Kenya: Bomb Pastor Faces Seven Years in Jail

Nairobi, Kenya - A pastor was on Monday warned by a Nairobi magistrate that he could be jailed for between seven and 15 years if found guilty of possessing explosives.

The Kibera principal magistrate, Ms Grace Nzioka was ruling on a bail application by the Reverend John Kamau Mbugua, 50, who was on Monday charged with possessing bomb-making materials.

The Rev Mbugua appeared together with a quarry worker, Mr Samuel Chege Gitau and a student at Nembu Oasis of Freedom Pentecost Computer College, Mr John Chege Kamau.

The pastor, in his clerical collar, however, denied the charge. He was arrested on Kiambu Road, near Runda Estate on Saturday afternoon and police claim they found some ammonium nitrate, a detonator and a safety fuse in his car.

"That's a complete bomb. What we cannot understand is why a pastor had these explosives," said Nairobi police boss Antony Kibuchi at the time.

Ammonium nitrate is a fertiliser in use all over Kenya for top dressing.

Commercial detonators and fuses are used in quarries and mines, but their use is strictly controlled by the government.

But home owners and quarry owners are increasingly buying cheap illegal detonators, which cost as little as Sh5 a piece, for blasting stones and blowing out septic tanks and wells.

These illegal commercial explosives, according to bomb experts, are widely on sale in Ongata Rongai, Kitengela and Dandora.

In Ongata Rongai and Kitengela, they are used to dig septic tanks and wells by farmers as well as in quarries while in Dandora, they are mainly used in quarries.

The Nation bought the ammonium nitrate, the safety fuse and the detonator for only Sh1,000.

The availability of these explosives is a security nightmare because in the hands of a trained terrorist, they can be used to make powerful bombs.

In 1995, Timothy McVeigh, using about 1,000 kilogrammes of fertiliser, killed 168 people, injured another 680 and damaged 324 buildings.

In court on Monday, the Rev Mbugua, who is also a Party of National Unity nominated councillor, was charged jointly with Mr Gitau.

Mr Kamau was charged separately with possessing explosive materials.

All the suspects denied the charge.

Mr Gitau said he used the materials in a quarry.

They were freed on a Sh500,000 bond and surety in the same amount each. The case will be heard on August 24.

At Vision Victory Church in Githunguri, a pastor said that the Rev Mbugua was no longer with the church.

"There was no way we would have allowed him to continue administering to our flock as a politician. In our church, we do not mix religious activities with politics," said the Rev Peter Miringu on Sunday.

"It is true that he used to be a pastor at our church for at least 10 years, but now he is not. Therefore, claims that he is one of our church pastors are not true," he said.

Rev Mbugua, who is also a Kiambu farmer, asked for the bond to be reduced, saying the Sh500,000 was too high for him.

"You know the charge facing you is very serious. ... if proven guilty you will be sentenced to between seven and 15 years imprisonment. I can enhance the bond terms if you insist that you want the bond terms be reduced," said Ms Nzioka.