Alexander Kipsang Muge was an Anglican bishop in Kenya: he was Bishop of Eldoret from 1983 until his death in 1990.
Muge was born in 1948 and educated at St. Philip’s, Maseno. He was ordained deacon in 1975 and priest in 1976. He served at St. Stephen, Nairobi and then at All Saints’ Cathedral, Nairobi.
Muge became a critic of Daniel arap Moi and advocated for civil rights in Kenya. His death in a car accident is widely regarded as suspicious.
Death of Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge
—–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.
It was the year of political arrests and detentions that saw the KANU regime crackdown on pro-pluralism activists. These included politicians Kenneth Matiba, Raila Odinga, Charles Rubia and lawyers Gibson Kamau Kuria, Paul Muite and Gitobu Imanyara, among others.
Church leaders, among them Anglican Archbishop David Gitari and Bishop John Okullu of the Maseno South Diocese were not left behind.
But it was the death in a motor accident of outspoken Bishop Alexander Kipsang arap Muge, the Anglican (Church of The Province of Kenya as it was known then) Bishop of Eldoret, on 14th August 1990, that shocked the nation.
Muge was among church leaders who criticized the government for curtailing freedoms, and for violating human rights. Both Bishops Muge and Okullu called for the president to step down and for fresh elections to be held.
On 12th August 1990, Labour Minister Peter Okondo warned Bishop Muge that if he and Bishop Okullu entered his native Busia district, “they will see fire and may not leave alive.”
Addressing journalists, Bishop Muge responded to the threat:
“Let [Okondo] know that my innocent blood will haunt him forever and he will not be at peace for God does not approve murder.”
On 14th August, Bishop Muge and his diocesan staff defied Okondo’s threats and set out for his worship rally at Busia’s St. Stephen’s CPK Church, where he and his delegation received a rousing welcome from residents.
The church meeting concluded without incident.
As evening set in, Bishop Muge bid kwaheri to everyone and entered his car, a Peugeot 405, for the return drive to Eldoret. He drove himself, ahead of the small convoy of diocesan cars.
When the convoy approached Kipkarren River at around 7pm, Bishop Muge’s car was involved in a head-on collission with a Mitsubishi Fuso milk truck that was hurtling down a steep slope, heading in the opposite direction.
According to eyewitness accounts, the driver lost control after hitting the side of an oncoming lorry before ploughing into Bishop Muge’s car, killing him instantly.
The force of the impact dragged Bishop Muge’s car for over a hundred metres before the two vehicles were forced to a stop on a ditch.
So bad was the impact that wananchi had to use crowbars and jembes to tear the mangled wreckage apart in order to reach the Anglican church leader, whose body was trapped inside.
Amid a massive traffic snarl up and heavy police presence, the Bishop’s body was retrieved and transferred to Eldoret
News about Bishop Muge’s death were received with shock countrywide, amid calls from various church leaders and politicians for cabinet minister Peter Okondo to resign.
In those days, resignations were quite rare. But unable to sustain mounting pressure for him to resign, Mr. Okondo caved in and did just that on 20th August 1990, six days after the accident.
In a radio address delivered a day after the fatal accident, President Moi referred to the bishop as a “devoted son of Kenya” and added that he had learned of his death with “deep shock and distress.”
The milk truck driver was arrested and subsequently handed a seven year sentence for dangerous driving. He however died in prison five years later.
At a Truth and Reconciliation Commission sitting more than a decade later, in March 2012, a former officer of Kenya’s spy agency, the Special Branch, sensationally testified that the 14th August 1990 accident had been engineered by the agency to silence Bishop Muge.
Inspector James Lando Khwatenge told the Commission that the operation to kill Bishop Muge was executed by the Special Branch and was secretly known as “Operation Shika Msumari”.
He however denied that the spy agency was acting under instructions from anyone.
Following an outcry, Attorney General Matthew Guy Muli ordered an inquest over Bishop Muge’s death but hardly anything came out of it. The bishop was laid to rest on 22nd August 1990, aged 44.
– pics courtesy Daily Nation and The Standard.