Ever heard of a church that operates like a government? Dini ya Roho Mafuta Pole ya Afrika (DRMP) is one such church that runs like a government system complete with ministries and an administrative structure.
The church, which dates back to the colonial times during the clamour for independence, stands out for its distinctive way of worship and operation.
Its hierarchical structure consists of three levels, each performing specific roles that deal with the welfare of the community.
According to the church’s general secretary, Apostle Raisti Meskina Julius, the levels are Boma, Zion and Jerusalem. Boma is the smallest unit of the church, which serves the villages and conducts regular services. It consists of 17 teachers, or “walimu”, who perform all the roles pertaining to the running of the church.
“After Boma, there is Zion, which is the regional sanctuary. This level is headed by 17 leaders, known as tors, with each tor leading a specific department,” says Mr Meskina.
Each member belongs to a specific Boma where they attend service every Saturday.
At the top of the hierarchy is Jerusalem, which is the headquarters and the nerve centre of the church. This sanctuary is located at Chepararia in the heart of West Pokot County, about 70 kilometres from Kapenguria town.
White and green colours
New Jerusalem, Dini ya Roho Mafuta Pole’s main altar, is a fortress, the only megastructure in the vast semi-arid region. Standing at the foot of four hills in Chepararia, the conspicuous temple in its beautiful white and green colours can be seen from several kilometres away.
Constructed in 2018, the temple towers over the nearby tin-roofed mud-and-wattle houses and it is where decisions are made on the issues affecting the social, economic and religious activities of the Pokot community.
It houses at least 50 leaders, known as apostles, who form the team that controls the church’s activities across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
The leading apostle, Aristica Kitilil Kapel, says the apostles are the general overseers of the regions and are permanently housed within the church compound.
“The church also hosts offices for the different ministries including, finance, agriculture, health, education, security among others,” says Mr Kitilil.
These ministries y deal with the issues affecting the community. For instance, Mr Kitilil says the church’s ministry of education has built more than 50 schools across the country, including four secondary, six primary schools and 41 ECDEs since it was registered in 2012.
“The church is also paying school fees for some of the needy children,” said Apostle Kitilil.
The ministry of health, on the other hand, is involved in the construction of health centres and in the campaign against female genital mutilation.
It also conducts community sensitisation during outbreaks of diseases such as Covid 19.
The ministry of agriculture buys and distributes fertilisers in a bid to improve food production.
The church through its ministry of security is also involved in the campaigns to de-radicalise the youth against banditry which is common among Pokot herders.
The church has a unique way of worship. For instance, there are two doors, one for men and the other for the women.
Before you enter the church, you must remove your shoes.
Most of the church services are dominated by songs to which members don’t clap but sway slowly with palms open as if to receive blessings.
According to Mr Ktilili, the services are on Saturday and couples are required to abstain from sex a day before attending church.
The church calendar has different celebrations on different dates. Thousands of adherents gather at a monument in Kollowa in Baringo East, on April 24 to commemorate the death of its founder, Lucas Pkech.
Pkech died during a bloody confrontation between church members and the colonial government in what came to be famously known as the Kollowa Massacre of April 24, 1950. At least 50 people died.
Historians claim Pkech was a follower of the Dini ya Msambwa sect, led by Luhya spiritual leader Elijah Masinde, and was fascinated by his teachings.
According to an article titled “Transfiguration of Lucas Pkech” by historian Zebulon Dingley and published in the Journal of Religion and Violence, Pkech was born in West Pokot County around 1915, converted to Catholicism in the early 1930s and, after an apprenticeship in blacksmith works and tailoring at the Native Industrial Training Department in Kabete, Nairobi, returned to West Suk District (now West Pokot District) in 1938.
However, upon the arrest and deportation of Mr Masinde, Pkech was also arrested and convicted for being a member of an outlawed group.
He was sent to jail in Nakuru where he escaped mysteriously to continue preaching. However, after Pkech’s killing at Kollowa, his close associate Rosti Achulo took over the mantle to continue with the evangelism.
Achulo took over the church in 1970 after returning from prison in Uganda where he had been jailed by the colonialists for 27 years.
The church could not be registered because the colonial government had banned it and the ban remained in force even after independence.
Mr Achulo, who said he had received a message from the Holy Spirit on how to run the church, died in 1997 while still fighting to register it. It took a change in the constitution in 2010 for the church to be registered in 2012. It has over 100,000 members.
With its growing influence, the church has got the attention of politicians, among them Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.