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Kenya’s Past as Prologue

Christian Thibon
Marie-Aude Fouéré
Mildred Ndeda
et al.

Bishop Margaret Wanjiru and the 2013 Kenyan Elections: Between Politics of the Spirit and Expanding Entrepreneurship

Yonatan N. Gez et Tanya Alvis

Texte intégral

“Politics is about governance, politics is about leadership. Church is about governance, church is about leadership. […] So for me, it’s about leadership, it’s not about religion.” (Bishop Margaret Wanjiru on Capital FM, February 8, 2013)


1In November 2012, after a period of speculations over her political future, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, standing at the pulpit of her Jesus Is Alive Ministries (JIAM) church in Nairobi, announced her intentions to run for the position of the governor of Nairobi in the upcoming 2013 elections on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket. She was to be the first woman to vie for this position, created as part of the extensive structural changes resulting from the new 2010 constitution (Citizen TV, November 18, 2012). By then, Wanjiru’s political career had been nothing short of remarkable. As early as 2003 she had begun to expand her operations outside the church and its immediate business ventures (Parsitau, 2011: 135). In 2007, Wanjiru was elected MP on an ODM ticket for Starehe Constituency, an area in the North Eastern part of Nairobi. In 2008, Wanjiru was appointed Assistant Minister for Housing, and in 2010 she successfully reclaimed her Starehe seat after bi-elections were called following a petition filed in the courts by her 2007 rival, Maina Kamanda. Throughout these proceedings, Wanjiru maintained her leadership role in the church. Her political rise seemed all the more impressive considering her unorthodox starting point, to which she herself often alludes: a poor background, a self-made woman in a men’s world, a single mother, and the founder and leader of one of Nairobi’s leading Pentecostal congregations. On top of these all, in light of ethnic rivalries that culminated in the post-elections violence of early 2008, the association of the Kikuyu bishop with ODM, a dominantly Luo party, has been an unlikely choice.

  • 1 Other religious candidates in 2007 have included Kamlesh Pattni, the architect of the Goldenberg sc (...)
  • 2 In addition to Wanjiru, the 2013 elections saw a wide array of Christian leaders from across the co (...)

2In recent years, scholars have noted that Kenyan clergymen, and above all Pentecostal leaders, have been increasingly hankering after political positions (Cheeseman, 2008; Kavulla, 2008; Gifford, 2009; Droz and Maupeu, 2013). In that regard, the success of the Christian lobby in rallying support for blocking the 2005 constitutional referendum was a sign of encouragement for religious leaders seeking to engage in national affairs (Gifford, 2009; Droz and Maupeu, 2013). At the same time however, such involvement might be traced further back in time, to the churches’ involvement in the fight for democratization in the 1990s (Sabar, 2002; Knighton, 2009). Kenya’s 2007 elections have thus seen a new phenomenon of church leaders running for political office. This included most notably the candidacy of Wanjiru herself, as well as that of fellow Pentecostal, Pastor Pius Muiru of Maximum Miracles Centre, who ran for presidency and performed dismally.1 The 2013 elections saw an additional rise in the number of candidates drawn from the ranks of clergy.2

3In this chapter we raise the question as to how we should understand the growing trend of Kenyan church leaders, and Pentecostals above all, doubling as politicians. We appeal to the case of Bishop Wanjiru, which has already attracted some scholarly attention (Parsitau, 2011; Kalu, 2008: 150-152; Kavulla, 2008; Gifford, 2009; Gathogo, 2011; Mwaura, 2002). Using Wanjiru’s 2013 campaign as a case study, we isolate two ‘strands’ inherent in neo-Pentecostalism as well as in Wanjiru’s own discourse and conduct, either of which can offer possible explanations for expanding one’s operation beyond the church and into the political arena. The first strand is made of spiritual ideals grounded in the idea of being an agent of a ‘Godly plan’ and a member of a ‘righteous class’, whereas the second strand is associated with a pragmatic entrepreneurial spirit. Through examination of the two strands, and recognizing their inherent tension, we offer a reading of Wanjiru’s 2013 campaign and her eventual failure, both at the polls and in the eyes of the public. More broadly, we use this case study to articulate a general argument concerning the neo-Pentecostal movement, whose claims to be a vehicle of untarnished divine authority, often conflicts with its embrace of ‘worldly’ and pragmatic modes of operation.

Pentecostalism and politics: identifying two strands

4In his book on Pentecostalism and politics, Amos Yong (2010) suggests that Pentecostalism’s political engagement speaks in ’many tongues’ and shows how Pentecostals through the years have been taking political, apolitical, and counter-political stands. The grain of counter-political Pentecostalism is found in devotees’ embrace of a global identity that challenges the dominance of ethnic, national and other social constructs in identity politics (Alexander, 2005). And yet, despite Pentecostalism’s by and large apolitical approach during its formative stages in the early 20th century, in recent years, politics and other public affairs have increasingly become incorporated into Pentecostal theology and considerations, especially with what is regarded as “third wave” Pentecostalism or neo-Pentecostalism (Freston, 1995, 2004; Cartledge, 2010). Thus, in their study of Pentecostalism as a socially engaged movement, Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori distinguish between a Pentecostalism which has “often been otherworldly, emphasizing personal salvation to the exclusion of any attempt to transform social reality,” and what they term “Progressive Pentecostalism,” which “also believes that Christians are called to be good neighbors, addressing the social needs of people in their community” (Miller and Yamamori, 2007: 2). Pentecostal thinkers such as Eldin Villafañe evoke such terms as “politics of the Spirit,” arguing that the Holy Spirit’s agenda for God’s creation can unfold within existing political structures (Villafañe, 1996; Steigenga, 2001). We should keep in mind that the vast majority of Pentecostals today live in the Global South where inadequate state provisions urge churches to take a proactive role in providing alternative services (Meagher, 2009; Piot, 2010).

5In Kenya, neo-Pentecostalism has been enormously successful in penetrating the religious landscape at least since the 1980s (Parsitau and Mwaura, 2010; Daily Nation, DN2, February 13, 2013: 2-3). As elsewhere in Africa, where religion and politics are closely interlinked (Mary, 2008), Kenya has also seen Pentecostalism increasingly establishing itself in the public sphere (Parsitau, 2008; Droz and Maupeu, 2013). An approach founded on “political culture” (White, 1984; Patterson, 2004), which recognizes that political and social outcomes are determined in large part by the shared beliefs and values of people and subgroups, might predict a successful rise in Pentecostal politics in Kenya, aligned with the movement’s spread and the growth of its social visibility. Such a view is supported by Partisau’s (2008) argument that Kenya’s ‘Pentecostal Constituency’ has grown exponentially both numerically and institutionally and as such has become a force to be reckoned with in national politics, forming a “critical election mass that can be easily mobilised by its influential leaders” (Partisau, 2008: 15).

6In examining Pentecostalism and neo-Pentecostalism’s political operation, we identify two strands justifying such an alleged cross-over. One such strand aligns Pentecostals’ political program with the notion of “politics of the spirit” (Villafañe, 1996; Steigenga, 2001). According to this approach, engaging in politics can pose a spiritual and moral alternative to the corrupt, secular political system, while at the same time promoting a particular religious agenda. Proponents of this view believe that religious ideals are able to rise above earthly ills as they are driven by noble spiritual concerns, bringing into politics higher moral standing, firmly grounded in religious teachings. Such qualities could form a bulwark against rampant sleaze and corruption, and pose an alternative to the clientelism and tribalism-related nepotism common in Kenya’s neo-patrimonial state (Gifford, 2009; Wariboko, 2012). In that sense, such crossover can be seen as part of the “pentecostalisation of the public sphere” (Parsitau, 2008: 22), prompted by a desire “to sanitize Kenyan politics” and to “bring some morals back to political life” (Parsitau, 2008: 26).

7Yet a second strand for understanding the involvement of religious leaders in politics would see this move as an extension of one’s frame of leadership. Here we follow scholarly observations that contend that neo-Pentecostals are “among the most enterprising entrepreneurs of the religious world” (Anderson, 2004: 280). As Paul Gifford argues, referring to Wanjiru among others, the Pentecostal entrepreneurial spirit often revolves around a charismatic leader, who represents “an entire new class of religious professional, the church founder-owner-leader” (Gifford, 2009: 154). Such an approach is distinct from the former, for here we speak less of a crossover between spheres and more of a collapse of boundaries between social, political and religious leaderships. The danger of this strand, as we will show, is that, by collapsing the differences between spheres, we are left wondering whether religion remains distinct and uncontaminated enough, as it were, to serve as a moral alternative to the corruption associated with Kenyan politics. Such a view is supported by a large number of Kenyans, who argue with dismay that religion has become “just like a business”, that is to say, an entrepreneurial venture whose true motives are self-serving.

8It might be argued that these two strands are in fact complementary, since both subscribe to some of the basic tenets of the neo-Pentecostal movement, which emphasize the notion of a struggle between good and evil made concrete in the world as well as the encouragement of entrepreneurial spirit (Anderson, 2004: 144-165). However, as we intend to show, the two are not without tension. It is with these two strands in mind that we now turn to our case study, starting with a description of Wanjiru’s 2013 campaign.

Bishop Wanjiru and the 2013 elections

  • 3 Visit to the church, February 5, 2012.
  • 4 Visit to the church, April 8, 2012. This example is also telling of the ambiguity of such initiativ (...)

9Kenya’s 2013 elections stood in the shadow of the 2008 post-election violence that had swept the nation and left up to 1,500 dead. Some of the responsibility for the violence was placed on the doorstep of religious institutions and leaders who, before the 2007 elections, came out supporting particular candidates, thus fueling tensions between communities. It has further been suggested that the churches have failed to work as a unifying power and as a bulwark against ethnic violence. Following these horrific events, the churches went into a period of reflection. The run-up to the 2013 elections was thus marked by various programs in plea for national unity, some of them operating from within churches. For instance, Nairobi Chapel ran a pre-elections program in which episodes from the history of the Israelites were evoked to shed light on Kenya’s inter-tribal rivalries.3 In addition, many churches initiated prayer sessions and even fasting in plea for peace. The Nairobi Baptist Church had a fixed pre-elections program in which every week, during the main service, a different county was being prayed for.4 Multiple initiatives and prayers for peace also ran throughout the country using public media. As Bishop David Oginde of Nairobi Pentecostal Church (NPC) observed during a televised interreligious forum, referring in particular to the practice of politicians using churches as a podium for promoting their own candidacy:

If you are keen in observing, you will notice that this has greatly reduced. It is not eliminated but it is greatly reduced. If you compare this year with the 2007 for example, you hardly notice any church group or any church leader that are praying for, endorsing any particular candidates. This is because the church took a definite, made a definite decision, not to do that. We had a meeting and we agreed –we pray generally for the elections to be peaceful, we pray for our members who are campaigning that God may go before them, but that is general prayer. So the kind of thing that we saw in 2007 where there were prophecies, there were direct endorsements, there were direct callings on God to say this is your chosen servant, that kind of thing, you will notice that this time around, that is not (Citizen TV, February 16, 2013).

  • 5 The endorsement of candidates by religious organizations was evident in the case of Muslim leadersh (...)

10Despite such non-partisan rhetoric, on the ground, questions were raised as to how strictly the promises of impartiality were actually kept, throwing into question religious leaders’commitment to help steering the country off on a new course.5As for politicians themselves, while they may have been more careful this time around, many were still using religious platforms to promote their own candidacy even as they were talking of unity. As one member of JIAM aptly put it, politicians try “to win votes from the congregation, because all of the sudden you can see all these politicians are going from church to church, all over the country”. Another member of JIAM remarked that “their interest is not to build the church; their interest is we build them. We choose them, we elect them, they need your votes, that’s all”.

11At JIAM, already during the 2007 campaign, Wanjiru mobilized much of her supporters from the church. If her claim that 20,000 members of her church were also eligible Starehe voters is even remotely true, then it gave a significant boost to her election (The Standard, November 5, 2006). This mobilization of church supporters continued during the 2013 campaign, for instance when a senior leader at the church, Reverend Danson, openly endorsed Wanjiru from the podium, and encouraged the congregation to vote for her as ODM’s nominated candidate for the Nairobi gubernatorial seat (JIAM morning service, December 30, 2012). Wanjiru herself spoke along similar lines, proposing to her congregation that “if you do not know who to vote for, call the numbers on the screen and we will tell you who to vote for” (JIAM morning service, January 13, 2013). JIAM has also had publicized visits from politicians, including most prominently from Raila Odinga, William Ruto, and Wanjiru’s former rival Evans Kidero, who was later rumored to have cast a spell on Wanjiru whilst receiving prayers from her (informal discussion following JIAM morning service, January 20, 2013). But even when politics was not the order of the day at JIAM, Wanjiru’s political struggle was brought in implicitly. Thus, once Wanjiru lost her chance to vie for the position of governor and was instead nominated for the senator’s position, the theme for the corresponding JIAM service, presented by the visiting Ugandan Apostle Richard Mayanja, explored the idea whereby whenever one door closes another one opens (JIAM morning service, February 3, 2013).

  • 6 See Wanjiru’s brief biography on JIAM’s website, (...)

12Of the many church leaders running for office in 2013, it is safe to say that the one that attracted most attention was Wanjiru. Despite the fact that Wanjiru “often tells her life story during her sermons” (Kalu, 2008: 150), that “most news articles about her feature a retelling of her biography” (Kavulla, 2008: 258) and that “her personal history figures prominently on her half-hour Sunday broadcast on Family TV” (Kavulla, 2008: 258), there is a limit to how much can be said with certainty about her biography. As Kavulla suggests in an article devoted to exploring Wanjiru’s figure, “[t] here is a gap between who Wanjiru once was and who she has now become, and in between her story becomes murky” (Kavulla, 2008: 257). Margaret Wanjiru Kariuki is said to have been born in 1961 and brought up in a lower class Kikuyu family in the outskirts of Nairobi. The first half of her life was a struggle, a period during which she kept odd jobs including cleaning, had three children out of wedlock, and – according to her own admission – became a skillful user of witchcraft. Having ended up working for a marketing firm, Wanjiru gave her life to Christ in 1990 during a crusade led by Nigerian self-confessed former Satanist Emmanuel Eni (Gifford, 2009: 116), and started preaching along Aga Khan Walk on Harambee Street in downtown Nairobi. She soon gathered a group of supporters and laid the foundation for what would eventually become JIAM. In the church, Wanjiru is delivering an energetic, down-to-earth brand of prosperity gospel. For Wanjiru, her biography is a telling source both of her divine favors and of her extraordinary determination and entrepreneurial skills.6 In 1997, Wanjiru was ordained pastor and in 2002 was ordained bishop by Bishop Arthur Gitonga of Redeemed Gospel. Setting aside the problem of authority associated with Pentecostal ordinations, Wanjiru is said to have been the first Kenyan woman to be ordained a Pentecostal bishop (Parsitau, 2011: 134).

  • 7 See JIAM’s homepage at:
  • 8 See JIAM’s homepage at:
  • 9 Following complaints by our interviewees at JIAM about lack of transparency concerning the allocati (...)

13From her position today, Wanjiru commands an impressive range of activities. In 1998, she had moved JIAM to its current location at the central Haile Selassie Avenue in downtown Nairobi, in a hall that can host thousands. That same year, she started her televised show, “The Glory Is Here,” a term which also became her catchphrase (The Star, September 16, 2011). Today, JIAM “runs a branch of the Good Samaritan Project, a Bible school, Faith Digest magazine, a cafeteria, Glory Development Fund, and a fleet of buses” (Parsitau, 2011: 134). The church, which claims branches in many countries, including Uganda, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, Tanzania and Malawi, boasts around 20,000 members locally and internationally (Parsitau, 2011: 134; Gathogo, 2011: 10), and runs fifteen to twenty services throughout the week.7 It is clear therefore that “[b] esides being a televangelist, Wanjiru is also a shrewd businesswoman” (Parsitau, 2011: 134). More recently, Wanjiru announced the ambitious ‘Glory Twin Towers’ project, that would consist of two modern towers – 12 floors each, connected by a flyover – that will replace JIAM’s current dilapidated building. In the spirit of Wanjiru’s entrepreneurship, the towers are aimed to be more than a church, and to include, alongside a “main church auditorium, college and children’s church” a “five star hotel with dedicated health facilities e.g. Swimming pool, Sauna and Gym; Banking Halls, Supermarket, Conference facilities; Office Space; Basement Parking”.8 Looking at the project’s design, the towers resemble office blocks more than anything else, and certainly more than a church.9

  • 10 Kamangu died in October 2008, while his court case against Wanjiru was still pending. Due to the ti (...)

14Despite her success, Wanjiru is no stranger to controversies, scandals and rumors. While the bishop lives as a single woman and mother, a certain Mr. James Kamangu Ndimu caused a stir in 2007 as he surfaced and publically claimed, to Wanjiru’s dismay, to be her common-law husband and father of her children. This saga unfolded “like a soap-opera” (Gifford 2009: 164) in the Kenyan media, and made a splash nationally.10 But even after the matter has been silenced, Wanjiru remained in the headlines. In 2011 she was banned from conducting marriages by the Senior Deputy Registrar of Marriages FSM Ng’ang’a. When asked about the issue, Wanjiru claimed that the ban was due to her still being registered as a pastor at Redeemed Gospel, and that she simply needed to go through the bureaucratic procedure of cancelling her previous license. However, questions over this explanation have been raised (The Star, September 16, 2011). In 2012, Wanjiru, in her capacity as the Assistant Minister for Housing, was suspected of illegally grabbing houses, two under her own name and one in the name of JIAM (Daily Nation, March 18, 2012). Although she was officially cleared, our interviews with JIAM members showed that some questions remained unanswered.

15The murkiness of Wanjiru’s biography was to get her into trouble once again upon her decision to run for the governorship of Nairobi. According to the Kenyan constitution, anyone vying for the position of governor must be in possession of a university degree from an institution recognized by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Furthermore, the constitution stipulates that any party found to be contravening this law is committing a criminal offence. It is in light of such serious repercussions that several ODM members petitioned the chairman of the party’s electoral board and the party secretary, Franklin Bett and Anyang Nyong’o respectively, to investigate allegations against Wanjiru. Commonly referred to as the “Honorable Bishop Doctor,” Wanjiru alleges to have studied at the United Graduate College and Seminary International and at the Harvester Bible College in the United States, where she had obtained, in 2003, a doctorate in Divinity. However, both these institutes have not been recognized by the Board of Higher Education as certified institutes of higher learning. Wanjiru herself argued that she has been “crucified” by her opponents, who feared her popularity, and that the American institutes where she purportedly had gone to school have not been recognized because of discrimination against theological institutions (CitizenTV, January 29, 2013). She further argued that, in fact, she has five degrees–two taught degrees and three honorary ones–but was unable to convince the board, that went as far as questioning Wanjiru’s high school diploma (The Standard, January 6, 2013). Neither did she enjoy the support of the general public, who was skeptical on how she could have been sitting through classes for years in the United States whilst preaching in Nairobi and managing JIAM. Even Wanjiru’s supporters found this hard to believe. One of our interviewees, whom we will call George, a senior member of JIAM who has been involved in the church for nearly fifteen years, told us that, in his view, Wanjiru was “too overambitious” for running to the governorship position. George went on to explain his view on the university certificate question:

The certificate business […] For me, my conscious tells me that there was no witch-hunting certificate [sic]. Bishop doesn’t have the certificates, I can tell you for sure she doesn’t [have] them, I have been in JIAM. For her to produce transcripts that she has been to school, I have never heard about the school. If she’s been in church from January to December, even if she’s learning through correspondence, she’s in church […] She’s at every month for a conference, every Tuesday she’s there for a miracle service, every Sunday she’s been preaching three services. If she’s been a student, when does she have time to study?

16On 17 January 2013, party nominations were held and Wanjiru was not on the ballot paper. Several days later, on 22 January 2013, ODM announced that, in lieu of her gubernatorial nomination, Wanjiru will be given direct nomination for the senatorial race for the Nairobi constituency. Accepting this party nomination, Wanjiru was pushing aside Mheshimiwa Elizabeth Ongoro, a female candidate who was already officially designated for the position. Once again, commentators were furious. Ms. Ongoro herself, who has claimed to be campaigning for the senate position for years using her own funds, said she was not consulted by the party before her place was given to Wanjiru. As she said to reporters in response to the news, “[i]t is unfortunate that the Senate, which is the highest level of legislation, has become a dumping ground for dwarfs. If Bishop Wanjiru did not qualify for the gubernatorial position on the ground of academic qualifications, what makes it right for her to vie for any other top position?” (The Standard, January 25, 2013). In the papers and on the social networks, Wanjiru was vehemently attacked for her behavior. In their comments, some suggested that even if such behavior has come to be expected from politicians, Wanjiru’s religious position should have committed her to higher moral standing. One commentator thus wrote on Wanjiru’s Facebook page (January 30, 2013, 09: 06): “You have been acting to be a bishop but you have finally proven that it is all about business and duping people as many other bishops today. What you did to Mheshimiwa Ongoro will forever haunt you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

17On the day of the elections, not even the direct nomination over Ongoro helped Wanjiru. With 526,437 votes, she came a distant second after her main rival, TNA’s Gideon Kioko Mike Mbuvi, popularly known as Sonko, who won 814,184 votes. Wanjiru thus came out of the race as a definite loser. And as if her own loss at the polls had not been bad enough, Wanjiru’s son, Steven Kariuki, who was running for the Mathare parliamentary seat, was erroneously declared winner, receiving a certificate only to have it taken away shortly after (Daily Nation, March 9, 2013). Perhaps worst of all, Wanjiru’s public image suffered a blow. Following the public realization that her claim for academic certificate is hardly defendable, one columnist sardonically wondered: “How shall I address Margaret Wanjiru if ever I am so fortunate to meet her? I could try ‘Bishop’, but I am not sure if her Jesus Is Alive Ministry qualifies as a diocese. I could call her ‘Doctor’, but it turns out that the ODM nominations board may disagree with my assessment. I could always call her Honorable MP.” (Daily Nation, DN2, January 28, 2013). Considering Wanjiru’s operations being centered on her charismatic, and supposedly moral, leadership, such a blow to her personal prestige may have far-reaching implications, some of which are yet to be seen.

18We now turn to focus on the two strands discussed at the start of the article: (1) Wanjiru as a member of a ‘righteous class’ and an agent of a ‘Godly plan’, and (2) Wanjiru as representing entrepreneurial spirit.

Strand A: “When the righteous are in authority” – but who are the righteous?

19From a Pentecostal perspective, the question of leadership is set within a dualistic framework of spiritual warfare. As Amos Yong argues, Pentecostals have a tendency to expand this dualistic struggle from the personal-spiritual to the socio-political, which he calls the “polis” (Yong, 2010). In the context of elections, good leaders are believed to draw their electioneering appeal from God, whereas bad leaders are suspected of drawing their appeal from evil powers. Two committed Pentecostals, interviewed together some months before the 2013 elections, illustrate this perspective. As the interviewees suggested, on the side of evil, the devil and his followers would use witchcraft and even human sacrifices to boost their political influence. By contrast, for those on God’s side, elections are a time for being on guard, attending church and praying regularly in order to counter such malevolence:

Interviewee A: Going to church, praying, it’s really for fighting those evil spirits or whatever. Even us, we are told every time we pray about our country. We have to pray for those elections which are coming so that God can give us the right leaders.

Interviewee B: what we are actually trying to do for Kenya at the moment, it’s only praying. You know, like now, all these politicians they’ve already given now, as in, they’ve done their rituals, like, they are so optimistic, like, “I’m going to win,” you see, like, you are told to do a certain thing like maybe you are told, “give us ten people for a sacrifice.” What do they do? So nowadays there are so many accidents in Kenya, and they are all claiming people’s lives. […] So how do we know that these are not the sacrifices that these people are giving out? So we need to pray more, and if they are giving us for sacrifices then those, yeah the chains need to be broken for us to be set free.

Interviewee A: That one is through praying and through going to church. We should not cease going to church even if he’s there, even if those [evil] people are there. We have to fight with them, and fighting with them we don’t use our hands, we fight with them through praying and going to church and communicating to our God.

20The two interviewees presented a straightforward dualistic perspective which aligns good political leadership with religious righteousness and bad leadership with wrongful spiritual manipulations, including witchcraft and human sacrifices. However, noting interviewee A’s final remark, it is often hard to make out which is which, since even the supposedly evil might nonetheless pose as active church members.

  • 11 On top of the list were Sierra Leone (84%), Liberia (75%) and Yemen (74%).

21By and large, a key advantage that religion can help sustain is a feeling of trust, a rare commodity in light of Kenyans’ cynical approach towards leaders’ integrity. Kenyan churches have the potential of stepping in to fill the void left by politicians, because churches, much more than politics, command certain moral ground. Supporting this view, a study by the Pew Research Center (2006) highlighted the concern of 88% of its Kenyan respondents, who argued that “corrupt political leaders” pose a “very big problem”. Similarly, two Afrobarometer nationwide studies showed the majority arguing that officials who commit crimes go unpunished most or all the time (64% in 2011, 70% in 2008), while only about a fifth of the respondents (20% in 2011, 18% in 2008) believe that ordinary citizens who break the law face similar chances of evading justice. More recently, in a study conducted by Transparency International, 70% of Kenyans admitted to have paid bribe to a public body over the last year, findings which unflatteringly place Kenya fourth among the 95 countries under study (Transparency International, 2013).11 By contrast, one of the questions in the 2011 Afrobarometer survey had to do with trust in religious leaders, where a significant minority of 28% of the overall respondents answered that they trust religious leaders “a lot”. Similarly, the Pew Research Centre study (2006) had 36% of Kenyan respondents answering that they have “a lot” of trust in “people at your church or place of worship”. Religion, it seems, provides a haven of relative institutional trust.

22However, if such religious trust seems moderate, there are signs that it is eroding even further. As we have argued elsewhere (Gez and Droz, forthcoming), the social image associated with Born Again Christianity has been wearing down in recent years, accompanied by a growing sense of mistrust and even suspicion towards those designating themselves as such. Church-related scandals and what many regard as a cynical abuse of prosperity teachings leads believers to doubt the nobleness of church leaders’ intentions. Politically, Kenya’s elite has given countless examples of religion being employed in the service of impunity (Gifford, 2009). In recent years, the post-elections violence provided an unforgettable warning that religiosity is not a guarantee for peaceful, moral conduct. As one interviewee told us, “after the last [2007] election, a country of 80% Christian people fought. Are we Christian? […] people were willing to wipe us up all of the sudden because of stolen elections. That is not right for people who are spiritually saved.” Thus, while most Kenyans would agree that, in principle, religious leaders are more likely to have good moral standing, they are also familiar with examples of religious offices and rhetoric being misused. While accepting that God must have a ‘plan’ for Kenya, the average Christian nonetheless shows growing doubts in people claiming to speak on His behalf.

  • 12 The two interviewees are family related, and are also related to the interviewee whom we have calle (...)

23Upon announcing her political candidacy for 2007, which came to her “from God” through the encouragement of American Prophetess Brenda Todd (Kavulla, 2008), Wanjiru quoted Proverbs 29: 2– “when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice”–as she was turning to her congregation for support (Parsitau, 2011: 135). This verse has been taken to convey the belief that members of a “righteous class,” as we may call them, chosen by God, would serve as ideal political leaders. In our interviews with JIAM members in the run-up to the 2013 elections, several of them evoked this verse in justifying their support of Wanjiru’s candidacy. Here are two examples, taken from two separate interviews:12

Interviewee C: Me, I think I felt good [with Wanjiru running for politics], because this Kenya of ours, we have nowadays, there is a lot of corruption around. There is somewhere in bible [that] says, I can’t remember the verse, “when good people, or righteous people, are in power – people rejoice” […]. You see, so if these people, the righteous people, could have been in power, you know they fear God, and when you fear God you do not want to do any wrong, you see, so to me I would like to see many of Bishop Margaret [get elected].

Interviewee D: I’m very comfortable with it [with Wanjiru running for politics]. So many people argue out that she’s not supposed to be one [running], but then you see, even in the bible, [it] says “when the righteous rule the people are happy.” You know, so if you have someone who is born again, someone […] who is reliable, I know she’s a good manager, so really I don’t think there is any problem her being an MP.

  • 13 For instance, watch

24From this perspective, Wanjiru, as a Born Again religious leader, could be thought of as a suitable political leader. Inherent here is the idea, commonly evoked by Kenyan Pentecostals, that God is the answer to all of life’s misfortunes afflicting body, soul and society. This idea is presented clearly in popular gospel artist Esther Wahome’s song Kuna Dawa ( “there is a cure”), which presents Christian salvation as a panacea. In the video clip, we see Wahome bringing the Word to people in various settings, including children in school, Maasai in tribal clothes, slum dwellers, and the sick in a hospital ward. Although not overtly political, the song contrasts between divine blessings and the tribulations of daily existence, and can thus be used to convey the idea that “clerics can bring Christian values to politics, which in Kenya is widely seen as ‘dirty’” (Daily Nation, February 21, 2013). Interestingly, the song was employed by Wanjiru in her 2013 campaign, in which she claimed that the ODM and herself can provide the much needed cures to the ills faced by Nairobians and by the country as a whole.13 One of our interviewees, a member of JIAM, elaborated on this analogy: “church is like a hospital. I have never seen a hospital take someone who has had an accident as maybe someone who is healthy […]. Whether you are healthy or you’re sick, the church should admit you, and know where your problem is and treat you. That is why church is like a hospital.”

25But while making such uses of her religious appeal, Wanjiru found it hard to convincingly sustain the required untarnished image. From the beginning of the campaigning season it seemed that, despite her religious credentials, Wanjiru would probably not be bringing in an added moral value. Note the discourse by George, whom we have already quoted, as he combines his faith in Christian leadership to overcome corruption with his disillusionment with Wanjiru’s own political ethics:

If really this country is full of corruption, if we got somebody who is a Christian, things are likely to be different. Bishop [Wanjiru], she may also have her own weaknesses, and I just want to admit here, and God forgive, we are not supposed to talk about the men of God, [but] during the [2007] elections, because I was almost completely involved, I saw things happen, I saw even money exchanged, even from her side I saw money exchanged *laughing* […]. I could see them do things that were not right, I could see them involved in rigging, those things happened. You can’t say it’s the other party; they happened across the board.

26Indeed, Wanjiru’s decision to enter politics risked compromising her religious image. Already upon joining politics in 2007, Wanjiru’s decision received mixed reactions among her religious followers, many of whom have left the church as a result. In addition to general opposition to combining religion with politics, some were unhappy with Wanjiru’s decision to join the ODM despite her Kikuyu ethnicity. Moreover, by claiming that her candidacy was ordained by God, Wanjiru was taking a high risk. Although not in direct opposition to Pastor Muiru of Maximum Miracles Centre, who ambitiously ran for presidency, many saw the potential for frictions over those claiming divine endorsement as a sign of disingenuousness, for the true spirit of God is believed to be a bringer of harmony. Commentators voiced their reservations against the Pentecostal entrance into politics, emphasizing in particular both pastors’ controversial emphasis on the prosperity gospel (Gathogo, 2011: 14-16). One interviewee, himself a staunch Born Again, told us how back in 2007, the political aspirations of the two leaders have led him to question their authenticity: “You come and tell me that the spirit of the Lord has spoken to you, that I should take this seat. Then I come to you and I tell you that the spirit of the Lord has spoken to me and I will take this seat. I mean, we claim to have the same God. Who is speaking the truth? You are saying that one is lying, or none is telling the truth. Less chances that one is telling the truth.”

  • 14 Bishop Adoyo’s long career covered a number of distinguished leadership roles, including chancellor (...)

27A much more direct clash was to occur in 2013. While in 2007, Muiru and Wanjiru were each running for a different position, in 2013, once Wanjiru was forced to quit the gubernatorial race and to enter the senatorial race instead, she found herself running against another well-established religious leader, namely Bishop Dr. Adoyo of NPC, a popular church also known as Christ is the Answer Ministries (CITAM).14 An obvious comparison can be drawn between Adoyo and Wanjiru, two bishops and leaders of large Pentecostal congregations in Nairobi. Even as Adoyo’s low-key campaign, that got him merely 10,527 votes, never posed a significant challenge to Wanjiru, it does shed light on her candidacy. Thus for instance, while Wanjiru was determined to maintain her role as head of JIAM throughout her campaign, Adoyo claimed to have resigned his position at the NPC in order to join politics (Daily Nation, February 21, 2013). At the same time however, and much like Wanjiru, Adoyo mobilized support from within the church, using church volunteers as campaigners (Family TV, February 12, 2013).

28Explaining how two men of God could be vying for the same position, Adoyo argued that he has been preparing to run for the senatorial position long before Wanjiru, who, having “failed to get the governor seat”, fell back on the senatorial race. According to Adoyo, Wanjiru had asked him to switch with her and to run for governor, supposedly in order to avoid this conflict between men of God. In a response that engages the two strands – divine plan and personal entrepreneurship – Adoyo claims to have responded to Wanjiru that “this is not my calling. My calling is to set up a vision formulation, structures and systems, laws and by-laws and policies. That [is what] I have done in my church and left it going, that is my strength” (Family TV, February 12, 2013). While avoiding arguing that his candidacy was mandated by God, Adoyo’s race against Wanjiru nonetheless raised theological questions.

  • 15 Already when running in 2007, there had been strong opposition from Wanjiru’s milieu to her keeping (...)
  • 16 Sonko himself converted to Christianity at Kamlesh Pattni’sHope International Ministries in 2010. D (...)
  • 17 This exchange was carried out through subtle insinuations veiled as generational respect. Thus, Son (...)

29Adoyo further claimed that, for the purposes of running for office, he had resigned from all his positions at the church. “You cannot serve two masters. I had to leave being an active bishop to join politics,” he said (Daily Nation, February 21, 2013). On this backdrop, Wanjiru’s commitment to remain an active church leader came under attack.15 Wanjiru admitted that “even some of the clergy themselves, the older generation” – here implying perhaps Adoyo’s indirect accusation – “they say: if you want to go to politics – resign, then you go to politics. My argument is ‘I am too young to resign. I am energetic. You want me to resign and go where? I mean, I have three kids, four grandchildren, let me serve the people’” (Capital FM, February 8, 2013). Although Wanjiru’s refusal to step down as a church leader while running for the 2013 elections was not different from her actions in 2007, it still drew debates and critiques. In the senatorial race, Wanjiru’s main rival was Sonko, the flamboyant, youthful TNA candidate, who vehemently criticized Wanjiru’s dual vocations, saying “I am a Christian and I do not like anyone misusing the name of God. Imagine she announced her bid for governorship in her church. That really pissed me off” (Daily Nation, March 17, 2013).16 Between the two candidates developed an indirect exchange, citing biblical verses back and forth concerning the legitimacy of religious leaders pursuing political careers (Citizen TV, January 23, 2013; Citizen TV, January 29, 2013). This exchange also drew attention to the generational gap between the two, which both acknowledged to their advantage.17 Such attacks, although delivered of course by Wanjiru’s rivals, nonetheless highlight a popular sentiment that sees Wanjiru’s political career as an expansion not of religious commitment but of her personal ambitions towards amassing power and titles.

Strand B: “BMW”: Wanjiru as an entrepreneur

30As said, the race for the Nairobi senatorial position saw the unusual contestation of two Pentecostal bishops. Although Adoyo was clearly the underdog, the comparison between the two was unavoidable. Adoyo’s formal agenda was primarily geared towards matters of good governance, saying for instance that he will “confront corruption without fear or intimidation as ‘the Bible says do not fear those who can destroy the body but the spirit’” (Daily Nation, February 21, 2013). By contrast, Wanjiru had put the subject of “wealth creation” on top of her list, promising to set in place laws which would favor small businesses, helping for instance to regulate the work of street hawkers and transport workers. Here are two brief excerpts from interviews she gave, both in response to a question concerning her agenda for the city:

Number one on the list – wealth creation […]. Our manifesto [is]: jobs, jobs, jobs. So, wealth creation is top of the list. We must create jobs for our people. To do that we must have the right laws in place, to implement what we want to do. That is my number one job (Citizen TV, January 29, 2013).

Number one, I would like to start with wealth creation. My number one agenda is wealth creation. We have such a wide gap between the rich and the poor, it’s miserable. I mean, when you see the poor people, even the laws that we have are not friendly to the poor, but they are very friendly to the rich people. […] So my number one assignment is to make sure that the small businesses are well taken care of, accommodated, have trading areas, and got friendly trading laws (Capital FM, February 8, 2013).

  • 18 Adoyo has taken a leading part in the “hide the bones” campaign, in which Kenyan Christians were mo (...)
  • 19 Interestingly, a study ordered by Odoyo’s CITAM has shown that its congregants are divided as to wh (...)
  • 20 Also note that, unlike many devout Christians who wear a cross necklace, Wanjiru tends to wear a ne (...)

31The two bishops’ different political agendas are telling of the “many tongues” (Yong, 2010) of Pentecostal political engagements. More than that, these differences might be a reflection of the two’s different religious leanings. Notwithstanding his conservative stand on some matters,18 Adoyo – as his church – is widely held as a lenient, respectable, mainstream Pentecostal.19 In one of his books he explains his theological stand by suggesting that “we believers [can] be gracious and liberal when it comes to issues on which the Bible is silent, but uncompromising and dogmatic where God’s Word is specific” (Adoyo, 2009: 108). Wanjiru, on her side, is one of Kenya’s leading proponents of the prosperity gospel (Gathogo, 2011). Among her multiple nicknames and titles is the telling acronym BMW – standing for Bishop Margaret Wanjiru– which is sometimes used by her supporters. This appellation plays on the common association of luxury cars not only with economic power but also as a mark of membership at the privileged club of political upper class. Thus for instance, the Swahili term “wabenzi” is sometimes used to allude to Kenya’s ruling elite, referring of course to its members’ affection for luxury vehicles including Mercedes Benz (Wrong, 2009: 79-80, 338). The identification of Wanjiru as BMW points at her religious teachings, which openly and unapologetically invoke material abundance, but also insinuates Wanjiru’s acceptance into Kenya’s ruling class, an affiliation affirmed despite her humble origin. But such acceptance into the ranks of the powerful risks distancing Wanjiru from the principles of justice associated with her religious leadership. Michela Wrong, for instance, cites a survey by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) which showed that, during the year following Kibaki’s first election, government officials spent an inflated amount of at least $12m on luxury cars (Wrong, 2009: 79-80). By embracing the symbolic nickname BMW, Wanjiru has been lending herself to compromising her prospects for passing as a divinely mandated alternative to the corrupt system.20 The following except, taken from her preaching at JIAM, is reminiscent of the entrepreneurial spirit which Wanjiru sought to bring to her position as senator:

  • 21 (Published on October 14, 2012). This sermon was given o (...)

We simply don’t have to be poor. We can be rich, and have wealth, and not apologize for it. Don’t apologize for your shamba, for your farm. Why are you trying to explain to people how you got it? You were praying for it. Go and plant the flowers and then export them. Don’t apologize for your good car. Drive it like you own it, not like you borrowed it.21

32One last example can illustrate the place of Wanjiru’s religious success in the service of her political ambitions. During her 2013 campaign, Wanjiru participated in a morning radio show, where she presented her agenda as a senatorial candidate. Throughout the thirty minutes interview, Wanjiru made little appeal to her religious capacity. In the following excerpt, however, her religious position is evoked in a peculiar fashion, as an example that supports her image as a successful entrepreneur and leader. Note as well the religious language used ( “rise from your ashes”), the notion of “transformation” and in particular the idea of “transforming the mind” away from poverty, which strike a deep cord with Wanjiru’s church teachings:

Nairobi needs a role model. Nairobi needs a leader who is very transformative. You need to transform the communities. I always say: poverty is not a state of the pocket; it is a state of the mind. If you can transform the minds then you are able to transform the pocket. If you are not able to transform the mind, it doesn’t matter [what is] the state of the pocket, that person cannot change. So my number one assignment is – create the opportunities. Then transform the mindset of our people that you do not have to be poor. Whether you got good education or not, you do not have to be poor. You can rise up from your ashes. Look at me; look at the church that I run today. It’s an international organization. But that’s not where I started. I started on the streets; I was a preacher on the streets (Capital FM, February 8, 2013).


33Through examining the two strands which ran throughout Wanjiru’s 2013 campaign, we conclude that, of the two, it is the latter one, which portrays Wanjiru as a strong female entrepreneur, which had by and large prevailed. It might further be that this indicates of a change from 2007, when Wanjiru’s campaign was more clearly dressed in religious terms (Kavulla, 2008). This does not mean, however, that the first strand has been lost altogether in the 2013 campaign. Indeed, we note that the first strand, which identifies Wanjiru with the ‘righteous class’ and as part of a ‘Godly plan’ for Kenya, was also present in 2013, if less pronounced. To some extent, appeal to either of the two strands seems to depend on context. We have noted that in church contexts, Wanjiru more easily promotes herself, using the first strand, as an agent of a ‘Godly plan’ (Kavulla, 2008), while outside the church– e.g. in formal interviews– she puts more emphasis on the second, entrepreneurial strand. Such selective self-presentation would present Wanjiru as engaging in a “strategy of action” which, depending on circumstances, highlights any of a number of justifications that may reinforce her claims (Swidler, 1986).

34Shortly before the elections, in a televised interview with Wanjiru’s rival Bishop Adoyo, a Presbyterian pastor made a comment to the effect that “Christians who get into political positions – somehow there is something about politics that eats into the Christianity of these people, and they never get to stand. They get to be diluted, they are watered down.” (Family TV, February 12, 2013). Wanjiru’s failure in the 2013 elections can be read in such a light, as the result of her inability to convincingly balance between her political capacity and the moral and spiritual standings expected of a Born Again Christian and church leader. From doubts over her legitimacy for carrying out her duties as a Bishop while in political office, through corruption scandals at the Ministry of Housing, controversial academic documents that have led to her losing her chance at the Nairobi gubernatorial race, and her taking the ODM’s senatorial nomination seat from Elizabeth Ongoro who was nominated democratically – these contentious issues played against Wanjiru’s possibility of promoting herself as a vehicle for ‘Godly’ politics. By passionately navigating herself towards the strand of ‘worldly’ affairs, promoting herself above all else as a self-made strong woman, Wanjiru’s religious reputation was compromised, making her appear disingenuous in the eyes of the electorate.

35Indeed, we suggest that, by the time of the 2013 elections, Wanjiru was almost forced out of the ‘righteous class’ strand by the scandals that surrounded her, and which were related to her non-religious, morally questionable pursuits of business, power and influence. In other words, while the two strands can similarly find grounding in neo-Pentecostal teachings, they are not always easy to bring together. We thus reach the claim that, even as the two strands are not contradictory per se, there is, nonetheless, tension between them. Having established herself, through discourse and action, as an entrepreneur above all else, Wanjiru has been drifting away from reliably establishing herself as a true agent of “politics of the spirit” out to sanitize the Kenyan political sphere. Instead, by looking at Wanjiru’s compromised reputation, tarnished in large part by the extension of her affairs outside the church, it can be argued that her strong entrepreneurial ambitions are partially to blame for her loss. Deemed by the public as too much like secular leaders through her preoccupations and implications in scandals, Wanjiru had lost the privilege of convincingly branding herself as the herald of clean, Godly politics.

  • 22 Such clash of values has been recognized in the case of Kenyan Born Again policemen, many of whom e (...)

36Building up on this case study, we touch on what we believe is a fundamental tension for scholars and an ongoing challenge for neo-Pentecostals: if we recognize that Born Again identity implies certain moral and spiritual values, and if we also recognize that neo-Pentecostalism tends to invoke the integration of the believer into the wider public spheres of social, economic and political engagements, how can the two be kept in harmony, and how may such ‘worldly’ Pentecostalism provide a moral high ground, uncontaminated, as it were, by rampant social ills? This constant tension has been recognized, in different ways, by our Pentecostal informants, and it is affirmed by many Kenyan Christians working as civil servants.22 One way of resolving this tension is by allowing one strand to overcome the other. Already Paul Gifford argued that, among Kenyan proponents of the prosperity gospel, the “success motif” “effectively substitutes” the more “foundational Christian doctrines and ideas” (Gifford 2009: 124). The difficulty of negotiating a Pentecostal identity that is active in the world while also grounded in uncompromising moral principles that rise above immoral norms of conduct appears to be widespread in contemporary Kenya. As one informant uttered with concern, “Christianity has become a very big challenge.”

Our thanks go to Samuel Owiwa for his help during fieldwork. We further thank Yvan Droz and Hervé Maupeu for their enlightening comments on the draft manuscript.



George, interviewed by Tanya Alvis in Nairobi, February 6, 2013

Interviewees A-B, interviewed by Yonatan N. Gez in Nairobi, July 12, 2012

Interviewee C, interviewed by Tanya Alvis in Nairobi, February 5, 2013

Interviewee D, interviewed by Tanya Alvis in Nairobi, January 11, 2013

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1 Other religious candidates in 2007 have included Kamlesh Pattni, the architect of the Goldenberg scandal, who, having become Born Again, set up the now defunct Kenya National Democratic Alliance (Kenda) party, many of whose candidates were drawn from the ranks of Evangelical and Pentecostal clergy. Other religious candidates included Rev. Moses ole Sakuda, who ran on the ODM ticket in Kajiado North and lost; Pentecostal minister Mike Brawan who ran on the ODM ticket for the Nakuru Town constituency and lost, and Rev. Mutava Musyimi, former secretary-general of the National Council of Churches of Kenya and pastor at Nairobi Baptist Church (currently an Anglican), who ran on the Party of National Unity (PNU) ticket and won the Gachoka seat.

2 In addition to Wanjiru, the 2013 elections saw a wide array of Christian leaders from across the country wanting to fill gubernatorial and senatorial seats. Anglican Reverend Lawrence Bomet from Nakuru, which was one of the areas worst hit by violence and ethnically motivated attacks in early 2008, was vying to be the first senator of Nakuru on an ODM ticket. In West Pokot, Reverend Julius Murgor of the African Inland Church also sought a senatorial position. In Mbeere South Constituency, former secretary general of the National Council of Churches of Kenya and Gachoka Member of Parliament, Anglican Reverend Mutava Musyimi, was defending his parliamentary seat on a The National Alliance (TNA) ticket. Bishop Jackson Kipkemboi Kosgey of Baringo County, a Reverend at the Full Gospel of Kenya Church, backed William Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) and sought a senatorial seat. Lastly, Bishop Bonifes Adoyo of Nairobi Pentecostal Church (NPC), whose candidacy will be discussed briefly in this paper, ran against Wanjiru and Sonko for the senatorial race.

3 Visit to the church, February 5, 2012.

4 Visit to the church, April 8, 2012. This example is also telling of the ambiguity of such initiatives. Having visited the church on the week in which it was praying for Kilifi County, we noted that the prayer did not limit itself to the aim of peaceful elections alone, but also included the aspiration for bringing the work of God to the county’s “indigenous people.” Considering the county’s Muslim dominance, such a declaration of intentions risks fueling tensions between communities rather than quelling them.

5 The endorsement of candidates by religious organizations was evident in the case of Muslim leadership, where Raila Odinga was the presidential candidate of choice by the Muslim Leaders Forum, whilst the Association of Muslim Organizations backed the now President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta (Citizen TV, February 16, 2013).

6 See Wanjiru’s brief biography on JIAM’s website, Considering Wanjiru’s self-branding and tendency towards the prosperity gospel, we may muse over the possible influence that her marketing background could have had on her ministry.

7 See JIAM’s homepage at:

8 See JIAM’s homepage at:

9 Following complaints by our interviewees at JIAM about lack of transparency concerning the allocation of their church contributions, we may question the timing of the project, and wonder whether its announcement could not have been planned in such a way as to provide additional revenues to support Wanjiru’s 2013 electioneering.

10 Kamangu died in October 2008, while his court case against Wanjiru was still pending. Due to the timing of his death, concern was raised that Kamangu may have actually been murdered, leading the family to call for a post-mortem examination (Capital FM, November 17, 2008; Citizen TV, October 10, 2008). While such accusations have never been formally substantiated, rumours continued to abound implicating Wanjiru in Kamangu’s death. Such accusations were supported by Wanjiru’s open hostility towards Kamangu, whom she threatened on a number occasions, calling him to “hang on a tree and we will have a funeral” (Kavulla, 2008: 258).

11 On top of the list were Sierra Leone (84%), Liberia (75%) and Yemen (74%).

12 The two interviewees are family related, and are also related to the interviewee whom we have called George.

13 For instance, watch

14 Bishop Adoyo’s long career covered a number of distinguished leadership roles, including chancellor for the Pan Africa Christian University, chairman of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Africa, and moderator of the Interreligious Council of Kenya. During Moi’s last years in office, Adoyo was a member of the Commission of Inquiry into the Cult of Devil Worship (Adoyo, 2009).

15 Already when running in 2007, there had been strong opposition from Wanjiru’s milieu to her keeping both positions. Among the objectors, according to the aforementioned interviewee George, was even Bishop Gitonga of Redeemed Gospel Church, the man who ordained Wanjiru as bishop.

16 Sonko himself converted to Christianity at Kamlesh Pattni’sHope International Ministries in 2010. During the 2007 and the 2010 campaigns, both Sonko and Wanjiru enjoyed the support of former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga, who is currently the bishop at Amazing Grace International Church in Nairobi (Maupeu, 2014; Daily Nation, November 7, 2010).

17 This exchange was carried out through subtle insinuations veiled as generational respect. Thus, Sonko referred to Wanjiru as “my mother,” hinting at her irrelevance by adding that “she is the same age my mother was when she died” (Citizen TV, January 23, 2013). Wanjiru, on her side, referred to Sonko as “one of my many, many, many sons,” implying her seniority by arguing that “I have nothing against Sonko, Sonko is a young man that just needs to be guided, a young man who needs to be mentored” (Citizen TV, January 29, 2013).

18 Adoyo has taken a leading part in the “hide the bones” campaign, in which Kenyan Christians were mobilized to boycott the National Museum of Kenya, which housed the “Turkana boy” fossils and demanded that it should be removed from display. The debate was captured in Richard Dawkins’TV series “The Genius of Charles Darwin” (Part 2: The Fifth Ape, 2008), where Adoyo is interviewed by Dawkins.

19 Interestingly, a study ordered by Odoyo’s CITAM has shown that its congregants are divided as to whether their church indeed counts as Pentecostal or not. The survey, conducted among members of the church’s Buruburu branch, had 55.3% of the respondents arguing that their congregation is not in fact Pentecostal (Chelule, 2012). This confusion may have to do with CITAM’s orderliness and the moderate engagement with the Holy Spirit, which contrast the church with what one of our interviewees termed “churches that are SO Pentecostal.”

20 Also note that, unlike many devout Christians who wear a cross necklace, Wanjiru tends to wear a necklace featuring a stylized “M” – presumably standing for Margaret. This might offer another manifestation of Wanjiru’s privileging of personal success and entrepreneurship.

21 (Published on October 14, 2012). This sermon was given on the occasion of Raila Odinga’s visit to her church.

22 Such clash of values has been recognized in the case of Kenyan Born Again policemen, many of whom end up either leaving the force or forsaking their faith (Muturi, 2001: 35).

© Africae, 2014

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