The Life and Death of Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge

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One of the most heroic sons of Uasin Gishu is the late Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge, dedicated cleric and human rights activist whose death was just as loud as his life.

The Anglican Archbishop emeritus Benjamin Nzimbi and Bishop Christopher Ruto were in Eldoret in August 2019 to celebrate the incredible life of the late Bishop Alexander Muge.

Anglican Archbishop emeritus Benjamin Nzimbi and Bishop Christopher Ruto at the Bishop Muge Memorial Chapel in August, 2019

Champion

The low celebration held at the Bishop Muge Memorial Chapel in Elgon View. The man who died mysteriously 29 years ago is still respected by many. Even though he served the Diocese of Eldoret for only 7 years, he is fondly remembered for championing the cause of the poor and downtrodden in the society. He is also revered as one of the martyrs of the fight for human rights and democracy in Kenya.

A chapel was built in his honor in Elgon View Estate, Eldoret where his wife Herma Muge lived until her death in February 2018.

The celebrations held in August 2019 at the Bishop Muge Memorial Chapel in Elgon View, Eldoret

Brave

Alexander Kipsant Muge is by far the most heroic Bishop in the history of the Eldoret diocese of the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK). During his time, ACK was known as CPK – Church of the Province of Kenya.

Muge’s death occurred on through tragic motorcycle accident on the 14th of August 1990.

1989 and 1990 marked one of the most tumultuous political moments in Kenya. The clamour for democratization and respect for human rights had reached a crescendo.

Anglican Women

Multiparty

It was around the same time when legendary opposition politicians like Paul Muite, Raila Odinga, Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia, Gibson Kamau Kuria, and Gitobu Imanyara were agitating for multiparty politics.

Among the fiery politicians were equally fiery religious leaders. People like Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge. He was not alone. There was Archbishop David Gitari, Bishop John Okullu, and Bishop Timothy Njoya who were ready to take on the massive machine that was the KANU government to agitate for independence.

Death Threats

When Muge died in August of 1990, the entire nation was shocked. The cleric minced no words when addressing the government. In fact, Muge had gone as far as to demand that the president step down to allow for fresh elections.

Just two days before his demise, a government minister warned him against entering the district of Busia. The minister was Peter Okondo. Okondo told Muge that if he did, he would probably not get out alive.

Peter Habenga Okondo was a staunch Moi politician. Before getting into politics, Okondo had made history as the first African in Kenya to qualify as an Accountant. Despite his academic qualifications, Okondo had a reputation for his loose tongue.

Bishop Muge responded with his own threat – he told Okondo that if any such thing happened, his innocent blood would haunt him forever. Muge added that God did not approve of murder.

The news of Bishop Muge’s death was splashed across The Standard newspaper

Muge’s Final Mission

In defiance of the threat on his life, Bishop Muge started his journey to St. Stephen’s CPK Church in Busia. It was the morning of 14th August. Worshippers received him warmly and the service went on just as planned.

After a successful day, Bishop Muge left in his Peugeot 405. He was driving back to his parish in Eldoret. A convoy of vehicles from the diocese escorted him.

Just as he was about to reach the Kipkaren River, his car collided with a milk truck coming downhill. The milk truck rammed into Muge’s car. He didn’t stand a chance. The revered bishop was dead on impact.

Muge lost control and his car was dragged along by the milk truck. When it finally stopped, wananchi set about freeing the cleric’s mangled body from the wreckage of the sturdy Peugeot. Police transferred the body back to Eldoret town.

 

Mourning

Worshippers went into mourning, with many calling on Peter Okondo to resign from his job as the minister for Labour. The pressure was such that Okondo resigned six days later on 20th August, 1990.

Even President Moi was in a conciliatory mood. He mourned Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge publicly in a radio address to the nation.

The driver of the milk truck had earned a seven year jail sentence for his trouble. He never made it out. Five years later he died. Still in prison.

Operation Shika Msumari

A retired Special Branch agent sensationally told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that the accident was not really an accident. Special Branch was later on restructured into the present day National Intelligence Service. This revelation came in 2012.

That officer was Inspector James Lando Khwatenge who said that the operation was known as Operation Shika Msumari. Kwatwenge described the accident as ‘induced,’ adding that a group of special branch officers had been dispatched from Nairobi to ensure the success of the mission.

Bishop Muge was buried on 22nd August, 1990. He was only 44 years old when he died.

Attorney General Matthew Guy Muli’s order for an inquest to be carried out on the death of Bishop Muge came to nothing.

Herma Muge’s Death

Alexander Muge’s widow Herma Muge passed on in 2018, 28 years after her husband had died. Each year on the anniversary her husband’s death, Herma had laid a wreath on his grave.

Her death in February 2018 was sudden. She collapsed in her Elgon View home, and did not make it to hospital. By the time she had been taken to St Luke hospital, Herma Muga was pronounced dead.

While her husband was buried in Eldoret at the parish where he served, Herma was buried in their family home in Nandi County.

Alexander Muge was buried within the church premises in keeping with the church tradition because he was a bishop who die in office.

Herma was 66 when she passed on.

Until her death, Herma was serving as the coordinator of the Mothers Union in charge of the North Rift region. She spent the bulk of her adult life raising her children single handedly and serving the church.

Herma’s sons described her as an anchor in their family and the church.

Muge’s Ministry

Born in 1948, Muge was not afraid to voice his opinion whether at home or abroad. During his visit to the US, the cleric voiced his conviction that homosexuality was wrong. As a young child in Nandi County, the Bishop refused to participate in traditional ceremonies even when he was not yet a Christian.

A young Muge was baptized by Bishop John Kago way back in 1970, and thus began his spiritual journey. The baptism took place at St. Michaels in Ruiru.

He was working as a soldier as the time. After three years as a soldier, Alexander Muge decided to resign from his job in order to study at the Seminary in Maseno. Muge was first ordained as a priest as St Stevens Church on Jogoo Road. Later on, he had an opportunity to study at the prestigious London Bible School. Besides St Stevens, Muge also served at All Saints Cathedral as an Assistant Provost.

Besides serving as a Bishop of the Diocese of Eldoret, Bishop Alexander Muge was also the chairman of the Kenya Anglican Youth Organization.

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