Sect Leader Who Claims to Be God

Nairobi, Kenya - He is branded a blasphemer and a worshipper of evil, and has even been ostracised by his community. And his controversial sect, in which he claims to be "God the Father of Jesus", has not won him many followers. Instead, it stirs feelings of anger and hatred wherever he goes.

At one point, Mr Jehovah Wanyonyi's house was set ablaze at night as he and his family slept. This and other incidents have forced the spiritual leader of the Lost Israelites of Kenya sect of Kitale to shift several times over the past few years looking for a safer haven.

But despite all this seeming setback, Mr Wanyonyi soldiers on, saying that his message is the biblical truth, and that he is being sought for persecution just as Jesus was. But he is not just another mortal capable of sinning and dying, he says.

The human race

And, because many people do not recognise him as the creator, he promises to punish the human race.

To visitors, he introduces himself as "the ancient of days, the creator of heaven and earth and all therein, the Lord of Abraham, Moses and Jacob...

"Jesus Christ of Nazareth is my own son," he declares.

The inscriptions on the huge, red cap atop his grey head prominently proclaim: "I am Almighty God Jehovah Wanyonyi."

Mr Wanyonyi, 82, is also the sect founder, and whereas many Christians would cringe in fear at the thought of elevating themselves to the position of God, he has no such qualms. He believes he is the God talked of in the bible.

The sinful ways of humans, he says, angered him so much that he decided to come down from his abode in the high to save them from his impending wrath.

"The world rejected my son whom I sent to save them," he points out. "Now I have decided to come down myself to earth to see if I can redeem the wretched human race from eventual destruction."

But he says he is saddened that, like his "son" before him, the world has rejected him.

He laments that people take him as just another human being, and fail to see "God" beyond his imposing human frame. "But let them remember that I said in the Bible that I would come as a thief among them and they would never know the day or the hour of my coming," he adds.

Mr Wanyonyi was born in 1925 to Mzee Paulo Wanyonyi and Mama Khatundi Wanyonyi at Kuywa Village of Bungoma District. He was named William, but later changed to Jehovah when he began his ministry in 1957.

However, he is quick to point out that he was there long before his birth - in fact, from the dawn of time - although in a spiritual form.

"I humbled myself into a human form so that humankind could interact freely with me, their creator, and so that I could save them from sin," he said during an interview at his Chemororoch Israel Camp in Nangili, 30km from Kitale Town.

He began his ministry at Kimalewa in Bungoma District. In 1960, he was jailed for three years for his religious beliefs, which basically contradict all the tenets of the Christian faith.

The colonial government, he says, tried several times to get him killed. "I was a feared man in prison," he adds.

"None of the soldiers ever dared to lay their hands on me like the other prisoners. Even lions and cobras would not come near me; instead they would run away."

Numerous attempts

After his release in 1962, numerous attempts were made on his life by both the Government and people opposed to his mission, he says.

Eventually, in the same year, he fled into exile in Uganda for two years. Upon his return in 1964, he founded and registered the Lost Israelites of Kenya sect, and became its spiritual leader.

Although he does not have any official documentation to back his claim, he says his followers number 3,000.

To him, these are the chosen few who will inherit the kingdom of heaven after he has won the great battle against the devil.

Black people, he adds, are the true, pure-blood Israelites spoken of in the Bible, and that those in the Middle East are mere imposters.

"White people are the offspring of Esau whom I cursed in the book of Genesis," he says confidently. "I will destroy their dominion along with other heathens in the fullness of time."

Red is his favourite colour, and his flowing robes are red, as are many of his household items. This, according to him, signifies the human sins he is burdening himself with.

"That is how much I love humanity," he declares. "I have taken all your sins and dirt upon myself, yet people refuse to acknowledge me as their God."

Every morning, a large, red sword is brought out and displayed prominently on a red table outside his house. With it, he claims, he protects the world from major conflicts, but unfortunately, not from "small conflicts" like the Mt Elgon and Kuresoi ones.

Mr Wanyonyi has 10 wives and 35 children, and despite this seeming unique feat, he regrets that he did not marry more when he was younger.

"Who will repopulate this world after I destroy it?" he poses. "Isn't it they, from my blood, who are pure like me, their father?

"I should have married even 200 women. Then, I would have had enough children to eat the fruits of this earth after I wipe out the heathens in it."

Although he has no formal education, Mr Wanyonyi insists that all his children must get the best education he can afford to be able to interpret the Bible.

The eldest, Rehema, is a local museum curator, while three others are pursuing higher education at various tertiary institutions in the country. Most of his children, however, are young and still in primary school.

Under his keen stewardship, the sect followers conduct their Sabbath on Saturdays. He is the only preacher at these services and, unlike the others, he does not refer to the Bible in his teachings.

"I know everything in it (Bible), he declares. "Nothing in it is new or foreign to me."