Prophet Owuor and his odd anti-Aids crusade
Posted Tuesday, February 12 2013 at 02:00
- Man on a mission: His long beard, near-fanatical following and controversial prophecies of doom set him apart from your usual, run-of-the-mill evangelist, but he may have crossed the line this time by claiming he can cure HIV/Aids through prayer. The government is listening and a team is already investigating those claims. As state officials pore over file after file of ‘evidence’, we have been combing the widely read Prophet Owuor’s huge evangelical backyard for clues and testimonies. What we found out is a bit confusing, to say the least
Prophet Dr Edward David Owuor agrees there is no conventional cure for HIV/Aids, but has been preaching to all and sundry that, through a series of amens and intercessory grunts, he can cure the disease.
Predictably, his claims have set afire the medical and religious fields, but what is raising eyebrows further is the corroboration of his claims by some medics, who say they have proof that “prayer and repentance” are freeing many from the yoke of the disease.
Rift Valley Kenya National Aids and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) provincial coordinator, Dr Toromo Kochei, confirms having encountered several cases of these “faith healings”.
“After examining more than five of my patients — people I have dealt with for years — and realising they seem healed, I couldn’t believe it, so I directed the regional Clinical Officer Ms Rahab Peenoi Lemarkoko to open investigations through thorough check-up of the patients, whom we tracked down to various regions in Rift Valley, Nyanza and Western Province.”
Several months later, Dr Kochei says they have confirmed at least 32 “healings”. DN2 was shown various pieces of evidence to confirm these “miracles”, among them hospital documents for some of the patients and a letter by a government official requesting more test on the victims.
“As a medical practitioner, I first thought it was insane, but now I know faith cures are possible,” Dr Kochei says.
The implications of this claim have attracted global attention, and in our forays across parts of western Kenya and Rift Valley, we encountered a team of international journalists covering the subject. They, like us, were roused by the claims of supernatural healing and wanted to question the authenticity of the medical reports coming from Kenya.
But, despite the cloud of disbelief, Owuor is adamant that faith heals. His first ever recorded healing, he says, was brought to his attention by a doctor from Eldoret Referral Hospital who called to enquire about a patient whose HIV tests turned negative despite having had advanced Aids. The patient said he had attended one of Owuor’s faith healing crusades.
We asked for the name of the patient and traced her to Nakuru. At her home, Ms Rose Kibet confirmed Owuor’s claims, saying she felt a “strange power” surge through her body at the prayer rally.
“I had been wheeled into the crusade by my sons,” she told DN2. “I remember I could not contain my bowel and was quite fetid, but I got instant healing at the crusade and in fact walked home. My sons have since told me they did not even expect me to make it to the prayer rally.”
“This is the work of the Lord,” explains Owuor. “All the patients who have turned negative have a common denominator: faith.”
Ms Lemarkoko is perplexed. Her training demands scientific proof of all processes, but this... this is an entirely different ball game. “We used the Linked Immunosorbent Assay test (Elisa) (a complete and advanced HIV test) and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), which is used to locate HIV DNA in a patient’s body and is 95 per cent reliable. Both turned negative results on all patients,” she says.
Among the patients Lemarkoko handled was Dr Nancy Omronji, a lecturer at Egerton University’s department of Community Development. She told us that she had indeed been healed of the disease, having tested HIV-positive in 2004, even though she believes she must have acquired it in 1999 since that’s when she “started feeling sickly often”.
“In 2004 I started fainting regularly during lectures and my skin turned scaly and whitish. When the skin on my lips started peeling, I decided to visit a VCT centre, and the test turned positive,” Dr Omronji says.
“I was divorced and had two children, one then studying out of the country,” she continues. “There was a time I thought I was dying and called my daughter from Australia, who responded by coming home immediately. But when she arrived, I was tongue-tied; I couldn’t break the sad news to her, so I bottle it all in.”
Eventually, she told her that she had just missed her. Australia, after all, is a far-off country.
Dr Omronji says her healing was gradual as she followed Owuor in his crusades, from Nakuru and Kericho to Bungoma and Kabarnet.
“In July 2008 I finally tested negative for the virus but could not believe it, so I went to Nakuru Medical Lab along Kenyatta Avenue for further tests, which also turned negative. From there, I went to Aga Khan Hospital for the long Elisa test and the DNA PCR at MP Shah Hospital. Still not satisfied, I visited KEMRI Busia. All the tests turned negative,” says Dr Omronji.