Until the media detonated the ‘proverbial bomb’ on his ministry, Archbishop Gilbert Juma Deya was just another classical latter day priest.
But a sensational dig into his operations by the dominant secular Press has unearthed an explosive scandal that has left his credibility in ruins.
The archbishop has found no favour in his home country in Kenya and in his base in United Kingdom where he commands over 34,000-strong following. It was the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that set in motion what is turning out to be one of the biggest religious scandals this century matched only by the Catholic priests child abuse scam.
Deya’s predicament has put some big names in a spot among them Presidents and Queens of nations who had publicly identified with him.
They include Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip, Kabaka Ronald Mutebi of Uganda and King Mswati of Swaziland.
He has also had a personal encounter with former President Daniel arap Moi and a slew of top Kenyan politicians some of whom went to receive him at the airport during his numerous trips back home.
He also claims to have hosted some government officials in his London home.
Deya’s last known public engagement in Kenya was last year during an interfaith breakfast prayer meeting that was organised by the then Mayor of Nairobi, Joe Aketch.
Deya is fabulously rich, owning two private jets and with international connections that span across continents.
He is not just a cleric but also an enterprising businessman who has invested heavily in the UK. His son Amos is also a pastor in one of the numerous churches across UK affiliated to the Gilbert Deya ministries.
Deya’s rise from peasantry to jet set life in UK is a story of a quick-witted country boy who overcame limitations to chart out his own destiny.
Curiously, Deya has no Church in Kenya although he commands large crowds whenever he comes to hold the “miracle” crusades.
Born in Juja, Thika district around mid last century, Deya’s ancestral home is in Sakwa, in the rural recesses of Bondo district.
He tells his own story in East African, a London magazine published by a Kenyan, Gakuru Macharia in its August 17th issue.
By the age of nine years, he was begging to support his family neglected by his father, who he said, was a drunk.
And in his own words, ‘he was from a family of thieves’ and admits engaging in the vice in his childhood.
“I also recollect stealing a shilling once from another person’s house. I bought some sweets with that money and when questioned I denied it I am from a family of thieves. My father was one. It was in our blood,” he told the magazine.
That he ended up in exorcism was not by coincidence because one of his siblings reportedly died of witchcraft attack. He enrolled in Nyagunda primary School at his home village at the age of 13 but moved to live with a sister in Nandi district where he committed a theft and was later adopted by his maternal grandmother.
It was while on his grandmother’s care that he resumed his education at Nduru Kadero Primary School and later at Kambare in Gem but he doesn’t give much detail.
“My education only went this far. That was my degree,” he said. He recalled having been the first person in his village to dig a pit latrine ‘ thus earning my family a lot of respect in the entire village.”
Deya’s mother, Monica was an Anglican by faith and gave birth to him on a Sunday. That is why he was named Juma, a corruption of the Kiswahili word for Sunday.
He describes his father who was born in 1909 ‘as a pagan, a terrible drunk and a womaniser who had over 20 concubines, mainly widows’ . But his father later converted to Christianity and died in 1973 as a born-again Christian.
At the age of 19, he left his rural home to Kisumu to become a security guard but lost the job to a con artist and so he drifted into the ministry.
Before he left the country in 1996, Deya had gained notoriety as a country exorcist preacher with his favourite venue being KICC.
His television show, whose highlights were miraculous healings, was featured on KBC and later KTN.
Deya’s wife, Mary, also claims healing power and takes credit for the ‘miracle babies.’