NAIROBI, June 6, 2008 — Yisrayl “Buffalo Bill” Hawkins’ popularity was not limited to Texas, or even the United States. For years his House of Yahweh sect was booming in the nation of Kenya, at least until his last doomsday prediction in September 2006, which ended up dooming the group’s success in the East African country.
“We do not refer to him as God but as Yahweh,” Moshe Sang, one of the Kenyan sect’s leaders told local Kenyan reporters in 2006, right before Hawkins’ prediction that doomsday would occur on September 12th, 2006.
The House of Yahweh was introduced to Kenya by an American in 1997. By 2006 it boasted it had grown to hundreds of members, with the sect publicly declaring the world was coming to an end. They horded food, members sold all their belongings and dug underground bunkers to protect them from the nuclear bombs they believed were coming.
“A nuclear bomb will be launched from underneath the sea then move up and cover the whole sky,” said Sang. “It will then spread through out the whole world, and that’s what we are expecting,” he added.
The Kenyan government, fearing a repeat of a situation in neighboring Uganda where hundreds were murdered in another doomsday sect, cracked down. They rounded up members and arrested them for inciting fear, not taking their children to school and forcing believers to sell all their possessions.
“The government was a bit more sensitive of cult activities and feared useless deaths like in Uganda,” Pastor Gowi Odera of Kenya’s National Alliance of Church Leaders, told ABC News. “They were especially concerned about minors in those cults.”
Eventually members were let go, after promising to keep their doomsday predictions to themselves.
But the sect continued to insist that the world would end on September 12th. In interviews the day before, Sang displayed some of their equipment, including gas masks, protective nylon clothing and goggles. Sang, who was a strong believer with the sect, stopped his children from going to school. He told reporters he was preparing his tomb, which was going to help him and his family get through the ‘forbidden year’ as he termed it.
“The tomb is not a permanent place, it’s only for the nuclear period, we will only get in there when the nuclear strikes, since it only moves through the wind,” he said.
But when September 12th came and went without the world coming to an end, the Kenyan government did not have to arrest the leaders; they were chased out by angry villagers, and laughed at by the general Kenyan public.
“Kenyans are very religious, maybe well over half the population profess some time of Christian faith,” says Odera. “They knew these people were not Jesus Christ; they’re not God. They’re a hoax.”
Today Odera says no-one really talks about the House of Yahweh anymore.
“Religious leaders warned they were a false prophet and called them a ‘passing cloud’,” he says. After the world didn’t end, “they kind of just fizzled out.”
Wilfred Wambura contributed to this report
June 6, 2008