imprisonment. The magistrate said that in setting the bond terms, she had considered the penalty that the offence would attract if any of the suspects were found guilty.

"The bond term should be higher, but because the court gives you the benefit of doubt, it is appropriate in the circumstances unless you want me to enhance it," the magistrate said.

He was later led back to the cells awaiting to process his bond. His co-accused, Gitau and Kamau, admitted that they had the explosives, but said their intention was not to disrupt public order as alleged.

The two told court that they were quarry workers, and the explosives were intended to help them blast rocks at their place of work.

Mrs Nzioka stated that there was no way the two could plead guilty to part of the charge and deny the rest.

She entered a plea of not guilty for the duo, also until August 24, when the case against them will be heard.

Police stated that acting on a tip off, they laid an ambush after being informed that a motor vehicle loaded with explosives was on its way to Nairobi from Kiambu, and intercepted the suspects in Karura forest.

Pastor Mbugua was arrested with a quarryman as he drove him to Githunguri , where he was allegedly to take him through the steps of assembling the explosives.

His Githunguri County Council colleagues, who are not sure whether he is in the ‘No’ or Yes’ camp were shocked to learn of his alleged involvement with the said explosives.

Police have denied claims that the explosives in question were intended for use in a quarry at Mbo-I-Kamiti as alleged adding that the explosives were heading towards Nairobi from Kiambu and not Ruiru.

Three police officers have been listed as witnesses in the case. Anti-terrorism police chief Nicholas Kamwende, say that anti terrorism is a war that all Kenyans should join to win.

Yesterday, a group of 30 councillors from Githunguri County Council disowned their colleague at a press briefing.

Led by council chairman Macdonald Goko, the civic leaders said they were shocked to learn that Pastor Mbugua had been offered bail.

"He does not belong to the society, if those are the things he thinks about. We as a council have disowned his activities, and urged the state to take firm action on him," said Goko.

The chairman, who said he was speaking on behalf of the entire Githunguri region, branded Pastor Mbugua a ‘No’ man in the campaigns on the Proposed Constitution.

He cited recent meetings held in the area to drum up support for the document, saying Kamau never attended any of them.

"We have been councilors from the entire Kiambu region holding rallies here but he did not attend any of them. We all see him as a "No" man with his masters," said Goko on the phone.

Another councilor in the area Gitau Kagwi, said they would fight to ensure Githunguri is not demonised through Pastor Mbugua’s actions.

Kagwi alleged that Pastor Mbugua who joined the council in 2008 had been calling himself ‘reverend’, ‘pastor’ and ‘bishop’, but they were unsure if indeed he was a "man of God".

"We did not know even that he was a pastor. We were informed he had been chased from his church recently because of his behaviour," said Kagwi.

Officials at the Vision Victory Church claimed Pastor Mbugua was excommunicated from the institution after he tried to impose himself as the lead bishop.

Kamau wanted to oust head bishop of the church Amos Njoroge Wainaina.

The locals said they could not recall when he went to a theological college to attain the title of ‘pastor’.

After he was excommunicated, he started a splinter church in the area, but closed it few months later in unclear circumstances. It was then, in 2008, that he was nominated to the council on a PNU ticket.