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Mystery cleric with millions of followers but no bank account



A mention of the Coptic Holy Ghost Church raises adrenalin levels among residents of Kisumu, especially those around Mamboleo.

The church whose operations continue to baffle many is not new to controversies. Some associate it with mysterious road accidents along the Kanyakwar-Mamboleo Junction stretch, on Kisumu-Kakamega Road. But Father John Pesa, the leader of this church, dismisses them as unfounded claims.

Healing prowess

Every January 14, he leads church members in a march from the church to Kisumu Central Business District to mark the church’s anniversary. The congregation is provided with police security to prevent attacks by those who claim the walk is sacrificial and invites bad omen in the area.

Pesa is aware of his church being associated with evil powers, and has on a few occasions reported the claims to police, but no action has ever been taken. “But where do I get the power to control gravity?

Accidents happen everywhere, and I do not understand why people must associate me with this black spot,” he told The Standard. Many consider him mysterious, but Pesa says this is a scheme to downplay his healing prowess. Some church leaders in Kisumu have even accused him of “diverting” their angels to his church.

When The Standard paid him a visit at his office on Thursday afternoon, he was conducting prayers for a few believers. After the prayers, he gives us audience, starting the conversation by asking us what people are saying about him, and then moves to explain his beliefs.

Donned in a white rob, white cap and white face mask, he presents the image of a calm man of God. A walk into the church premises greets you with people kneeling down for prayers at all corners, others chained on both legs, while others whisper in small groups.

Sometimes, high-end cars are parked in the compound, with people coming in and out of his “special” prayer room. The design of the church is as mysterious as its leader, with narrow corridors snaking through the over 100 rooms within that single premise. Pesa says he borrowed the design from Syria and Goa.

“We have offices, accommodation rooms, prayer rooms and visitor’s rooms here,” he says. Within the church, the acceptable greeting is waving of the index finger.The form of greeting might appear cultish, but the cleric says it is Christian, and originates from the Bible in the book of Ephesians Chapter Four verse Four.

But why is Pesa so feared, such that he is rarely spotted in inter-religious gatherings despite his church being one of the oldest and most famous in the country? He claims he is the poorest religious leader of his stature, with no bank account, no investment to his name, no wife and no children, and no mobile money account.He is not sure of his exact date of birth, but records indicate he was born on September 25, 1952, at King George Hospital, now Kenyatta National Hospital.

According to Pesa, his mother Margret Wanjiku died immediately after he was born, and then he was taken in by the Kaplong Catholic Mission in Bomet, where he was raised by a Sister Beligna. Later on, he says Vincent Pesa, a resident of Karungu in Homa Bay County was identified to be his father, and he was transferred to nearby Nyandago Catholic Mission where he grew up.

He says he began to experience spiritual powers in 1958, and began his healing, something he did during his life as a Catholic priest, both in Kenya and Tanzania. In the 1960s, he was suspended from his role as a priest, which saw him join African Roho Church where he served for few years before starting Coptic Holy Ghost Church.

Next leader

“I had conducted a healing while in Bukoba, Tanzania, when a woman visited the mission with a sick baby, to seek for prayers. The clergy were not pleased and decided that I should be stripped of my role as a priest,” he says. It was then that he got engaged in prayer missions across Nyanza, earning a huge following.

In 1971, Pesa laid the foundation stone for Coptic Holy Ghost Church Mission in Kisumu, which has since been the church headquarters. During a funds drive to construct the church, members were each to contribute Sh1, and to date, the church offering remains at Sh1.   And as he approaches his sunset years, Pesa hopes that the person who will take over the steering of the church maintains its doctrine and keeps it stable.


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Man accused of sodomising minor attacks magistrate for the second time



A man accused of sodomising a three and half-year-old boy on Wednesday turned violent in court and attempted to attack the magistrate.

Ismael Mustafa for the second time turned violent and attempted to attack Chief Magistrate Edna Nyaloti prompting her to run out of the court.

He had previously, in early September 2020, charged towards the magistrate while she was busy writing down proceedings forcing the shaken magistrate to scamper for safety even leaving her shoes behind.

Nyaloti was making a ruling on whether Mustafa has a case to answer. She later forgave him and the trial continued.

“Cuff him, this is the second time he is turning violent and attempting to attack me,” said the Chief Magistrate.

It took the intervention of the court orderlies and prison officers to contain Mustafa who turned aggressive towards the magistrate.

The officers wrestled him down to the floor and cuffed him before marching him out of the courts.

Nyaloti was forced to retreat to her chambers in fear of her safety after Mustafa started to charge towards her.

It is alleged that on February 16, 2019, at Bangladesh area in Jomvu, he sodomised XY- a child aged three and a half years.

He denied the charges and was released on a bond of  Sh200, 000 with a similar surety.

Repeated offence

According to police records, Mustafa had been previously charged with sodomising another minor and was sentenced but later was acquitted by the High Court upon appeal.

Today, other court matters were forced to adjourn to allow the prison officers to escort him out of the court.

Mustafa had on several occasions become arrogant and interrupted the court proceedings.

Despite the magistrate listening to his rants and complaints without interruption, the accused became adamant, was dissatisfied and decided to turn violent.

He demanded to have his charges read to him afresh and said that when the charge sheet was amended, it was not read to him as he demanded to have the matter started afresh.

Nyaloti laboured to explain that the court record indicated that the charges were read to him by the prosecution once the charges were amended.

However, Mustafa insisted that he wanted the matter transferred to another court and demanded that the magistrate determines whether he has a case to answer or not.

“Your honour there is no need for you to proceed with the ruling. I have no faith in your court and want you to transfer the matter before another court. I want the high court to decide on this matter because I feel justice is not being done,” said Mustafa.

Mustafa declined to allow the magistrate to make a ruling and said that he won’t ever attend the court until he is allocated another court.

Mustafa proceeded to utter abusive and unprintable language in court and swore that he will not come back to court ever.

The magistrate had given him time in the last trial to file his application before the high court to have the matter determined afresh.

“I have no objection if you want to file your application before the high court to have the matter transferred to another court but meanwhile the case will proceed before me until you get an order stating otherwise,” said Nyaloti.


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Lolani Kalu: I Just need a video camera and computer



When a picture of Lolani Kalu was shared on Twitter by a fan, Kenyans on Twitter expressed their sympathy on a man who will always be remembered as one of the leading Swahili journalists in the country, musician, actor, comedian and Swahili poet.

Dressed in ageing cargo pants, a checked shirt, a marvin and sandals, Lolani Kalu, now 56,  is the picture of a man who has tasted the varying flavours of life without a wince on his face.

After losing his job at a local TV station in December 2017, the veteran journalist who entertained Kenyans with shows such as Malimwengu na Lolani and Gumzo Mtaani found himself back to his home town in Kilifi. 

As if the devil had come to pay him a visit, Lolani found that his father was sick and for a year they would spend a lot of money trying to restore his health. In October 2019, his 89-year-old father died leaving behind an 89-year-old widow currently staying with Lolani.

“I decided I should stay close to her and at least help her around with things.”

But it’s through her that Lolani is who he is today. “I got all the talent from her. She was an actor back in ’47 and all the stories I have come from her. She is a storyteller and I’ve even tried printing one of her books,” says Lolani.

He now runs a community-based initiative in the village where he nurtures young talent in acting, scriptwriting and music.

However, the veteran journalist has his hands tied due to a lack of equipment to actualize his dream of bringing his flooding ideas back to his audience.

“I only need two things. A good video camera and a computer. The creativity is still there and all I need is equipment to work and to help the young people here in my village,” says Lolani.

He explains that his zeal for telling stories is still alive and on fire ready to be shared with the world. “I have written 46 art and culture scripts waiting to be shot together with over 120 poems many that were even narrated on the radio.”

Speaking to Standard Digital, his voice is solid, firm and bold just as it was when airing his features on African culture. He does not curse fate for crashing him from the peak of celebrity status but accepts his situation as if he had a sitting with Buddha. 

“I have normal challenges that everyone goes through and I’m satisfied with life here but I have a lot I can do.”
His career started in 1985 when the then 20-year-old Lolani finished school. He joined Sauti ya Kenya immediately and started translating and writing news at the same time sharing the stage with the likes of popular Tv actor the Late Mzee Ojwang’.

He later became a full-time actor in the national theatre performing different set books such as Animal Farm by George Orwell.

In 1999, Lolani Kalu got a job at Nation, now known as NTV and was laid off after 17 years.  
Having been a musician for many years and playing both the piano and drums, Lolani Kalu is now working on the first-ever Swahili Music theory book. 

He sees a bright future where he can be able to tell stories again.
“I am content with the life God has given me. I want to help people through the stories I will tell.”


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How Covid-19 condemned the elderly to loneliness



Since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in mid-March this year, governments and international organisations have been unequivocal in their warnings that older persons face a significant risk of developing severe illness if they contract the disease.

As a result, young people were advised to limit visits to their ageing parents and grandparents to reduce the risk of infections.

Dr Moka Lantum, managing director CheckUps Medical Centre, Nairobi, says old people are vulnerable for a variety of reasons: They have low immunity. Some have pre-existing chronic conditions such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. These either expose them to a high viral load or weaken their ability to resist the torrential immune response that weakens vital organs.

“Protecting the elderly is an essential public health measure to curb the mortality associated with the virus,” said Dr Moka.

But this growing isolation of the elderly has spawned its own crisis. Most senior citizens are now battling with loneliness and others have been forced to look for activities to beat boredom brought by the pandemic.

“Though we have not witnessed a surge in deaths in the elderly, Covid-19 has taken a toll on elderly because of loneliness. Imagine going for all those months without going to church, attending any social gathering, not seeing their grandchildren, and some even afraid to go to hospital for follow up of pre-existing conditions. All these while they have been confined indoors. We have little measure of the inherent shift in mental health. Only time will tell. We must watch closely for early signs of depression among the elderly like never before,” adds Moka.

Experts say loneliness triggers a stress response that there is an imbalance in our so cial homeostasis. This biological phenomena has been associated with increased inflammation and a hyper activation of the immune system, which, according to experts, contributes to some of the chronic diseases that older adults are already more vulnerable to developing.

Although loneliness and social isolation can affect anyone regardless of age, the elderly are particularly vulnerable, especially under the current conditions.

“Loneliness is the sense of suffering from being disconnected from other people. Loneliness is different from social isolation, which is simply not being around other people or not having close connections,” says Joseph Wanyeki Gatimu, founder Prolong Life Kenya, a non-governmental organisation that restores hope and dignity for the elderly.

Julia Gachambi, aged 81 years, from Rurii, Githurai 44, Kiambu county battled loneliness for a while, before she decided to venture into poultry farming.

It is now five months and she hasn’t set her eyes on any of her children. Some lost jobs due to the pandemic, others live far away from her and others are willing to come and visit, but they are fearing for her safety.

“I have nine children, but all of them fear that if they come home they will be exposing me to the disease. I have been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, thus a compromised immune system. All this time we have been communicating via mobile phone and I miss seeing them though I put my safety first,” she says.

Beating boredom Though she remains positive, she admits that the last six months have not been easy. She reveals that because of the social isolation, old memories have been haunting her to an extent of affecting her mental health.

According to her, many are the times she would lock herself in the house to cry without knowing the reason. Other times she would embark on a journey without knowing the destination and it used to take her neighbours effort to bring her back.

And after realising that all is not well, she decided to explore ways to keep her busy. This is how she started poultry farming, something she says has helped her beat the boredom and loneliness. With the help from her children, she bought about 20, one-month old chicks and that is how she started her farming venture.

“With this project, I am always busy doing something. You will find me feeding the chicken most of the times. When not feeding them I collect leftover food from restaurant for them. With all these activities, I don’t have time to stay idle. This has really improved my mental health,” she says.

Another woman, Monica Wangeci, who is in her mid-90s and takes care of her grandchildren says that though her children haven’t abandoned her, she has been abandoned by the church and neighbours who she used to rely on.

Wangeci who lives in Kiangiciri slums, Githurai 44 used to receive gifts and donations from church and neighbours before Covid-19 struck, but

now the amount of help she is getting has reduced. Apart from that she has not been receiving visitors as she used to.

“The worst part is that the church has not been creating unique home service opportunity for me as they used to do before. Once in a while they used to conduct the mass here, but this hasn’t happened since coronavirus started. I hope now that the government has announced that people can attend church, things will go back to normal,” she says. And to ensure that her grandchildren don’t go hungry, she has started a vegetable farming project. Her grandchildren have been taking care of the farm.

“I receive money from my children and they come to see me often. I also have some rental houses something, which has helped me financially. With my grandchildren around me, I cannot complain about loneliness,” she adds.

Covid-19 has not only forced many family members to end visits to parents and grandparents at their homes; also even those living at home for the aged [care centres) have been affected.

Such centres have closed doors to visitors and for those who visit, they are not allowed to interact with their loved ones. Administrators of the centres have enforced stringent rules to control the spread of the virus.

At Little Sisters of the Poor [Nyumba ya wazee) Kasarani, care givers are being accommodated at the centre to avoid daily commute that would put the elderly at risk of contracting the virus. And since the centre relies on donations, all donations are left at the reception to ensure minimal interaction.

“It has been hard for us to enforce some of the rules by the government. But we thank God we have managed and we hope all is going to be well,” says Sister Agnes Wachieni.

Other challenges Apart from loneliness, Covid-19 has amplified violence, abuse, and neglect of older people around the world, which was already on the rise, according to HelpAge International.

Wanyeki says the elderly are facing abuse not only by strangers, but also from family members who are entrusted in caring for them.

There have been media reports from across the country in which older

and vulnerable women and men have had their Sh2,000 monthly stipend from the government’s cash transfer programme stolen from them by family members including children, grandchildren and other relatives. Some of the perpetrators are reported to accompany these old people to the bank and take away the money on withdrawal “The elderly, as a vulnerable group, cannot get to where young people are scrambling for the little relief food available from the government or other organisations, especially in urban slums. It is shocking to note that those entrusted with the provisions for these poor elderly are actually stealing from them,” he says.

GACHAMBI 44 I have nine children, but all of them fear that if they come home, they will be exposing me to the disease. I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, thus a compromised immune system.

As we mark International Day of Older Persons tomorrow, we look at how measures used to contain coronavirus such as lockdowns and limited visits affected this vulnerable group


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