State intervention likely to bring calm to Vihiga church

Tuesday September 12 2017

Armed AP officers on guard at the African Israel Church Nineveh in Vihiga on September 11, 2017 as followers of arch-bishop elect Evans Chadiva protest against the handing over of church’s leadership to Bishop John Mweresa in a ceremony presided over by Deputy Register of Societies Anne Njeri following a Court of Appeal ruling. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Armed AP officers on guard at the African Israel Church Nineveh in Vihiga on September 11, 2017 as followers of arch-bishop elect Evans Chadiva protest against the handing over of church’s leadership to Bishop John Mweresa in a ceremony presided over by Deputy Register of Societies Anne Njeri following a Court of Appeal ruling. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By DERICK LUVEGA
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A church in Vihiga that has been known more for fighting than preaching the word could be headed for peace, this time after a government official presided over a settlement ordered by the court.

On Monday afternoon, a heavy security presence and tension punctuated the handing-over ceremony held at the troubled African Israel Nineveh Church in Vihiga County, signalling the end of five years of infighting that led to loss of lives and property.

Deputy Registrar of Societies Anne Njeri, who was flanked by other senior government officials, was there to implement a court directive issued four months ago.

At least 100 security officers drawn from across the county guarded the church's headquarters and its environs to ensure there was no bloodshed at the event. Many church members attended.

FIGHTS, DEATHS

In 2015, fighting cut short a similar event and led to the deaths of three people while scores of others got injured. Houses at the church were also reduced to ashes after angry mobs set them ablaze.

Ms Njeri said she was implementing a ruling by the Court of Appeal that was delivered on May 23, 2017 and which reinstated the old leadership under Archbishop John Mweresa Kivuli II, who is leading one of the two rival camps.

The other camp is led by Archbishop Evans Chadiva who forcibly took over the church following infighting that broke out in 2013.

LEADERS ABSENT

However, the two leaders were not present at the handing over ceremony, something that could ignite fresh infighting at the church whose headquarters are at Jebrok along Gambogi-Serem road in Vihiga County.

Ms Njeri said: "Pursuant to the court order dated May 23, 2017 and powers bestowed on me by the Societies Act as the Registrar of Societies, I hereby handover the church to Archbishop John Mweresa Kivuli II."

She added: "From today, he (Mweresa) is the head of the church as per the church's constitution."

PROTEST

Rev Chadiva's camp shouted at Ms Njeri as she made her remarks, a sign that they had not welcomed the change. They sang praise songs while carrying placards bearing anti-Mweresa messages.

Rev Isaiah Ruto, who belongs to archbishop Mweresa's camp, welcomed the handing over that saw their side take back the mantle of leadership.

"We have been in and out of court since 2013. The other faction came up with their own constitution so as to take over the church," said Rev Ruto, who is serving as the church's secretary-general under Rev Mweresa.

He added: "The court de-registered the leaders of the other camp and nullified their constitution. The court reaffirmed that the old constitution stands under the leadership of Archbishop Mweresa and that is why the Registrar of Societies has handed over the church to us."