An ally of Deputy President William Ruto is putting up a Sh6 billion shopping mall in Meru County.
The mall, to be known as Praise Mall, is being constructed by Jesus House of Praise Church founder Bishop Kiogora Magambo. It will be constructed by Chinese construction firm, Jiangxi Jingtai Water Conservancy and electric Power Construction Company Limited and the project will take three years.
The 33-storey project will be one of the tallest in the country, and will dominate Meru town’s skyline. It is located at Gitimbine, about 100 metres from the iconic Kathita River, along the Meru-Nairobi highway.
The bishop is an influential figure in the Mount Kenya region, especially in church circles, and has been a close friend of Deputy President William Ruto since he was the Eldoret MP.
He is the clergyman who led the final Sunday Service for Dr Ruto on August 28, 2011, before he jetted out to the Netherlands for the confirmation of hearings at The Hague.
He also visited The Hague in October 2013 as the hearings of the cases of crimes against humanity occasioned by the 2007/08 post-election violence against Dr Ruto and radio presenter Joshua Arap Sang were going on. The cases were dismissed in 2016.
Though Dr Ruto has visited Bishop Magambo’s church only once since becoming Deputy President, the clergyman is always present and either plays a role or is at least acknowledged whenever Dr Ruto tours the region.
Rev Kiogora said he supports both President Uhuru Kenyatta and Dr Ruto and his support was guided by their manifesto, which also convinced him to visit them at The Hague.
“I went to The Hague two or three times because it was the right thing to do according to my conscience. I am a preacher full time but I support good politics that cater for the welfare of people like equitable distribution of resources, human rights and dignity,” said Bishop Bigambo.
He said though he was close to many politicians, he was not ready to venture into politics.
The Deputy President is a frequent visitor to churches in Mt Kenya and is on first-name basis with leaders of evangelical churches in the region, where he used to visit almost every Sunday before the coronavirus pandemic struck. He also contributes huge amounts in church harambees.
Already, the church's mega tent that has occupied the compound since May 2011 was brought down last Sunday, marking the end of an era and paving way for excavation works.
“We have already officially handed over the site, the contractor is already here and that is why we have been in a hurry to clear the site. Excavation shall start in earnest. It will be the signature building, 33 floors off the ground that will mark the gateway to Meru town,” said Bishop Kiogora.
Asked about the financing of the massive project, the clergyman said everything had been arranged and he did not expect any hitch during the three-year construction period.
“It will cost approximately Sh6 billion and God has provided. In His own ways, God has provided the cost of the building through our friends and many well-wishers, the hand of God is sufficient.
“We invite you to a big happening in our county that is in tandem with our county slogan from our leader, Governor Kiraitu Murungi of ‘making Meru great’”.
The church also owns Destiny TV and Destiny FM headquartered at Kithoka next to Kenya Methodist University.
The project was approved in 2018 by the Water Resource Users Association (WRUA) after concerns were raised over its proximity to Kathita River.
When complete, the twin tower structure sitting on the church’s 0.40ha will provide office spaces, banking halls, supermarkets, a four-star hotel, conference halls, serviced apartments, restaurants, a gym, a mega church auditorium and other facilities.
Expected to be an architectural masterpiece, the building will consist of three basement floors, seven mezzanine floors, from where the building will branch into a twin tower up to the 33rd floor.
The building’s basement floors will be a car park with a capacity to accommodate at least 200 vehicles while the ground floor will be the reception area ushering visitors to 14 shops modelled in an arcade style setting.
The ground floor will also host a private wing for independent receptions for the five-star hotel and apartments.
The first seven mezzanine floors will be occupied by supermarkets, four ballrooms and lobbies fit for church weddings and other ceremonies, branded product shops, four food courts and two kitchenettes.
From the eighth floor, it will be a twin tower which will be a four star hotel with 188 bed capacity, conference halls and apartments occupying 23 floors each, offering a scenic view.
The sixth floor will be occupied by the church cathedral which will be a 12,000-seater air conditioned and modern auditorium.
During the construction period, the church and school will shift to the Mwendantu area.