When he retired in December last year as the head of the African Inland Church (AIC), Bishop Silas Yego had planned it out well: keep off city life and retreat to the agricultural rich Kitale in Trans Nzoia County.
The man of cloth, who served as the presiding Bishop of AIC for 18 years, moved to his Naisamabu farm, on the outskirts of Kitale town, where he started practicing mixed farming.
He would occasionally come to the city to visit friends and family as well as see some of the projects he initiated.
During his heydays, Bishop Yego had the ear of former President Daniel Moi. He was the President’s Bishop after all. His dalliance with the late Mr Moi, however, began in an unlikely way.
In a recent media interview, the cleric revealed his first contact with Mr Moi which marked a new turn in his ministry.
“In 1984, I presided over a wedding ceremony in Eldama Ravine that Mzee Moi also attended. My sermon happened to have touched the President though he never mentioned it until two years later during the graduation ceremony of AIC Kenya pastors at Pwani Bible College,” he told a local daily.
“After the ceremony, the president’s handlers came looking for me. I was shocked and I thought I must have said something that had offended him. I was taken to Mombasa State House where the President was waiting for me,” he was further quoted as having said.
And with that Mr Yego’s was thrust into a new life and dined with the high and mighty. Although his reign at the helm of the AIC Church was not without controversy, Bishop Yego was a likeable man.
In 2018, the High Court ended a decade-long battle with a breakaway group who had threatened to split the church into two factions.
Then High Court judge Chacha Mwita ruled that a group led by an excommunicated member of the church, David Mbuvi, was illegal and Yego’s faction was then recognised by the Registrar of Societies.
Even President Moi, who had immense influence in the church had failed in his quest to reconcile the warring members.
According to court records, the leadership crisis began in 2007 when an election to appoint officials was conducted. Mr Mbuvi then claimed that he had won and went ahead to take over the leadership of the church.
This led to the church conducting another election in 2008 where the its faithful confirmed Bishop Yego and the others as officials.
But he made sure he had reconciled with the members before he handed over the reins to Abraham Mulwa.
In interviews, Bishop Yego said Mr Moi would invite him to his Kabarak home for prayers after which they would tour his expansive farm. They were good friends and the former head of State would confide in him some of his plans, including his plan to name President Uhuru Kenyatta his successor in 2002.
He said although former vice president Kalonzo Musyoka was his close friend, Mr Moi had told him not to pass the message (of naming Uhuru his successor) to Mr Kalonzo, who was then the Kanu national organising secretary.
In February, while Kenyans mourned President Moi, Bishop Yego reminded them that Moi had publicly asked for forgiveness and, therefore, persons holding grudges against him were only hurting themselves.
“President Moi personally apologised to those he had wronged and also forgave all those who had wronged him. He had no grudge. I am a witness and as a Christian, I believed him,” he said.
All was well for the retired cleric until March this year when a loan he borrowed six years ago threatened to disrupt his retirement. He rushed to court, but failed to convince the judge to stop Transnational Bank from selling his property in Kileleshwa.
According to Justice David Majanja, Bishop Yego admitted the indebtedness. And because of that, he cannot suffer loss that cannot be compensated by damages in case he succeeds in convincing the court that the bank was wrong.
“According to the correspondence between the parties, the plaintiff has been in default since 2019. He has not met promise to settle the debt despite several offers by the bank to accept settlement,” Justice Majanja said when he dismissed his application seeking to restrain the bank from auctioning the property.
Documents filed in court showed that Bishop Yego is a customer of the bank and in 2014, he borrowed a loan of Sh140 million from Transnational Bank.
To secure the loan, he charged his property in Kileleshwa. His plan was to construct some 50 apartments on the parcel.
However, he failed to service the loan forcing the lender to issue a warning. And when the warning was not heeded, the bank instructed Purple Royal Auctioneers to sell the property to recover the money, which stood at Sh143 million.
But the retired Bishop challenged the planned auction saying the bank had undervalued the property and that the outstanding balance was Sh86 million not the Sh143 million as quoted by the lender.
Bishop Yego also said the project he undertook fell into problems caused by third parties and arbitration proceedings commenced and was decided in his favour.
However, he was yet to receive the arbitration award and had commenced the process of execution before the High Court through a separate suit.
He said after falling into arrears, he approached the bank with a proposal on the repayments. Then, the bank had indicated that the amount owed was Sh116 million.
Documents he filed in court showed that he made great effort and repaid Sh34 million, with the last instalment being made in January.
The retired cleric also wanted the court to stop the planned sale arguing that a third party was willing to buy the property at Sh200 million but that the process was derailed in the wake of Covid-19, whose effects has sharply cut sales and reduced appetite for properties.
Born at Lelmokwo, Nandi County, on January 1, 1950, Bishop Yego had, at his retirement, said he will dedicate his time to advocate for social justice and peaceful transition in various spheres in public life.