The Catholic Diocese of Bungoma is split in the middle over the appointment of a new Bishop following the transfer of Bishop Norman King’oo Wambua.
Kakamega Diocese Bishop Joseph Obanyi has been acting as the Bishop pending the appointment of a Bishop for Bungoma.
Bungoma Diocese is combined of Busia and Bungoma counties, and comprises of 38 parishes spread across the two counties with Bungoma having 21 while Busia has 17.
Sources at the church allege that the priests from Busia have ganged up to support two of their own to take over as Bishop, with Vicar General Fr. John Ogola on the spot for orchestrating the divisions. Father Ogola hails from Busia County.
The two Busia County camps further divided along the Iteso and Luhya communities fronting different candidates for the position of Bishop with the Iteso priests supporting Fr. Danstan Peter Epalat while the Luhya priests are behind father Chris Nakhungu Barasa.
The camp of father Epalat has the support of Retired Bishop Phillip Sulumet while the camp of father Chris Nakhungu is being fronted by Retired Bishop Emmanuel Okombo.
Father Epalat’s camp is said to have held a meeting in Tororo on Monday 24/02/2020 where they agreed to begin collecting money from parishes they head for his upcoming ordination as Bishop. Already vestments have been purchased and mock ordinations held at the priest’s parish in Amukura.
The Vicar General Fr. John Ogola is said to be have been behind the mock ordinations. He was quoted saying that he is happy with either of the two clinching the position since they are both from Busia. affirming that he will do anything to remain the Vicar General.
The move is said to have angered faithfuls from Bungoma, who have vowed they will not accept to be marginalized any further, adding that Bungoma Diocese should be split into Busia and Bungoma. In the meantime, they want a Bishop appointed from outside the Diocese.
The competition for power has exposed the rotten underbelly of the Diocese with discrimination in the posting of priests and leadership of the church.
It has also been established that all the heads of departments within the Diocese are from Busia County. They include Fr. John Ogoala- Vicar General, Fr. Edward Odongo-Secretary, Fr. Faustine Wesonga-Education, Fr. Chris Nakhungu-Vocations Director, Fr. Peter Masiga-Commetator, and Fr. Francis Ekisa- P.M.C.
No priest from Bungoma holds any administrative position.
The heads of Deaneries are Fr. Chris Nakhungu ( Nangina Deanery), Fr. Maurice Langiri( Busia Deanery) and Fr. John Sulumeti (Misikhu Deanery). A Deanery is made up of 10 parishes.
The faithfuls from Bungoma are wondering how all departmental heads are from one County while the other County is marginalized.
Mzee Alfred Wekesa, a staunch Catholic member from Kibabii wonders how Bungoma County priests have been sidelined yet they have the highest number of parishes.
Other details that have emerged out reveal that out of 38 the parishes in Bungoma Diocese, 27 of them are headed by priests from Busia County. Priests from Bungoma County only head 11 parishes, something which hasraised many questions and leading to a public outcry.
The parishes headed by priests from Bungoma are Webuye, Cathedral, Cheptais, Kimatuni, Chakol, Bukembe, Butunyi, Samoya, Tongaren, Kabula, and Kimwanga.
Those headed by priests from Busia County are Ndalu, Naitiri, Kimilili,Kaptalelio, Kibuk, Chebukaka, Sikusi, Sirisia, Misikhu, Kibabaii, Kanduyi, Chelelemuk, Kocholia, Amukura, Kisoko, Buhuyi, Mundika, Busia, Lwanya, Nangina, Butula, Bulanda, Dahiro, Magombe, Sirimba, Port Victoria, and Myanga.
The priests in charge of Parishes in Bungoma who are from Busia County are accused of huge collections of money which they repatriate back to their home counties. Some have opened up businesses in their areas of jurisdiction to supplement their earnings.
The faithfuls are now accusing the priests of running down parishes in Bungoma County while building and expanding infrastructure in their home County of Busia.
It has also emerged that there is discrimination in the approval for priests who apply to go for further studies. Currently, there are 14 priests from Busia County who are undertaking further studies while only 3 priests from Bungoma County have been approved for further studies.
Those who complete the studies are poised for promotion to lead strategic departments and parishes from within the diocese.
“The training opportunities are skewed in favour of those from Busia because of those holding leadership positions led by the Vicar General. They are the ones who approve the requests,” said a priest who sought anonymity.
The Christians from Bungoma say they are tired of marginalization and will soon raise up in arms to force the Busia priests out.
On the other hand, retired Minster Phillip Masinde is quoted having demanded for the creation of Busia parish to end the split. He made the remarks at at Bulanda parish during its official opening on 15th February, 2020.